Before and After Photos in Cosmetic Dermatology: An Exposé!

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You may have noticed that we don’t show many “before and after” images on the SkinTour.  As you know, in the past 5 years or so, “photoshopping” has forever changed the landscape of “before and after” photographs.   In addition, many people don’t realize what a large role lighting plays in capturing an accurate and realistic photographic image.  Below are some examples of ways that photos can be deceptive.

We do put some photographs on our site and try to use only images that we know are either from our office or other reputable sources.  Even then, the companies themselves are often getting photos from individual doctors and they can’t verify the photo’s “truthfulness.”

It makes perfect sense that most physicians want to use their “best” before and after photos to present their work.  The images that people see online and in physician marketing materials are typically not average results.  These are the cream of the crop, showing great results or outcomes, not necessarily typical results.

Credit and many thanks go to photographer Ron Scherl for his photographs. http://www.ronscherl.com

The two photographs below look like impressive before and after images of a great cosmetic treatment.  In fact, the subject in the photos has had no cosmetic treatment.  A simple change in the direction of the light creates the illusion of a treatment result.

before-after-cosmetic-surgery

Now take a look at the two photographs below.  Pretty good reduction in fat and cellulite, right?  Wrong!  The subject has had no treatment.  The left-hand image uses an overhead light, and the right-hand image uses an on-camera flash (note the slight shadow in the right-hand image).  The overhead light source emphasizes the fat dimples in the skin, while the on-camera flash minimizes the surface irregularities in the skin.

cellulite-before-after

The amount of light used can also drastically alter an image’s appearance, as in the below photos. The only differences in these two sets of before and after photos are in the amount of lighting that has been used.  The subjects have had no treatment.

before-after-cellulite
before-after-cellulite-treatment

Color changes can also radically modify images, as in the example below.  Once again, the woman in this image has not undergone any cosmetic procedures.

before-after-brown-spots-treatment

It’s a good idea to be skeptical when viewing before and after images.  Marketing is a powerful tool, and we all tend to be swayed too much by visual images.  And a good question for your doctor is…. “are these results the average results I can expect?”

There’s still no substitute for picking carefully the dermatologists or plastic surgeons you are considering for your care.   Finding a good doctor is the most important thing you do when researching a procedure.   See our article on Finding a Good Doctor and our national Directory of excellent cosmetic dermatologists.

Dr. Irwin