We talk with two Internet-famous docs and a patient who saw them both
by Samuel Anderson | August 16, 2017 4:00 pm
Last week, Kylie Jenner’s cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Simon Ourian, directly linked the recent spike in lip surgeries to Jenner’s popularity. While her bread and butter may be lipsticks, Jenner’s more permanent modifications are a less discussed but undeniable part of her heat-seeking brand, which has contributed not only to the rise of the Insta-famous makeup artist, but arguably to that of the Insta-famous surgeon. (Indeed, Ourian’s account boasts almost 2 million followers.)
Ourian, and others like him in in visually driven medical fields, from plastic surgery to cosmetic dentistry, are massaging the conventions of doctor-patient confidentiality by capitalizing on the visibility of social media platforms like Instagram. And as Jenner and others continue to be, at least implicitly, rewarded for unapologetic use of cosmetic facial or dental procedures, going public with going under the knife is less taboo than ever.
To be sure, behind every before-and-after photo lies a willing patient. But who they are, why they sought treatment, and whether or not they were a satisfied customer is never captured by the close-up shots of freshly plumped lips and capped smiles currently cluttering your Explore Tab.
Here, we talk with Dr. Ourian and Dr. Sam Saleh about everything from cost to recovery time – and to their mutual patient, Carlene Pride, who sought both for treatment and gives her thoughts – both positive and negative – about each doctor’s 21st century bedside manner.
Dr. Simon Ourian
Occupation: Cosmetic surgeon
Why did you join Instagram initially?
I joined Instagram because it helps me reach a wide audience. Our Instagram posts give people details about my techniques and about the newest and latest treatments and technologies available. My followers can learn about available treatments and see up-close results. It’s kind of a preview of possible results from our procedures.
What percent of patients are aware of your online presence?
About 80% of our patients are aware of our online presence. We have very active online communications with our existing and potential clients.
How long is your waiting list to get an appointment?
Depending on the time of the year and the desired treatment, the wait time can be from a few weeks to several months.
What is the best and worst thing about being an Instagram-famous doctor?
The best part about Instagram is that it allows me to provide a lot of information and education to millions of people worldwide in a very short time. The worst part is that I receive hundreds of messages every day but I’m unfortunately not able to reply to everyone – even though I wish I could.
Have your patients skewed any younger since your Instagram took off?
Do you recommend Instagram as a tool for finding doctors?
No, but I do think it can be useful for seeing doctors’ results achieved, aesthetic taste, and overall attention to detail.
Dr. Sam Saleh
Occupation: Cosmetic dentist
How long had you been practicing when you joined Instagram?
Well I graduated school in 2000. And I’ve been on Instagram now for about 4 years. My wife introduced it to me more on a social level because I love taking photos, but then I realized that it’s a marvelous platform from which one can basically showcase one’s work.
Did the amount of appointments increase as your Instagram following grew?
Oh, yeah. I was always fortunate enough to have a pretty wide base of patients because I was on television and in the media. But with the advent of Instagram, it opened up a patient base that was literally worldwide. So now, I can honestly say that on a typical week, I’ll have as many patients that have flown here as have driven here.
How far do they come? It’s international?
Sometimes more have actually flown to come to see me than are locals. They come from Australia, Qatar, and all different countries in the Middle East, Europe, Hong Kong, and Indonesia.
Has there been a spike in interest in cosmetic dentistry in general with the rise of Instagram?
Oh, 100%. I think the whole advent of taking selfies and just being a lot more observant of our appearance [has made it so that] the average person who’s not necessarily on TV is now their own little celebrity. And of course there’s a lot of image-modifying technology that’s happening. And what I find that does is that almost acts as a precursor so it’s almost like they’re seeing what they could look like. There are a lot of applications where you rub on the teeth and the teeth become whiter. So they kind of get an idea of what they could look like if their smile was brighter or better. And once they see how nice it looks, that’s when they say, “I want to make this a reality.”
Do your patients who find you on Instagram tend to skew younger?
I would say, yes, there are demographics. I would say my biggest demographic is between the ages of 25 and 34 so that’s where I’m most popular. But from the analytics we have people starting at 13 all the way to 65. We’re not exclusive of any age but I would say the biggest group is between 25 and 34.
Has framing dentistry as aspirational helped with people’s anxiety about going to the dentist?
Oh yeah, 100%. Because of like I said you’re able to post videos and things like that, you’re able to show patients your personality. So when I’m doing calls or doing a virtual consult or something like that, people will say, “I’ve been following you for several years now and I feel like I know your family.” So there’s a familiarity there.
Have you experienced pushback from others in the medical community?
Yes, I’m quite sure that there are lots of people [for whom] this is not their cup of tea. That’s just the way the world is. There’s something for everyone. The nice thing about Instagram is that if you like it then come and follow and if you don’t then scroll past so it’s just one of those things. It’s not for everyone.
What’s the process of getting the before and after photos?
Any patient that comes to my office, it’s part of the consent forms that we give them to fill out. We ask them if they mind if we share the results of their treatment. If they give us permission, then they sign off on it, and if they don’t then we obviously respect their wishes.
Has that ever been a motivating factor for a patient who wanted to get on your Instagram?
Um, I think so. I’ve definitely had a lot of patients who have said, I found you because I saw a before and after photo and you changed my life, and I want to pay it forward and create that inspiration for somebody else who may be in a similar situation. And they may say, I want you to put it out my before and after so that if someone is in my situation, they know there is something for them that could help improve their self-confidence.
Occupation: Real estate agent and patient
How did you come across Dr. Saleh?
I’m from Seattle, where cosmetic dentistry tends to be a little more conservative. They’re kind of more [about] just want[ing] to fix what you already have going on. I thought, I need to find someone down in L.A. who gets what my needs are and what I’m looking for so I Googled “top cosmetic dentists.” I thought, maybe these doctors are on Instagram. And Dr. Saleh really showcases the level of artistry that goes into his work.
What procedure were you looking to have done?
I was going for full mouth reconstruction. I grind my teeth a lot due to stress and I wanted to have a better smile because I’m launching a separate company. I’m the face of my company and one thing that I thought that always held me back was my insecurity about my smile. So I wanted to make sure that I hired the best person that was out there for this because it’s so permanent and it’s so expensive. It’s a real investment.
How did you reach out to him initially?
I was obsessed for probably about four months on Instagram and then I decided to fill out his online [form] and they got back to me right away. I was like, “Oh my Gosh, this really cool doctor wants to talk to me on the phone.” And they were like, “No he wants to FaceTime you, he wants to see how you can talk, how you smile, what you’re looking for, let’s set up a time.” We FaceTimed, which I thought was really amazing, it made it feel really personal.
Did he diagnose you over FaceTime?
Somewhat. I already gave him my background and what I was looking for. He was just like, “Yeah I see exactly what you’re looking for and I can see exactly where we can emphasize things in certain areas to give you the smile you want.” So yes, he did diagnose me through FaceTime, which I think was cool.
Was there anybody that you were trying to emulate with your smile? Did you bring in a picture or something of…
I really like Kourtney Kardashian’s smile because she’s got like longer teeth and I really like how it frames the face and all of that stuff and he got it and listened to it and said, “Okay, we’re gonna do it so it fits your face really well.”
Was there any waiting list?
I booked, because I had to make sure I had all of my dollars lined up so I booked mine out probably a month and a half after my last consult so I didn’t have a waiting list.
What were the results of the procedure?
I can’t describe the feeling. I was still kind of hopped up on drugs and stuff so by the time I got back to my hotel and saw my teeth and smiled, it was so overwhelming. It’s almost like I had a facelift too because my teeth were so small and that was one of my problems. Genetically I have really small teeth. He elongated my teeth which I what I really wanted and to be able to see my teeth when I talk and all of that stuff, it was just so amazing and I called my husband up crying and was like, “it was worth every penny.”
Can you say what it cost?
I knew that this was an investment and had been saving for a while now for it. I called him up and said, “Ok, I’m ready” and they just required a 50% deposit.
So when he gave you the price, it was reasonable enough for you to say, “Okay, and I’ll add on a plane ticket and a hotel room”?
No, it’s not reasonable. It’s not reasonable in that sense. It was expensive. It wasn’t affordable in any way.
Would you consider finding other types of healthcare providers on Instagram?
Totally, especially for plastic surgery. I saw Dr. Ourian, too.
You saw Dr. Ourian on the same trip?
Yeah, when I was in Los Angeles. I wanted that laser facial that he does.
How did that go?
It wasn’t as easy.
I will tell you that my experience in Dr. Ourian’s office was a little rushed, which I was expecting.
Was it really crowded or what?
Yeah, there were a lot of people and it was kind of like, “Oh you should try this procedure, you should try this procedure.” They give you a menu and all of that stuff and of course you want to sign up for everything because he’s amazing. The doctor did come and work on me, so he did come, but he sends his team out a lot, whereas with Dr. Saleh, it was just him and I. Dr. Ourian’s location is beautiful. It’s stunning.
What were the results?
Your face comes out kind of bumpy and stuff. But my skin is amazing.
Did Dr. Ourian propose a before and after for his Instagram too?
No, but maybe because I came in and had a little swelling from my other procedure, but I don’t think he asked. But they might be when I come back.
Are you going to go back?
Yeah. Dr. Ourian and Dr. Saleh are close by. They’re like across the street from each other. Anytime I’m in town, I’m going to see both.
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