Surgery transformation videos are a genre unto themselves on TikTok. Nearly always set to a mashup called “Celebrate the Good Times,” the videos count down to the big day, switching frames every few beats as the numbers tick away until the big reveal when the beat drops. Dance music crescendos and the creator, usually a teenage girl, smiles through bandages.
Sometimes the surgery is gender-affirming, such as facial feminization surgery. Sometimes the videos are about breast reductions for women who rejoice about the end of back pain and expensive bras or, in the case of one TikToker I follow, the triumphant removal of her halo neck brace months after a traumatic car accident. But most often, they’re nose jobs.
Charli D’Amelio, a 17-year-old girl and the biggest star on TikTok, got a nose job in July 2020, though the bandages, nose cast and black eyes did not stop her from continuing to post dances on the app. Her older sister, Dixie, also a major TikTok star, followed in September with her own nose job.
While both insisted the surgery was necessary to fix breathing issues caused by previous broken noses, Dixie also admitted that she had the doctor slightly change the shape of her nose, though the surgeon remarked that both D’Amelio sisters had “perfect” and straight noses to begin with.
Others, however, are not making any excuses; they are going under the knife for purely cosmetic reasons. Though the creators are mostly women, there’s a sprinkling of boys as well, and they are generally trying to remove the bump in their noses or reduce their arch. Many are from ethnic groups that are stereotyped as having larger noses, including Jews, Lebanese and Chaldeans.
These videos are both incredibly common and incredibly popular, and it’s easy to worry they are exacerbating insecurities while promoting expensive, invasive surgeries. One popular sound, in which a voice says “Hey yo, nose job check,” which people use to show their before and after photos, has 96.6 thousand videos under it. Hashtags such as #nosejob and #nosejobcheck have 2.6 and 1.8 billion views apiece. Some plastic surgeons even leverage the app to advertise their services.
The hottest trends in noses
For Jews, nose jobs have become a common joke in popular culture — think Rachel Green in “Friends” or Princess Vespa in Mel Brooks’ “Spaceballs.” Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Babak Azizzadeh told Tablet in 2011 that a rhinoplasty “was like a rite of passage”; another surgeon in 1999 told The New York Times that “you had a bat mitzvah and got your nose done.”
There is no actual evidence that Jews have larger-than-average noses — the stereotype originates from antisemitic myths — yet the supposed rite of passage was most common for Jewish women after World War II, when Jews were trying to assimilate and leave ethnic baggage behind.
Yet for a while, the surgery was becoming less common. In 2018, several outlets reported that nose jobs had actually fallen 43% from 2000 as beauty standards shifted away from the “ski-slope” noses that were once so desirable.
Some ascribed the fall in rhinoplasties to an increasing embrace of racial and ethnic diversity, as well as the rise in wellness culture and body positivity movements — though those movements are still used by the beauty industry to sell and market their products. (There are even reverse nose jobs now, so don’t worry, the plastic surgery industry is also doing fine.)
By 2020, though, the trend seemed to have reverted. The rate of rhinoplasties was only 9% less than that of 2000 — meaning that there was a steep increase in the rate of nose jobs in the U.S., up 53% since 2018. And the rate may surge again in 2021 as nose jobs delayed by the pandemic are able to move forward.
Bodily autonomy means noses, too
It’s hard to say what has caused the abrupt reversal of the downward trend, though it’s easy to blame social media. Even as beauty standards have gotten more diverse, social media and selfie culture has led to standard look featuring luscious cat eyes, prominent cheekbones and a small contoured nose, dubbed “Instagram face.”
But the comment sections on TikTok suggest that the rise of wellness culture and body positivity have, surprisingly, also helped encourage teens to go under the knife.
Commenters affirm the creator’s right to do whatever she wants with her body and emphasize the importance of plastic surgery to mental health, even as they — sometimes — tell her she looked beautiful before and after. Any measure to restore confidence is considered mental healthcare, and some creators even flatly deny that societal beauty standards are at all related to their insecurities.
“She was very beautiful either way but you can definitely tell how confident and more happy she is now and that’s what she deserves :)” said one comment on a nose reveal video from account @joshxkatie. On another video, from @elysiaholdsworth, a commenter defended the creator against a critic. “Why do u get to decide if she didn’t need it aesthetically lol it’s her nose,” they wrote.
On her own transformation, @karlaberretov said her nose had been the source of her insecurity and commented, “I feel confident now and that’s all that matters!” There is no mention of the societal of media forces that might have led to the insecurity.
Parodying the “pick me girls”
Turning to show off your profile is also a common TikTok trend, and one which is closely connected with insecurities about noses (or jawlines).
One popular sound plays on a dramatic nose reveal. “She’s a cutesy little ladybug,” says the audio, as the creator faces front. “But of course she’s not a ladybug — she’s huge. She’s a mammoth, of course,” the clip continues as the user presents their side view, theoretically showing off a surprisingly protuberant schnoz. (The sound is originally from an interview with Nicki Minaj about her character — a wooly mammoth — in “Ice Age: Continental Drift.”)
Since I sometimes get sm comments abt my nose. ##fyp♬ original sound - 𝒃 𝒊 𝒂 𝒕 𝒄 𝒉
But many of the people using the sound have tiny, straight noses. In a reverse of the validation seen in comments on nose job reveals, commenters became annoyed by the misuse of the sound, accusing creators of fishing for compliments — a cardinal sin in the world of TikTok, where try-hards, known as “pick me girls,” are widely disparaged. The resulting comment sections turned the trend into a parody of itself, used to call out “Eurocentric beauty standards.”
“Ya that’s massive. Praying for you babes” they write, or “awww, it’s okay girly u can always get surgery!!”
Some creators are clearly in on the joke, occasionally even pulling their nose out of view with a piece of tape so it looks impossibly small, almost as though it’s been amputated, when viewed from the side.
But for those using the trend “properly” — which is to say, for those who do have larger or less traditionally attractive noses — compliments abound.
“IVE NEVER SEEN A NOSE LIKE THIS ITS ADORABLE” reads one enthused comment on @chericesymes’s video. Another video, from @terminallyhomosexual, features comments such as “Nose bumps and hooked noses are so cute I love them,” and “People with your nose shape are attractive am I right or am I right?” Many are simply excited to see someone else with a similar nose to their own.
As is true with most trends on TikTok, everything depends on the algorithm. It’s true that the surgery videos might cause a user to obsess about a nascent insecurity while the algorithm feeds them increasingly nose-focused videos. Jewish writers, for whom nose jobs are a delicate subject, worry teens may have or have an identity crisis, wanting to look less Jewish. They may be right — it’s tough being a teen.
But there’s also a quirky, supportive world out there on the app, where users validate differences just as much as beauty norms. There are now even several sounds specifically for showing off larger noses. Nose job rates may be rising, but it’s probably not TikTok’s fault.
Are more teens getting nose jobs — and is TikTok to blame?