Plastic surgeons often walk new clients through their before and after photos to showcase their expertise and results. But how much do people trust the stories these photos tell? Not as much as you might expect.

In a survey of 700 men and women who had requested a consultation with a doctor on RealSelf, the overwhelming majority said that while a doctor’s before and after photos are important for research, they only somewhat trust them. Just 27 percent of people described patient photos posted by doctors as “very trusted.”

Do You Trust Before & After Photos?


The reasons for wariness varied, but the word “Photoshopped” came up a lot. “I am worried some might be Photoshopped,” wrote one survey taker. Another spoke from personal experience: “In a prior job, I used to retouch the after photos for a physician’s office.”

Consumers also worried the photos may be relics of a doctor’s better days. “You can tell by the hairstyles … that the photos are outdated,” wrote one user. Others felt that no matter what, they’re getting a biased view: “No doctor is going to post photos from procedures that did not go as well as planned.”

People do trust what other patients have to say about a doctor: “Anybody can say that they did the work. I trust my doctor’s reviews and I’ve seen her work on someone I know personally.”

We saw this sentiment reflected in another survey of 800 RealSelf users: when given a list of resources and asked which were critical in their research before contacting a doctor, 25 percent more respondents picked “patient reviews” than “before and after photos” (78 percent vs. 63 percent).

Interested in learning more about any of these procedures? Ask a doctor