Increasingly, the Instagram accounts of beauty businesses, clinics and salons are being used to advertise and give away free cosmetic and non-cosmetic surgery such as lip fillers, Botox, liposuction, breast enhancements, jaw surgery, cheek fillers and one of the most dangerous of all cosmetic procedures, the Brazilian butt lift.
To be in with a chance of winning, Instagrammers simply have to regram, like and share posts, and in return, brands receive free advertising and promotion as their posts get circulated around the social media network.
The rise in the number of this type of giveaway is part of a wider shift in the culture around cosmetic surgery enhancements, particularly noticeable in the past five years. Now, there are more options competing on the market than ever before and with the recent news that Superdrug is establishing itself as one of the key players on the high street for cosmetic enhancements, offering fillers and Botox starting from just £99, having work done no longer means a trip to an elite Harley Street doctor costing hundreds of pounds.
With companies and clinics on Insta making cosmetic surgery even more accessible, it poses the question: In a world where beauty enhancements are becoming normalised, are young women under more pressure than ever to consider surgical and nonsurgical treatments?
To see how many ads and giveaways there are on Insta these days you only need to spend a few minutes searching. Here's a sample of some of the UK and US offers we found:
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So we are at 99k followers and want to give back our followers the biggest giveaway we’ve ever done. So we have decided that we are going to give away £1000 in gift vouchers. £100 every 100 followers until we reach 100k. All you have to do to enter is repost this photo with the comment ‘£1000 to 100k followers @flawlesscosmetic ‘ and tag as many friends as you can to get us there faster. Each winner must follow us and have liked and shared this post. Must be 18+ for treatment
One account, @lalaland_nw offers followers the chance to win free jawline, cheek and lips surgery for them and a friend.
Their post reads: "Amazing give away jawline/cheeks and lips for you and a friend! Screen shot this picture and upload it to your feed. Tag us and your bestie. Winner announced Friday 19th 9pm."
Another post from account @southeastmedspa reads: "The new you awaits! …and red is the inspiration! Post a picture of yourself to your page wearing red lips and tag us for your chance to win free lip filler!"
Other brands have taken it a step further, giving away surgical treatments for a whole year.
"Win free botox for one year. We’re giving away free botox for one year to one lucky winner! Visit our office to enter," posts @augplastic.
@LAskinaesthics posts: "Win a free syringe of filler in three simple steps. Follow our page. Like this post. Tag at least one friend."
@bodytonic posts: "Wanna get free filler? Post a selfie!"
@Ivplasticsurgery posts: "Win! Free Botox! Follow, tag three people and share for your chance to win 50 units of FREE botox."
You can now also have Botox parties with your girlfriends, with brands advertising free enhancements at "friend filler nights".
@klgaesthetics writes: "Who fancies a girlie night in with some fillers? If you and 5 friends book a filler night, the host will get 2ml revolax for free!!!"
Okay, so you get the message. There are lots of these types of giveaways on Insta, but what's the effect on women?
Management assistant, 26-year-old Nadia Jabakhanji told us she enters these competitions on a regular basis.
I've entered loads of lip filler comps...It does get very addictive. I feel like there’s an image that we have to try and keep up as women.
"I’ve entered loads of lip filler comps and micro blading brows comps but never won. I’ve had my lips done a few times now and I absolutely love it. It’s weird because I quite like the pain and I get devastated when the swelling goes down. I would try the nose filler too.
"It does get very addictive. I feel like there’s an image that we have to try and keep up as women. You always feel your makeup looks better when your lips are plumped. I get dermaplaning regularly as well."
Angela Bond, 29, who won fillers through an Instagram competition, told us: "I only had to give an Instagram account a follow and I won the fillers. I’d never had them done before, but I absolutely love them and would definitely get them again now.
"The lady at the clinic understood exactly why I wanted them. I also asked for advice on Botox for lines on my forehead while I was there.
"I was told the risks on the phone straightaway if I had certain reactions, the practitioner would come to me straightaway.
"Now that I know it’s not a scam, I would actively search for more giveaways on Instagram."
However, not everyone thinks these ads are such a good idea.
The rise in offers of casual surgery freebies on Instagram are cynical ploys from the morally bankrupt plastic surgery industry playing on the physical insecurities of young people.
Hypnotherapist Sally Baker told us: "The rise in offers of casual surgery freebies on Instagram are cynical ploys from the morally bankrupt plastic surgery industry playing on the physical insecurities of young people, and this is just an effective way to draw them in closer as potential customers.
"The offers aim to normalise the idea of invasive surgery among young women and men. Plastic surgery clinics benefit from promoting the idea that enhancement surgery is commonplace, readily available and an everyday occurrence when in reality it remains statistically very niche.
"The marketing net the surgery clinics' cast could potentially attract young women and men who are living with anxiety and body dysmorphia.
"Many young people who are dissatisfied with their physical appearance focus on themselves as a way of dealing with greater emotional overwhelm in other areas of their lives.
"They are at risk of manipulation and debt in chasing superficial results for deep-seated emotional challenges."
Others feel that there is no accountability surrounding these posts and that there is a worrying lack of thought in the decision-making process to have surgery. Mental health experts worry that because of the prevalence of Botox and fillers, people don't weigh up the pros and cons of a procedure before going ahead.
Chelle Shohet is a coach and mentor whose goal is to teach self love. She believes surgery giveaways send a clear signal to women: "These adverts give the message that all women need surgery. It says that we are still not good enough.
"So when a woman with low self-esteem and body confidence comes across these posts, they will see them as a quick fix. They also make it more attractive to the person on a tight budget that is struggling with self-esteem and self-confidence.
"They do not encourage the person entering to research the company and research the actual effects of the procedure. They also can get people hooked on cosmetic procedures and often lead to more and more procedures as time goes by.
"My advice to any woman is to get to know your body, fall in love with yourself and your body inside and out before you have any sort of cosmetic procedure. Because if you do not like something physically, you’re just going to put on a plaster and have a short-term relief from this issue, as the problem will come back."
Mental health expert and life coach, Geeta Sidhu-Robb told Refinery 29: "Surgery is something that should be taken seriously and carefully researched, rather than given away to a mass market without proper knowledge of any health repercussions. All treatments need to be met with the adequate health checks beforehand, as people react in different ways to different things."
Some Instagram accounts are taking it further and encouraging young girls to get their friends involved too, with many ads dressed up lightheartedly saying "tag your bestie" and "tag a friend" to be in with winning what they call "bestie surgery".
Integrative psychotherapist and counsellor, Hilda Burke warns this could be dangerous to young women entering the competitions.
She says: "By involving a '+1' element it could serve to normalise this type of cosmetic enhancement within friendship groups.
"Normally, we would expect a good friend or family member to question our motives about changing our appearance but if they're also being offered the same treatment free, they might be more likely to put their reservations aside."
We put these concerns to Instagram, and they told us this: "We work hard to make Instagram a safe place for people to spend their time.
"Anyone using Instagram to run a promotion or competition must follow our terms, which include the need to comply with the rules and regulations governing UK competitions."
As it stands, there are currently no campaigns against these posts or warnings from official bodies to get these Instagram surgery ads down, but perhaps there needs to be.
As positive psychology coach, Adele Hawkes told us: "It’s dangerous that the implicit message for women is that we’re not enough as we are. That if we want to be happy, we have to pay to fix ourselves. And it’s this that ultimately does the most damage to our confidence, mind and self-worth."