Plastic surgeons taking to Snapchat to broadcast operations in real time

Going under the knife in March for her first breast augmentation didn’t scare 29-year-old Jessica Wilson. After all, the Brooklyn, N.Y., woman had vicariously experienced countless similar surgeries for months before her own— on her plastic surgeon’s Snapchat.

“I would do it again,” Wilson told “If I had another surgery, I’d definitely let him Snapchat it.”

Celebrity doctors are nothing new, but the man who operated on Wilson, Dr. Matthew Schulman, is part of a growing handful of Internet-famous surgeons cropping up on the social media app Snapchat. Fortune estimated in January that more than 7 billion videos are shared through the app daily.

“I was always looking for a way to broadcast my surgeries and get it out there, and interact with patients and future patients,” Schulman, 42, a board-certified plastic surgeon who has his own practice in New York City, told “I started [using Snapchat] about a year ago.”

Snapchat may be best known as the app that allows users to share brief video clips and photos that disappear 10 seconds or less after they’re opened. But in October 2013, Snapchat introduced “stories,” a feature that chronicles videos and photos that users can elect to post their media to for 24 hours before it vanishes.

“I think that’s what revolutionized things for me as a plastic surgeon,” said Schulman, who has been practicing plastic surgery for 10 years.

Schulman estimated he performs 35 to 40 surgeries per month, and that about 90 percent of patients allow him to broadcast their surgeries on Snapchat. He said he has “several hundred thousand” followers with upwards of about 450,000 views daily. Unlike Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, the number of a user’s followers are private, even for that user’s followers.

Jessica Wilson, 29, of Brooklyn, N.Y., pictured here, agreed to have her breast augmentation broadcast on Schulman's Snapchat to promote educating other patients about the surgeon's practice.

Jessica Wilson, 29, of Brooklyn, N.Y., pictured here, agreed to have her breast augmentation broadcast on Schulman's Snapchat to promote educating other patients about the surgeon's practice. (Photo courtesy Dr. Matthew Schulman)

Usually Schulman will have his nurse or a medical assistant film while he operates.

“Any surgeries that I do I will broadcast,” said Schulman, whose Snapchat handle is nycplasticsurg. “I traditionally do breast and body surgeries. We also broadcast non-surgical procedures like Botox fillers, facials and chemical peels.”

Schulman also uses Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as education tools for his patients and marketing platforms for his practice.

“I’d say about 80 to 85 percent of the people who come in for a consultation are active followers on Snapchat,” he said.

Prior to surgery, Schulman’s patients sign a consent form detailing where and how he may use footage from their procedure, if at all, or if he may share their “before” and “after” surgery photos online. Most of his patients like him to conceal identifying features like tattoos or their faces, as they would like to remain anonymous.

Wilson chose the most open option, permitting Schulman to do whatever he wished with the media gathered from her surgery, including pre- and post-op.

“I let him run with it,” she said.

A friend referred Wilson to Schulman, but watching Schulman’s Snapchats when she was looking for a plastic surgeon helped her make a final decision. She said she agreed because she wanted to do the same for other patients.

“Technically you’re at your most vulnerable state— you’re under complete general anesthesia, but if you see it from a medical standpoint more than an aesthetic sort of thing, it only makes sense for someone to make their decision based on what you see [on Snapchat],” said Wilson, whose family even followed along with the surgery while they left the clinic to get a bite to eat.

“I got to watch [the surgery] afterwards, which is even cooler,” she said.

Schulman said he knows of a few other plastic surgeons who are gaining fame for premiering their surgeries on Snapchat, and he thinks the trend will rise in the immediate future.

“I think plastic surgeons are recognizing it’s an important social media platform, but I don’t think every plastic surgeon has the patience or the desire to do this because it does take some effort,” he said, adding that many other surgeons he’s followed “try too hard” by dancing or having their staff dress up in costume.

“I’m educational, but we’re not over the top,” he said.

More on this...

Wilson follows the Snapchats on Schulman’s story every day and makes her friends watch them too.

“Once you’re a plastic patient, you’re always a plastic patient, so to speak,” Wilson said, “so you keep looking, and maybe one day I’ll have another surgery.”

“I think with the trend,” she added, “it’s something that’s gonna keep growing because obviously people are interested.”