I Had My Face 'Morphed' By A Plastic Surgeon And Was Shocked By The Results

Side view BEFORE and AFTER Megan Plastic surgeryMegan Willett/Business InsiderMy personal ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures with the morphing technology.

Plastic surgery can be a daunting process.

In addition to risks from anesthesia and botched procedures, patients are taking a major gamble that they will share the same aesthetic ideal with their plastic surgeon.

Enter visual surgery, or “morphing” — the use of technology during the consultation process so that the patient and doctor can agree ahead of time on the surgical end results.

I visited the plastic surgery office of Dr. Douglas Steinbrech in New York City, whose practice has been using morphing technology for the past seven years.

What Is “Morphing”?

In short, morphing is the use of image manipulation software to give patients an idea of what they will look like once their surgery is complete.

The surgery visualisation has a few upsides, Dr. Steinbrech explained. First, patients can get an idea of what they will look like after the surgery, and decide if they want to go more or less extreme than they had originally planned.

“Patients tend to be more conservative,” said Patient Coordinator Bernadette Mahoney. “I think a lot of it comes from anxiety, and not wanting to take it too far. But we’ve actually found that when patients don’t go as extreme as they want, they often regret it.”

The process also helps Dr. Steinbrech determine whether a potential patient is ready for cosmetic surgery. If a patient has unrealistic expectations, it can raise a red flag. He said he might then choose to provide the patient with information on body dysmorphic disorder (an illness in which individuals are excessively concerned with body image, specifically “defects” they perceive in their own personal appearance), or simply tell them that working together wouldn’t be a good fit.

But the biggest upside of all, according to Dr. Steinbrech, is that he can use the “morphed” before and after photos to make sure the results are exactly what the patient wants.

“On the day of surgery, we review these images during prep with the patient, and that has helped me nail my results as I continue to check back with the technology during surgery,” he said.

The strategy has been highly effective for his practice. “A normal conversion rate [from consult to surgery] for a plastic surgery office — and this is a good number — is about 30%,” Dr. Steinbrech told us. “Our conversion rate is between 80 and 85%, which is extraordinary.”

What that number tells Dr. Steinbrech and his team is that when patients see their potential end result, it encourages them to proceed with the surgery.

“From a business perspective, I’m surprised more offices don’t use it,” he said.

I Had My Face “Morphed,” And It Was Pretty Stunning

In the GIF above, Dr. Steinbrech’s alterations to my face are subtle yet transformational.

After I spoke with Dr. Steinbrech and his staff about the morphing, I had to see what it was like for myself.

The first step of the process was photographing my face. I sat in a chair, and Dr. Steinbrech’s assistant Kelly took pictures of my relaxed face from virtually every angle, occasionally having me feign looks of surprise, anger, and happiness.

She transferred the photographs into the system, and then I met with the doctor himself (though a real patient would next meet with a patient coordinator and Dr. Steinbrech would do the final retouching on the images at a later consultation).

I was amazed at how small his tweaks were — a little pinch here, a little pull there. But when he showed me the before and after images of my face, I was stunned.

“Patients often tell me that I’m not making enough of a change,” Dr. Steinbrech told me during the faux consultation. “But then I show them the ‘before’ and ‘after’ images on the screen, and they can’t believe it. They start to envision themselves as the ‘after’ version as we go through the process.”

Even as a mock patient, I can attest that this was true. I found myself thinking the changes weren’t that major, but what I didn’t realise was that my internal view of my face slowly changed as I watched the doctor slim down my neck and make my jawline more square. Then I would suddenly be jolted back when I saw the ‘before’ versions of my images, where my cheekbones weren’t quite as pronounced or my jaw as defined.

My immediate reaction to my actual, un-retouched face was shock: “That’s not me; that’s not what I look like.”

I was already self-identifying with the “after” version of my face, which was extremely unnerving. Psychologically speaking, the high conversion rate of Dr. Steinbrech’s office started to make sense — his patients may have been ready to go under the knife after watching their pictures transform because in their minds, they already looked like the “after.”

My visual surgery process took roughly 45 minutes, though the average morphing consultation can take much longer, and a real patient’s face would be tweaked multiple times by both the patient coordinator and the doctor.

All in all, it was fascinating to watch Dr. Steinbrech at work. It was like watching an image of myself get worked over in Photoshop, except that this man had the power to change me in real life, too.

“I always under-promise and over-deliver,” Dr. Steinbrech told me at the end of the day. “I would never show a patient something on the screen that couldn’t be duplicated in real life. We have bones there for a reason!”

Note: I asked Dr. Steinbrech to show me what the following procedures would look like on my face. These are not representative of the procedures he would choose to do, and should not be taken as such.


Cheek and jaw Megan Plastic Surgery

Megan Willett/Business Insider

Dr. Steinbrech is well-known for this procedure. He does a little supplemental liposuction on the neck and adds Juvederm (a hyaluronic acid) into the jaw and chin to make it more angular. He also gave me cheek augmentations using Juvederm to provide more definition.

Recovery time: Less than 24 hours for Juvederm, roughly a week for liposuction.

Cost: $2,300-$3,800


Cheek jaw nose Megan Plastic Surgery

Megan Willett/Business Insider

The next procedure I asked to have virtually done was a nose job. Dr. Steinbrech gave me a “Heidi Klum” nose, which was slightly more narrow than my own.

Recovery time:Short-term recovery is roughly two weeks, but it may be several months before all swelling has subsided.



Cheek jaw nose brow Megan Plastic Surgery

Megan Willett/Business Insider

Next, he showed me what I would look like with a very minor brow lift. “You don’t want to go overboard here and look too surprised,” he said.

Recovery time: One to two weeks, depending on the type of procedure (classic versus endoscopic) and personal healing time.

Cost: $5,000-$9,000


Cheek jaw nose brow lips Megan Plastic Surgery

Megan Willett/Business Insider

My upper lip is rather thin, so this procedure was more difficult for the doctor to show me on the computer. He made both lips slightly more plump, adding that it was important to keep the bottom lip fuller.

Recovery time: 10-14 days before swelling and bruising goes down.

Cost: $US700-$2,300


Final slide with injections Megan Plastic Surgery

Megan Willett/Business Insider

For the final product, Dr. Steinbrech added fillers to my under-eye area and laugh lines to make my skin more even.

Recovery time: Less than 24 hours.

Cost: $US1,500


BEFORE and AFTER Megan Plastic Surgery

Megan Willett/Business Insider

All those minor tweaks really added up. Here are my before and after pictures. Total cost for all this surgery? Between $US17,000 and $US27,600.

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