Someone at a med spa told me that some plastic surgeons use "stock photos" for before and after photos. Is this true?

I am researching face & neck lift and eye surgery and have been admiring some work on here. I.e under the surgeons name on here (RS) there are photos. I want to be sure I am looking at actual patients of that specific surgeon. How can I be sure? Thanks so much!

Doctor Answers 13

Someone at a med spa told me that some plastic surgeons use "stock photos" for before and after photos. Is this true?

Unfortunately this happens too often. It is very unethical, but the practice does happen. Ask your surgeon during a consultation if the photographs are all his/her patients. In addition do not be afraid to ask your surgeon how many of these procedures he/she has performed.

Dallas Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

Before and After photos

Surgeons should absolutely only use before and after photos of their own patients. Unfortunately there is no way to be 100 percent sure if your surgeon's photos are his or her own.  A personal reference from patients who have had work done by the surgeon and a face to face consultation are the best way to get to know the doctor and the quality of his or her work. 

Steven M. Daines, MD
Newport Beach Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

"Stock photos"

Unfortunately, the answer is yes.  These are surgeons who  do not feel there own results are good enough to post and resort to using "stock photos" or even worse, stealing other surgeons photos and representing it as their own. Before and after photos should be representative of long term results for surgery (at least 3 months after post-op, preferably longer).   

Mark Karolak, DO, FAOCO
Bridgewater Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

Stock Photos for Before and Afters

Dear Tealass, The surgeons before and after photographs should be his/her own patients. Unfortunately, I have seen my before and after photographs on other surgeons sites and used in advertisements in the past. This is unethical and illegal and I would assume if the surgeon you are looking at has many reviews and is considered an expert in the field of facial surgery the photographs should represent his/her body of work. Best regards, Michael V. Elam, M.D.

Michael Elam, MD
Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 194 reviews

"Stock Photos" are NOT ethical

Unfortunately, I'm afraid your med spa is correct.  I would echo the remarks from Dr. Fleming below as it is unethical AND I have found my own photos posted on other sites.  This is very frustrating and there is little I can do about it.

Thomas P. Sterry, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Are before and after photos stock?

Surgical before and afters shown by or posted online by a surgeon should be his or her own work.  It would be unethical to show stock photos for such procedures.  I believe that any reputable facial plastic surgeon or plastic surgeon would abide by these standards.  It is not unreasonable to ask your surgeon during the consultation just to be sure.  I hope this helps, and good luck in your search!

Parker A. Velargo, MD
New Orleans Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

Someone at a med spa told me that some plastic surgeons use "stock photos" for before and after photos. Is this true?

Hello Tealass,

From a surgical standpoint something like that should never happen.  It would be unethical to display someone else's work as your own.  However, you will occasionally see stock photos regarding certain treatments like fillers or Kybella or other non surgical treatments provided directly by the company that manufacturers those products.  This information should be displayed below those photos.  But this is also rare since most of us just choose to use our own before and after photos so patients really see our work (I know I am quite proud of my one work and like to display the results I get).  I would ask the surgeon you are considering about the before and after photos to verify they are his/her own work, but rest assured that most of what you see is really what was done by the surgeon.  You may also consider consulting with several different facial plastic surgeons or plastic surgeons to review the work performed and possibly even contact some of their previous patients, with that patient's permission of course.  

I hope this helps and good luck.  

William Marshall Guy, MD
The Woodlands Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 23 reviews


Any photos a surgeon uses for examples of his work are supposed to be patients he operated on. That's an ethical issue and if you fing out otherwise you should report that surgeon to the state medical board and to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 

Ronald V. DeMars, MD
Portland Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

Use of "Stock Photos" for Before and After Photos

Although this is rare and unethical your concerns are realistic. I've found other surgeons using my before and after pictures on their websites. This is illegal in the U.S. but it can be problematic in other countries..

Richard W. Fleming, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

Very unlikely

if a Med spa is stating this about surgeons, it might very well be the other way around. It is very unlikely for a plastic surgeon not to use his own pre and post op photos.

Brian K. Machida, MD, FACS
Ontario Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.