Why more and more celebs are posting 'medical photo dumps'.

Since its inception in 2010, Instagram has been best known for its artfully retouched images, illustrating lives that are always aesthetically pleasing and problem-free. But recently, there seems to have been a shift, with more and more people leaning into feeds that are imperfect and unpolished.

Designer dresses, sleek hair and perfectly posed ‘candids’ have been replaced by empty coffee cups, low-fi photos, blemished skin and… medical photo dumps

What is the medical photo dump?

The medical photo dump is exactly what the name suggests: a series of photos showing the poster in a hospital, with an IV drip attached to their arm, or promoting the latest health fad.


Just last month, Bella Hadid posted multiple IV-filled photo dumps alongside her (now-deleted) medical records as a way to update her followers about her hiatus from the modelling world.

Last year, Emma Chamberlain shared images of her eye infection; even Tom Holland posted photos of himself immediately after his wisdom teeth removal.

It doesn’t end there. 

Designer Marc Jacobs openly spoke about recovering from a facelift back in 2021, a procedure that was once considered taboo and shrouded in secrecy. 

But while posting images straight after having surgery may help to reduce the surrounding stigma, and maybe even give a more realistic view of what recovery is like, when it’s coming from the most influential people in the world, it seeps into dangerous territory, explains psychologist Carly Dober.


"It normalises and encourages plastic surgery, and further shifts the social license into participating in body modifications," she tells Mamamia.

"The younger the audience is, and if their entire feed includes content like this, their views might rapidly shift."

Most recently, we saw Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton promote the expensive and highly inaccessible Prenuvo MRI Scan to their millions of Instagram followers. The test, which will set people back a cool $2,499, has been criticised by experts who say "there’s just no evidence to support" healthy people having full-body MRI scans.


Celebrities handing out unsolicited medical advice online is nothing new. We’ve all seen Gwyneth Paltrow offer bizarre wellness takes and influencers advertise flat tummy teas, but this latest phenomenon of promoting actual procedures is a breeding ground for misinformation.

"It is dangerous for celebrities to offer medical advice online because not only is this completely outside their education and experience, but medical advice typically is very general in nature and does not take into consideration the health profile, vulnerabilities and potential complications that the person on the other end of this advice is faced with," says Dober.

"General information, like getting enough sleep, hydration and nutrition, is fine – but anything outside of this falls into potentially harmful territory."


Can any good come out of the medical photo dump?

The short answer: Yes.

While the medical photo dump has been used to promote things like plastic surgery and certain procedures that aren't backed by professionals, it can also provide useful information to those suffering from chronic illnesses.

"Thanks to the medical photo dump, we’re seeing transparency through people sharing their experiences about historically hard to access treatments like endometriosis surgery," says Dober.

"Some treatments are still taboo, and a sense of community can be found in online spaces."

Why do people post medical photo dumps?

There are several reasons someone may choose to share their medical information online. According to Dober, these people usually fall into one in five categories:

  • Positive health promotion behaviours: This could be when someone posts about a Pap test (or cervical screening test) reminding women to get tested frequently after they’ve received abnormal results, encouraging a wider uptake.

  • Attempts to find community and receive emotional support: Often people can feel quite lonely or scared, and they post in order to find others with similar experiences.

  • To participate in the attention economy: People post about their personal lives – for some, this is another event they will share.

  • To achieve a hit of dopamine from the likely influx of likes and messages that will come.

  • To signpost a significant life event: Some people try to show the ups and downs of life, and this could be included in someone’s preferred internet presence.

Despite the medical photo dump having a few potential positives attached to it, it should be a general rule to never offer or follow medical advice that has been handed out by unqualified individuals, on the internet or otherwise.

The internet has an obsession with over-sharing, and it’s quite clear that there is a lack of boundaries online. While this sometimes works to our advantage – for example, it can help destigmatise certain medical conditions and make people feel seen – it can quickly go south.

Talk to your doctor about any health issues – and leave the diagnosing to the experts.

Feature image: Instagram @emmachamberlain/@bellahadid/@kimkardashian.