Where Did Our Confidence Go? How Perception Drift™ Is Taking Over


It’s one word, but it can make or break you. In a world where physical appearances often define us, it’s hard to keep up. Feeling confident in your natural appearance is challenging when culture expects you to plump your lips, erase lines and wrinkles, and essentially age backward.

And is it even working?

Perception drift™ is a phenomenon that causes you to forget what you looked like before you started getting procedures and alterations to your face. It’s heartbreaking to see so many beautiful women (and men) making so many modifications to their appearance – with no end in sight. 

As a holistic skincare company, we want you to know there are plenty of ways to enhance + embrace your natural beauty, sans cosmetic alterations. There’s hope for you to return to loving yourself, naturally. 

Not only do endless cosmetic alterations drain your wallet, but also your confidence. This hidden epidemic is affecting people of all ages and genders, and we want to shed light on it. 

So, let’s talk about perception drift™. Understanding how it happens will give you insight into feeling secure in your natural appearance. 

(Oh, and if you’ve gotten a lot of “work” done already? There is no shame or judgment, just all the love and space for wherever you are on your journey, so stick around!)

What Is Perception Drift™?

Though perception drift™ isn’t technically a medical term, it holds a lot of significance for something many people experience. Perception drift™ is a psychological feedback to changes in your physical appearance. It’s what keeps you in a vicious cycle of never feeling satisfied with your appearance.

Perception drift™ was coined by dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Sabrina Fabi, who noticed a peculiar pattern among patients.

Dr. Fabi talked about this in a presentation a few years ago. She discusses how she started noticing the people who came in voicing they didn’t want to look “unnatural” ended up “doing too much work” on their faces to the point of being unrecognizable.

Here’s how she described this pattern among patients:

“6 months after starting their aesthetic journey, they’re asking for their third or fourth syringe of filler. So it started to make me ask myself, ‘Is it that I’m not imparting realistic expectations, or is it that patients aren’t seeing the change that has occurred? Or is it that they really do want to look ‘done?’”1

She also found that people who had procedures done would often return saying they don’t see any difference – despite others saying it looks natural and amazing. 

This is a classic case of perception drift™ – others can see and appreciate an “improvement,” but you can’t see it yourself. And so again, Dr. Fabi wondered – does this person really not see the difference, or did I not do enough? 

Yet when she would show them before + after pictures, they would say, “Oh wow! I forgot what I looked like,” and thank her.1

The bottom line is: When you get cosmetic work done to physically change your face, your mental perception of how you look “resets.” Your brain automatically starts over with a new baseline and continues to find “issues” or “ugly parts” you need to fix.

This may seem like something that would only affect those who take part in lots of cosmetic surgeries. But time has shown: anyone is susceptible to the danger of perception drift™. So, let’s talk about why it’s essential to be mindful when choosing cosmetic procedures or treatments.

Even Small Changes in Appearance Can Lead to Perception Drift™

We’re not here to shame anyone. Everyone is making their best decisions for themselves. And we often find those who participate in alterations don’t see the potential harm from “one time.” 

→ A minor procedure is harmless, right?  

But perception drift™ can creep in and quickly spiral out of control. It starts with one simple change to: 

  • Feel better about yourself
  • See what the hype is about
  • Look like everyone else

But what quickly happens is your brain finds more things to fix. And over time, you end up “fixing” so many things that you don’t look – or feel –  like yourself. You may not even realize it as you slowly lose touch with your body. And forgetting where you “started” is a slippery slope. 

Perception drift™ can have detrimental psychological effects on your mind + other areas of your life.

It’s closely linked to the disorder “body dysmorphia.” They both center on the mindset that your body is never “good enough.” It’s a form of OCD that keeps you on a hamster wheel, hating your appearance. In fact, 1 in 50 Americans have body dysmorphia, which also puts you at higher risk for perception drift™.2,3 

Perception drift™ causes a profound change in your self-confidence that continues to eat away at you. You never feel good enough because your brain is literally wired to keep finding new “problems.” 

The effects are like a dopamine hit.

You can (and likely will) build an addiction to “perfecting” your imperfections. Studies support this concept – it’s been proven that a person’s aesthetic preferences change within only two weeks.4

All this to say, perception drift™ is not just a phenomenon. It’s a psychological epidemic in our culture, made worse by readily available options like:

The worst part about perception drift™? Many times, these procedures actually do the opposite of what you want – they can make you look older and more “altered.”

Does this all sound sort of familiar? It’s probably because you’ve seen it play out in real life. Or maybe you’ve struggled with perception drift™ or body dysmorphia yourself. 

But at Primally Pure, our desire is for you to love yourself exactly as you are. And even if you’re struggling to find confidence sans alterations, we hope our community – and content – can be a place that encourages that growth and fresh perspective.

We loved our conversation with Dr. Chesnut last year on the treatment choices people make based on what you see online. 

He’s a big advocate for realistic decision-making. He reminds us to consider every aspect of before/after photos – including lighting, positioning, and editing. (Aka: There are plenty of ways to stretch the truth.)

Plus, he makes a valuable point about changing your appearance in general:

Different ISN’T always better. Do you have context for what their whole face looks like?”

This is an excellent way to take a pause and consider before making a choice about altering your face in any way. Beyond that, here’s how you can return to appreciating your appearance – regardless of what you *think* you look like. 

Ways to Embrace Your Natural Self

Of course, no one sets out to develop perception drift™ or debilitating body dysmorphia. Being confident enough to find confidence sans alterations is the ultimate pipe dream, right? Wouldn’t you love to feel comfortable in your own skin? 

It IS possible! But it’s not without some intentional effort – especially in today’s culture. We’re here to embrace the journey with you.

Here are some ideas to point you towards loving that beautiful face exactly as it is (whether you’ve had work done or not!).

Invest in Natural Treatments

A great way to boost your confidence? Embark on a natural treatment journey that will enhance your face, not change it. We love treatments like: 

  • Gua shaboosts lymphatic circulation and blood flow for glowing skin and tone.

Tip: gua sha breaks down injectables faster (but wait until after the settling period!).

  • Dermaplaning a safe, manual exfoliation performed by an esthetician.
  • Buccal Massage an intraoral massage that plumps and defines the facial contours while decreasing puffiness. 
  • Mouth taping a nightly routine that defines your jawline and contours your face over time.

Interested to learn more? Check out our founder’s thoughts on a few other natural treatments you could try, or browse our comprehensive treatment guide

Choose Nourishing Products 

When you take the time and invest in quality, non-toxic products, you FEEL better, which makes you look better, too. ;) Here are a few of our non-negotiables when it comes to nourishing ingredients in skincare:

  • Animal-based ingredients 

Ethical, animal-based ingredients are highly biocompatible with your skin. This means they can sink in more deeply to nourish and heal – especially paired with powerful plant-based nutrients. (Think honey, emu oil, and tallow.)

  • Oils

Some beauty brands may tell you oils are bad, but oils are actually so transformative for your skin! We incorporate oils in almost all our products, with great customer success stories. ;) Try oil cleansing to significantly improve and regulate the state of your skin. You can also add a serum with nutrient-rich oils that soothe, plump, and refine signs of aging.

  • Antioxidants

Antioxidants help skin regenerate + support vibrant, elastic skin. They also make your skin more resistant to the effects of photoaging. The good news is you can get them through food and skincare. ;)

Beyond topical products, there are plenty of other ways to nourish a natural, youthful glow – including what you consume, both literally and figuratively. 

Mindful Consumption

Our brains are powerful. What you see is what becomes normal to you. So, the more altered faces you see, the more your brain tells you it’s normal. That’s why it’s crucial to be mindful of the content you’re consuming

Social media, influencers, and filters can become a slippery slope of unrealistic expectations for your appearance. Maybe it’s time to tone down your time spent online or unfollow a few influencers that make you feel less-than.

Talk With a Trusted Friend or Counselor

Sometimes, to heal, we have to look within – emotionally. It’s important to process the journey you’ve been on with self-esteem – and thank your skin (and body) for all it does. 

But because body dysmorphia and perception drift™  are so normalized and accepted in our culture, it can be hard to know how to get out of the cycle. And truthfully, there aren’t many resources. A conversation with a friend can go a long way. But sometimes, a trained professional is the answer to get you back on the path of refining your inner narrative.

Together we can be a pillar for change – whether or not culture continues down the same path. How inspiring is that? Your voice (and your choices) really do matter.

Freedom From Perfection

Making alterations to your appearance has become increasingly common. It’s accepted as the normal standard. But you can choose a different path. You deserve freedom from perfectionism, whether in the form of body dysmorphia, perception drift™, or a completely different area of your life. 

You’re wonderfully made just as you are – no matter what you’ve done (or not done) to your appearance.

We hope to foster an encouraging community to support you along the way. Regaining your confidence (or gaining it for the first time) is hard work but well worth it. When your cup is full, you can pour it into others. 

Most of all? Give yourself grace. Indeed, some procedures aren’t reversible. And you may not gain confidence overnight. But you can always find ways to help your skin age gracefully or heal. ;) Thank you for letting us share + address such a vital yet sensitive topic. 

The way you see yourself and the world around you matters.



  1. "Perception Drift™" by Dr. Sabrina Fabi | Dr. Sabrina Fabi on Youtube 
  2. International OCD Foundation | Prevalence of BDD 
  3. National Library of Medicine | Avoiding Psychological Pitfalls in Aesthetic Medical Procedures
  4. National Library of Medicine | How Stable Are Human Aesthetic Preferences Across the Lifespan?


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It can be hard to feel confident in your physical appearance. But there’s more to it: perception drift is a psychological issue sweeping the beauty industry. | Primally Pure Skincare

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