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Cosmetic Surgery Shockingly Clashing With Passport Facial Recognition – Does It Require Changing Your Travel ID?

Cosmetic Surgery Shockingly Clashing With Passport Facial Recognition – Does It Require Changing Your Travel ID? –

Face-off: Cosmetic Surgery Clashing With Passport Facial Recognition

From subtle “tweakments” to dramatic transformations, cosmetic procedures aim to change how we look. But altering facial features can disrupt something overlooked – our ability to travel by throwing off passport facial recognition tech.

Passengers Stopped at Dubai Airports Over Surgery Looks

That’s precisely what happened to some recent passengers transiting through Dubai’s airports. They were denied boarding after security flagged their passport photos didn’t match their new appearances post-cosmetic surgeries.

One such case involved TikTok influencer Joanne Prophet, who last October told followers about her ordeal: “Finally updated my passport pic after getting interrogated every time I fly because apparently this doesn’t look like me.”

How Airport Facial Scanning Identifies Travelers

Cosmetic Surgery Shockingly Clashing With Passport Facial Recognition - Does It Require Changing Your Travel ID.
Facial scanning technology looks at three key metrics to map out unique facial signatures. Photo: Unsplash

To understand the issue, we need to examine how biometric ID technology works. Most major airports use facial recognition to verify passport holders, scanning and analyzing each person’s unique facial signature.

“It maps the face geometry by studying three metrics: shapes of eye/nose/mouth landmarks, relative distances between features, and the overall facial composition,” explained Sadi Vural, CEO of face technology firm Ayonix.

Cosmetic Procedures Distorting Biometric Facial Data

Any procedures altering these landmarks can impact the face’s geometry enough to confuse ID systems. “Surgeries modifying the eye area, nose height/shape can significantly affect facial recognition accuracy,” Vural noted.

Dr. Maurizio Viel, a Dubai plastic surgeon, highlighted five treatments most likely to cause passport mismatches:

Jaw (orthognathic) surgery: Restructuring the jaw alters foundational facial landmarks.

Nose jobs (rhinoplasty): Even subtle nasal reshaping can shift key facial contours.

Craniofacial surgery: Operations on the face’s bones inevitably impact its geometry.

Weight-loss procedures: Drastic weight changes, like after bariatric surgery, can drastically alter facial features.

Injectables/fillers: Though targeting “soft” areas, these can distort facial marker points like the nose, mouth, etc.

“Those areas are all data points for facial recognition – dramatically changing them warps the face’s perceived geometry,” explained Dr. Ashwin Soni, founder of The Soni Clinic.

“We never had a patient need to change their passport after surgery in 25 years. Most want natural results, avoiding drastic alterations.” – Dr. Maurizio Viel

Tackling ID Issues as Cosmetic Procedures Rise

With both air travel and cosmetic enhancements growing, experts predict more passport headaches unless processes evolve.

“Historically, documentation trumped physical looks – people had to update IDs if their appearance changed too much,” said Patrick Bixby, author of “License to Travel: A Cultural History of the Passport.”

Dubai has already implemented iris and fingerprint verification eGates for some travelers. Looking ahead, programs like the Known Traveller Digital Identity could combine biometrics, blockchains, and unified ID databases.

Firms like Ayonix are also developing AI facial recognition undisturbed by cosmetic alterations using machine learning on before/after surgery face data.

Until then, Dr. Soni suggests using your phone’s Face ID software to test if you still match your passport photo post-treatment.

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