The number of cosmetic procedures performed worldwide is increasing

The number of people worldwide having cosmetic procedures has risen. Breast augmentation and liposuction have both experienced an increase in absolute numbers of over 20% from 2015-2019.

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Amin Rashad
August 10, 2021 6:55 pm

It is human nature to survey our surroundings and compare. I remember my first year of college, seeing so many smartly dressed and well-presented people around campus. As someone who hadn’t really concerned himself with presentability, I really felt out of place. It was the reality check I needed to start taking better care of myself.

I have memories of comparisons many years before college as well. When I was growing up, I tried really hard to emulate the popular kids at school. If a popular kid came into class one day with a new haircut, I knew what style I’d want next time I went to the barber. I’d keep a close eye on the shoes other kids were wearing and would ask my parents for something similar when it was time to get a new pair. One time I remember wanting to buy a red-colored pen so badly just because the popular kid in class used the same one.

I believe a healthy level of comparison is normal. We are only human after all and we process the signals from our surroundings. When comparisons result in cosmetic procedures, things become more problematic. Again going back to my college days, I saw an advert for a procedure that helped remove dark circles around the eyes. No one had ever said anything to me about them. I had the feeling that the circles around my eyes were darker than they should be and I convinced myself it was something to be ‘corrected’.

I turned up to the clinic to have the procedure, but that day their laser machinery was down. So I left without having any work done. I later decided not to come back and have the procedure because I noticed a change in myself. It was a vicious cycle of not being content with what I saw in the mirror. I was fully prepared to have the dark circles procedure, however I was already thinking about other procedures I could get next. I didn’t like the stretch marks that had appeared on my chest after I had gained some weight. Maybe I could get a procedure to remove them?

It was this type of thinking with no end in sight that troubled me. I could see myself falling down this slippery slope. A slope where once you start slipping, it’s very hard to stop. A slope where you end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on cosmetic procedures to look like someone else. An example that comes to mind is Justin Jedlica, someone who has had over 1,000 cosmetic procedures and spent over $1 million to look like a real life Ken doll. I knew that if I had that one procedure to remove my dark circles, the flood gates would open. I would want more and more, never quite being satisfied with myself. It’s not the path I took, and I believe that for me, it was the right decision.

Alban Duro
August 13, 2021 10:40 am

Comparison is the thief of joy. Wise words by Theodore Roosevelt. I can’t say I am shocked by the rise in cosmetic procedure numbers. We live in a society where we are constantly presented with incentives to compare and change ourselves. Products can be found everywhere that claim to make you look better and hide your insecurities. Skin lighteners, weight loss pills, make-up. Transformations from fat to thin are celebrated. Beautiful people are praised and looked up to. Of course plastic surgery is the logical next step.

Some of the most desirable products mask who you are. They are physical characteristics that many people are seeking, but they aren’t permanent. Take compression vests. These are vests that change the shape of your waist and chest. They give the impression that you are lean and mask a more curvy shape. Think of it as the opposite of a fat suit.

Then there are shoe lifts. These exist to make you look taller. Think of them as hidden high heels. So let’s say you go on a date and you have told the person you matched with on Bumble that you are 6ft tall. What happens when you go back to your apartment together and take off the shoe lifts? I can’t understand the purpose of them. At some point you will have to take the shoe lifts off and others will see your real height. It will be embarrassing at best. A counter-argument to this is that if you wear make-up, at some point you will have to take the make-up off and others will see your real face.

Numerous other examples exist such as height workouts that claim to add 1 or 2 inches to your frame and contouring, which is body make-up that makes you look more toned. The lack of permanent change makes cosmetic procedures all the more tempting. And as I said earlier, it’s shoved in our faces to compare and change. Dating apps reinforce how we’re just not good enough unless we have some ideal height standard. Social media reinforces that life opportunities are better if you have some ideal beauty standard. So the rational next step up is cosmetic surgery.

The pressure to conform to these standards makes some people take drastic steps. One such drastic step is limb lengthening. This is a procedure that leads to permanent height change. Bones in your legs are broken and then separated with a metal rod. This results in new bone growth to form where the separation is, adding a few more inches to your height. The cost is upwards of $100,000 and is risky. It can take several years to recover and you may not be able to walk or exercise properly once surgery and aftercare are complete. But people still take the surgery option and profess to be glad they made the decision.

Personally, I question the decision to take drastic steps such as limb lengthening and wonder if there’s something they have to work on themselves. If they felt empty or not enough before the surgery, I don’t think surgery will fill that gap. A phrase I heard recently was, “If you try to be someone else, you’ll always be a second-rate someone else. It will also prevent you from being a first-rate you.”

Camille Lansac
August 15, 2021 12:07 pm

Many traditions and norms of the past are quickly fading away. For as long as I can remember I was taught that it was the inside that counts. It was a big lesson for me to not judge a book by its cover. Whatever you saw on the exterior would not reveal the true character of the person. I still believe in this and have had to humble myself when I prematurely judge someone because of their fashion sense or hairstyle and other external cues. But despite these errors of judgement, time and again, I have seen how external appearance doesn’t match with my or other people’s preconceived notions of their character.

The hard part is applying this belief to the world today. If it is the inside that counts, how do I rationalize millions of people getting cosmetic procedures? Are the lessons and traditions we were taught as children no longer applicable in today’s world? I can think of a few examples in which life lessons I was taught as a kid now sound more like a fairy tale.

Study and work hard in school and you will succeed. I heard this all the time. But then I saw many students who had worked hard their entire student life struggling to get jobs. I see women who have worked twice as hard as men, with the same skills and abilities, but the women earn less. The gender pay gap persists. I hear about black and hispanic applicants who are turned down for jobs in favor of a white applicants despite being similarly qualified.

Unfortunately when you grow up, you see the world in a different light. I am still an optimist but also a realist in understanding the world isn’t as innocent as we were once taught. And with that understanding, we see a corresponding rise in cosmetic procedures. We hear about parents paying for their children’s cosmetic procedures in the hope that it will enhance their quality of life and open up doors for them. Birthday and graduation presents include nose jobs, face lifts and botox injections. Apps and filters show what you could look like with your ideal cosmetic procedure and kids eagerly look forward to getting older so they can go under the knife. The traditions of old are seeping away to be replaced by new norms and traditions. The big question is, where are we headed next?

Timo Asbeck
August 15, 2021 11:08 am

In societies where your opportunities are strongly correlated with your appearance, plastic surgery is viewed as the ‘great equalizer’. Appearance can determine if you get a promotion or if you get a job in the first place. In Brazil, where there were over 2.5 million procedures in 2019, there is a societal belief in having the “right to beauty”, equivalent in importance to the right to personal security or the right to equality before the law. Plastic surgery is viewed as an integral element in finding a marriage partner.

South Korea is named the Plastic Surgery Capital of the world because it has the highest number of cosmetic procedures per capita. In Western society we generally demonize plastic surgery and label those who take that option as insecure. We also highlight when plastic surgery goes wrong, serving as a reminder that you should be happy with who you are. But in South Korea the perception is different. Plastic surgery is viewed as an extension of makeup. By labelling it as little more than a step up from makeup, South Koreans don’t face the same moral dilemma Westeners face when considering plastic surgery. Seoul has more than 600 plastic surgery clinics and is a popular destination for plastic surgery tourism.

Culture, perceptions and societal attitudes play a big part in how prevalent plastic surgery will be. Brazilian and South Korean attitudes show how society can encourage you to get plastic surgery without a second thought. Whereas in societies that have had a strong culture of individualism, plastic surgery has traditionally been frowned upon. One story that comes to mind is when a fan of Beyonce Knowles wanted to get plastic surgery to look like her. Beyonce heard about this fan and got in touch with her, discouraging her to proceed with it because we all have our unique individuality.

Murray Hinton
August 13, 2021 5:22 pm

Greater numbers of people undergoing cosmetic procedures is an unsettling trend. There is a danger that this will become normalized. If you have a problem, just throw money at it and it will go away. This instant gratification attitude toward our problems is a ticking time bomb of dissatisfaction.

Consider people who use steroids for aesthetic purposes. Taking steroids is the shortcut to a lean and muscular physique (some people will rage at me for saying that, but just think about how much quicker your results are on the juice). It’s the instant gratification way to get an impressive physique. I have read countless accounts of people who intended to take just one cycle of testosterone and be done with it. There almost always is a second cycle. The results were so good the first time round, you just have to run a second cycle. Bigorexia might set in. You’re big, you’re jacked. But you’re just not big enough. You’re never truly satisfied so the cycles continue – often to the detriment of your own health.

The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery says the most popular surgical procedure for men is gynecomastia. Surprise, surprise. Gynecomastia, otherwise known as gyno, is a common side effect of steroid use. It’s the development of male breast tissue that arises from estrogen production.

Steroids are a quick fix just like cosmetic procedures are a quick fix. However unlike a proper solution, cosmetic procedures are a bandage. They don’t tackle the root cause of your dissatisfaction. I would say they make the problem worse. You think you can solve your problems by taking steroids or getting a procedure done. An instant gratification fix. But how often does it work out this way? Rarely.

A good way to frame this issue is by doing a comparison. Look at how much you want to spend on your exterior. Then think about the interior. How much are you spending, either time or money, on your mental health and appreciation of who you are, rather than who you want to be? We all have our individuality. That’s what makes us special. Having cosmetic procedures to look a certain way will make us all look the same. You’re unlikely to ever be satisfied by choosing this route and you lose your individuality while you’re at it.

Olinka Kares
August 12, 2021 11:28 am

The surgical procedure that has grown in popularity is buttock augmentation or butt implants. There were 289,023 buttock augmentation procedures worldwide in 2015. This has risen to 479,451 procedures in 2019. A 65.9% increase. Sir Mix-a-Lot admitted his preference, “I like big butts and I cannot lie”, in his 1992 hit single Baby Got Back, but popularity has exploded in the past decade.

Many of us don’t understand it. Why would you get a bigger butt on purpose!? A large part of it is because of the attention celebrities and influencers get. Kim Kardashian popularized the trend and broke the internet with her cover photo on Paper magazine. Jen Selter got millions of followers on Instagram by taking selfies highlighting her rear. For some time she tried to popularize the word ‘belfie’, a mix of butt and selfie. Although the world belfie did not last, the interest in getting a bigger butt did.

Butt workouts get so much interest on social media. Butt workout videos by Chloe Ting, Pamela Reif and Getfitbyivana have tens of millions of views. Many influencers take photos that try to make their butts look bigger. Butt enhancement and enlargement pills, creams and drops can be found for sale on Amazon, eBay and hundreds of other online stores. It is funny how the ideal body shape changes from one generation to the next. 100 years ago, it was the opposite. The flatter the better. Now bigger and rounder is the ideal. Almost half a million butt augmentation surgical procedures are performed every year, and there is little sign of big butt popularity slowing down.