Is getting cosmetic surgery normal? The numbers might surprise you.
What is normal really?
Always dreamt of larger, perkier breasts? What about a flatter tummy? Straighter nose? Smoother skin? Join the crowd. Most people have thought about cosmetic surgery before (or at least what it would be like). You can practice radical self-love and yoga until you’re blue in the face, but that does not always free us from the desire to improve our bodies. You also have full permission to turn your medicine cabinet into a department store display case of make-up, diet-pills and expensive anti-aging creams- but are you wasting your money?
In 2014, 20 million people decided to undergo a surgical or non-surgical cosmetic procedure, according to the latest figures from The International Society of Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), the leading international society for aesthetic plastic surgery with board-certified plastic surgeons in 95 countries. Although procedure trends tend to vary by country and culture, an emphasis of health and beauty remains universal.
As you might expect, it was revealed that more than 17 million patients were women, accounting for 86.3% of the total. Breast augmentation, opted for by 1.4 million women, was the preferred surgical procedure. Other favorites included Liposuction “Lipo” (1.2 million) Eyelid Lift (1.1 million), Fat Grafting (809,428). Abdominoplasty “Tummy Tuck” (636,447).
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And it’s not just women getting cosmetic surgery. An increasing number of men have been choosing to improve and enhance their looks. In 2014, over 2.5 million men underwent a cosmetic procedure- 13.7% of the total. What were the most popular surgeries for men? Eyelid Lift (295,131) Rhinoplasty “Nose Job” (234,995) Liposuction “Lipo” (175,021) Gynecomastia (172,048) Fat Grafting (156,300)
Non-surgical, or non-invasive, procedures have become the desired alternative to their invasive counterpart, with 10.6 million patients worldwide . Typically cheaper and with shorter recovery times, non-surgical procedures have given millions of people the option to go under the laser or beam instead of the knife. For both men and women, Botox was at the top of the list with more than 4.8 million patients. Other popular choices included Hyaluronic Acid “Dermal Fillers” (2.7 million) Hair Removal (1.3 million) Chemical Peel (493, 043) and Laser Skin Resurfacing (480,271).
Global trends in cosmetic surgery
The United States holds the title for the largest number of cosmetic procedures, with nearly 4 million each year (20.1% of total), and according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), it’s the global leader in breast augmentations (286,254), and Botox treatment (24.7% of the total).
Second to the U.S., Brazil is next in terms of worldwide procedures and home to the world-renowned “Brazilian butt-lift”, with over 319,960 performed in 2013 . This beauty infatuation has invaded pop culture across the globe, but in Brazil it is a cultural obsession. Tax deductions have even been made available to patients Brazil’s tax coordinator, Joaquim Adir, told Bloomberg in 2010:
“We concluded that cosmetic surgeries are also about health, physical and mental, and should be included in the list of deductible expenses.”
In the Middle East, surgeons have seen an influx of rhinoplasty, “nose jobs”. According to The Guardian, Iran has the highest rate of nose surgery in the world. Nearly 200,000 Iranians elect to have rhinoplasty each year, refining and reducing the bridge of the nose. Of these 200,000, most are women, and many desire more “doll-like” features, similar to those they have seen in Hollywood films and on western television.
In the East, South Korea now leads in plastic surgery per capital with over 980,000 operations recorded in 2014 according ISAPS. Seoul, South Korea, is the plastic surgery capital of the world, and many young men and women get Blepharoplasty, also known as a double eyelid lift. It involves removing excess skin above the eyelid, giving the eye a larger, wider look. 1.43 million patients worldwide have also made it the most popular cosmetic surgery in the world. It is also very controversial. According to TechInsider: “Critics say that the operation makes patients look “less Asian,” while proponents say that it’s simply a matter of beauty-bigger eyes equals more attractiveness, essentially.”
Other sought after Eastern trends include jaw reshaping, Botox, rhinoplasty. Further south, women in India are asking for liposuction, as some traditional dress include belly-barry midsections. In Germany, ISAPS figures expose that 2,786 men underwent penis enlargement treatments, which was significantly more than in any other country. Second was Venezuela with only 473 procedures.
Cosmetic surgery trends are strongly influenced by what’s available. In an interview with Raconteur, London plastic surgeon, Bryan Mayou, explains:
“There is a pattern and it changes not just on cultural grounds, but also on grounds of availability,” he says. “If a new procedure becomes available then people think they have a problem. For example, when it comes to using fillers in lips people didn’t realise they had small lips until there was a means of making them fuller.”
The proof is in the numbers
So is cosmetic surgery normal? “Normal” is subjective, but if we look at the numbers- yes. Once “taboo” and only for the rich and glamorous, cosmetic surgery has become the new normal. More people are choosing to get a procedure each year than the total population of Romania (19.4 million) The Netherlands (17 million), or Cuba (11.4 million). In 2016, the numbers are expected to rise as cosmetic surgery becomes more affordable and medical travel becomes a more popular option. As of 2014, there were more than 40,000 surgeons worldwide. This number is also expected to rise within the medical field.
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But what happened to self-acceptance? Is cosmetic surgery a “quick fix” for deeper issues? To answer yes or no would be a large assumption. People choose cosmetic surgery for a multitude of reasons. What is “normal” to one may be unusual for another. What might persuade one woman to get a breast augmentation in Los Angeles may not appeal to a woman in Tokyo. This is obvious by looking at global trends. The idea is that with over 20 million patients per year, cosmetic surgery is quite common. Health and beauty will always be important, for some more than others, and cosmetic surgery is an option that is widely accepted.