Has cosmetic surgery become more accepted?

accepThe connotations of plastic and cosmetic surgery have become more similar because of the media’s influence. However, problems still linger when it comes to the controversy of teenagers undergoing both plastic and cosmetic procedures.

The tabloids in the supermarket are constantly covering which celebrity has gotten what cosmetic surgery procedure done. Did someone get a nose job? People has it on their front page. Did she get breast implants? US Magazine has a whole spread on it. The celebrity obsession with appearance has led to free publicity for cosmetic surgery companies.

According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, plastic and cosmetic surgery aren’t used interchangeably—although they’re related, they have two different goals. Cosmetic surgery is focused on enhancing appearance, such as breast augmentation, Botox and liposuction. Plastic surgery, on the other hand, focuses on repairing defects to bring the body back to a normal function and appearance with procedures such as burn repair surgery and scar revision surgery.

Generally, most cosmetic procedures are done when the patient turns 18; however, younger patients can do so with the consent of their parent or guardian. Teens generally seek cosmetic surgery to improve their appearance and feel more confident in school and social situations, plastic surgeon David Shifrin said.  When talking with a patient before the procedure, Shifrin shares the risks, benefits and alternatives to the discussed procedure.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPA), there were 76,220 cosmetic procedures done on people age 13-19 in 2012. The cost of procedures varies, and cosmetic procedures are not covered by health insurance. However, insurance may cover a procedure done to improve the body by eliminating pain or other symptoms.

“There’s a different connotation between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery; however, that is slowly going away, and cosmetic surgery is becoming more accepted in our society because of the media,” Shifrin said.

While some may believe the media may be bringing cosmetic surgery into our society in a more accepting way, it is also putting more emphasis on appearance and causing people to conform to societal standards of beauty, said Cressida Heyes, Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality.

Initially, plastic surgery was created as a way to reconstruct bodies and faces of the men who were severely wounded in World War I, Heyes said. Afterwards, there was more of an emphasis on appearance and conforming and getting a procedure done simply for beauty which led to an rapid development of cosmetic surgery. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), 90 percent of those that get cosmetic surgery are women—making them the target market.

“The industry of cosmetic surgery has sold itself by creating an easy market that targets certain insecurities of young women,” Heyes said.

Young women are being targeted heavily by Botox with claims that it’s better to start early because then wrinkles won’t be as apparent once you get older, Heyes said. Compared to other procedures, Botox is fairly cheap, costing around $450 to $800. This view was echoed in an article published by ABC 7 that said Botox use among teenagers had jumped 20 percent between 2010 to 2011.

A large contributor to the desire to get plastic surgery is social media, TIME magazine claims. A poll from the American Academy of Facial and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), taken last year, reported that 31 percent of surgeons had patients who wanted cosmetic surgery as a way to enhance their appearance on social media websites such as Facebook. In 2012, 73 percent of all plastic surgery procedures done were cosmetic.

In October, SHAPE magazine created a poll that asked their readers how they felt about their body. The results shared that 42 percent of readers felt self-conscious about their body because of various social media websites.

However, the media is not the sole variable when it comes to having a desire to get cosmetic surgery. Damaging family values and friend dynamics, where being pretty is ranked as most important, are also an important contributor, Heyes said. In these cases, where the person feels like there’s nothing they can do besides change their body, they turn to cosmetic surgery as a way to make them feel like they’re in control of their life, according to Heyes.

Darrick Antell, a plastic surgeon in New York, shared with Faze magazine that while he has seen an increase in the number of teenage patients, he attributes one of the main reasons to the fact that this generation is growing up with parents who have had cosmetic surgery done, and the idea of getting a cosmetic procedure is more accepted now than it was in the past.

The AAFPRS also reported that there was an eight percent increase within the last year of female family members getting cosmetic procedures done together. From the same survey, 31 percent of the surgeons who participated reported they saw an increase in husbands and wives coming in to get cosmetic procedures together.

For some teenagers, like Xanthe Coulson ’16, plastic surgery was necessary and not done for esthetic purposes. Two years prior to an accident she had while riding her bike, she had already broken her nose, and it never healed properly. The accident shifted her nose, and rhinoplasty was necessary to enable her to breathe properly out of her nose. If it weren’t for the accident, she wouldn’t have considered surgery, Coulson said.

Coulson described her recovery process as both very short and very long because after a few days physically everything looks okay, but the procedure doesn’t actually become permanent until one year after, and the swelling and bruising go down after six months.

There isn’t a clear line between what can be considered a procedure for cosmetic or medical reasons for teenagers because of the gray area when it comes to the legality of it since those that are under eighteen can still get a procedure done with the consent of a parent, according to Heyes. Since cosmetic surgery is becoming a more prominent part of today’s society, it is important for those who are looking into getting a procedure done to first learn about the risks and limitations, as well as ask the plastic surgeons questions and voice any possible concerns. The ASPS also has a list of recommended guidelines for teens who are considering cosmetic surgery.