When cosmetic surgery comes up as a topic of conversation, people are bound to react in a myriad of ways. Some might say, “I love my cosmetic surgeon—here’s their business card,” while others may dismiss cosmetics altogether, arguing that people should just accept themselves as they are.
Thankfully, more and more people seem to understand that individuals should be empowered to make decisions for their bodies. In fact, we speculate that those who still say they are against cosmetic surgery might simply have missed the significant shifts that have occurred in the field over the past few decades.
In this blog, we’ll revisit some outdated myths about cosmetic surgery and share our perspective on the positive and affirming role cosmetic surgery can play in people’s lives.
Myth: Your friend is having cosmetic surgery because they are insecure.
Reality: Many people who choose cosmetic surgery are in fact quite secure with themselves, and use it as a tool to realize their personal artistic vision for their appearance, just as we do with clothing, hairstyling, makeup, hair color, or tattoos.
It’s true that, for some, cosmetic surgery is the choice to lift an unnecessary burden or remove a frustration that’s followed them their whole life—but, even in these cases, you can’t assume the person is “insecure.” They’ve simply decided to make what they see as a positive change.
Our view is that most individual motivations are legitimate, nor is it for others to judge whether a specific patient’s motivation to change their appearance is “good enough.” The choice is between them and their doctor—and board certified cosmetic surgeons carefully screen all patients to ensure they are mentally ready before booking a procedure. Patients who have signs of deeply-held insecurities that make cosmetic surgery inadvisable, such as body dysmorphia, are encouraged to instead work with a mental health professional.
Myth: Liposuction and body contouring surgery play into the belief that “thinner is better.”
Reality: Cosmetic surgeons are not here to uphold an unrealistic preference for slim bodies. Nobody knows as well as we do that people come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and we don’t hesitate to affirm the beauty of all body forms.
Consider also that body contouring procedures are now often used to add curves. Brazilian Butt Lift is a prime example of a modern procedure designed to provide more ample body curves. And, while liposuction sounds like it could only be a slimming procedure, we increasingly use it to make other features appear more plump in comparison.
In sum, body contouring is not about looking thinner, but rather about an individual realizing more ideal proportions as measured by their own definition.
Myth: You’re not a feminist if you get cosmetic surgery. It’s just about appealing to the opposite sex with an unrealistic body type.
Reality: Let’s set one thing straight: Women are fully capable of making their own choices about their appearance. Stop judging them, already!
In fact, it’s our view that no one should evaluate another person based on how they wish to look, or ascribe a specific meaning to a certain appearance. For example, if a woman wears body-conscious clothes and red lipstick, the choice does not mean she is unintellectual or pandering to men. Similarly, those who choose cosmetic surgery are choosing it for themselves, with a diversity of reasons.
Myth: Cosmetic surgery doesn’t support diversity.
Reality: There was a time when the field was less diverse, both in terms of doctors and patients, but this myth is quite outdated, and does not reflect our surgeons’ or our patients’ current experience. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery’s diplomate surgeons are notably diverse when compared with the plastic surgeons of the past, and we affirm each patient’s definition of beauty, working with individuals to accomplish unique results that complement and enhance their natural features.
Myth: Cosmetic surgery isn’t really necessary or important.
Reality: The research in the field of cosmetic surgery supports a range of medical advancements which are not just cosmetic, but also therapeutic. Consider the expanding horizon of uses for BOTOX®, such as to prevent migraines; the fact that aesthetic implant research has greatly improved breast cancer patients’ options; or how improved scar reduction techniques motivated by the need for perfect cosmetic results are benefitting a range of surgical patients.
What’s more is that cosmetic surgery often blurs the line between the cosmetic and the therapeutic. A tummy tuck is a great example of this, as it is used to repair abdominal muscles for patients suffering from diastasis recti, a painful condition with disruptive side effects. For patients with aprons of sagging skin after significant weight loss, cosmetic surgery is absolutely crucial to avoiding infections and regaining comfort. And people who have been harmed or abused can ask a cosmetic surgeon to remove painful reminders, allowing them to take ownership of their body again.
Just as importantly, cosmetic surgery helps people become their true selves. If you’re skeptical of how meaningful cosmetic surgery can be for an individual, consider how important gender confirming procedures to enhance feminitity or masculinity are for transgender patients.
While all of these considerations make us proud to be standard-bearers for the profession, when it comes to choosing cosmetic surgery for yourself, weighing the “necessity” of having a procedure is in your hands. We suggest you don’t diminish the potential importance it may have for you: many patients who have a procedure for “just” cosmetic reasons later report that it was life-changing, enabling them to overcome hurdles they couldn’t previously describe.
Myth: Cosmetic surgery is only for wealthy people.
Reality: Cosmetic surgery is increasingly accessible for average people, and is no longer just the domain of the rich and famous. Importantly, patient financing options have never been more universally available, putting procedures within reach for many who want them. Additionally, offerings like injectables have made regular patients of people ranging from their 20s to their 80s, with many considering cosmetic medicine as part of their routine upkeep.
Myth: Cosmetic surgery is dangerous, and not worth the risk.
Reality: Cosmetic surgery is safer than ever, provided you choose a board certified cosmetic surgeon or a board certified plastic surgeon. You should screen your surgeon carefully, ensuring they have proven experience with your chosen procedure, get beautiful surgical results as demonstrated by before and after photos, operate in an accredited surgical facility, and have an experienced professional, such as a CRNA or anesthesiologist, delivering anesthesia.
That said, some risks exist with any surgery. Your surgeon should educate you so you can make a fully informed decision; you should also educate yourself, verifying what they have told you on trusted medical websites, or by getting a second opinion.
Myth: Each cosmetic surgery procedure has a set goal, such as a “button” nose for rhinoplasty or dramatic cleavage for breast augmentation.
Reality: Cosmetic surgery procedures are used to achieve a patient’s desired vision—and that is as unique as the person. The process does not begin and end with a doctor imposing a result on a patient, but rather it begins with a conversation about personal anatomy, aesthetics, and goals.
Even when a patient comes to a surgeon asking for a specific procedure, we, in turn, ask the patient about the results they desire. We look at before and after photos of other patients to ensure we are on the same page about the results the patient wants and the procedure that will achieve that result. For example, many women who choose augmentation get lower-profile implants that are specifically intended to look natural.
In sum, good cosmetic surgeons don’t use cookie-cutter results as the measure of a well-done procedure. Rather, a good result is marked by a healthy healing process, results that look harmonious with the patient’s features, and a happy, confident patient.
Choose a skilled cosmetic surgeon who prioritizes your safety and happiness
Most who choose cosmetic surgery are realizing their vision for themselves, and the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is proud to play a part in upholding the highest standards. When a surgeon is board certified by the ABCS, patients can trust they are in the hands of a safe, skilled surgeon who will help them make educated choices leading to beautiful results.