Plastic 2016, with an increase of 4%

Plastic surgery is the specific “branch of
surgery specializing in repairing and reconstructing missing or damaged tissue and
skin, usually because of surgery, illness, injury or an abnormality present
from birth” (NHS Choices, n.d). The aim of such a surgery is to reconstruct the
tissue and skin functions. However, the secondary aim of plastic surgery is to
modify appearance. The misconception is brought up between cosmetic surgery and
plastic surgery. Cosmetic surgery is the state of changing one’s body shape or
appearance to fit the ‘norm.’ American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has
been investigating the trends in plastic and cosmetic surgery with a 95%
confidence level and a ±4.28% margin of error (ASPS, 2016). They have estimated
that approximately 17.1 million cosmetic procedures and 1.7 cosmetic surgeries
have taken place in the United States in 2016, with an increase of 4% from 2015
(ibid). There are several problems with cosmetic surgeries; these include both
biological and social side effects. Biological side effects include problems
such as hematoma, where blood is clustered into one part, forming painful bruises.

Another biological problem may be deep vein thrombosis (DVT), where a formation
of blood clots in deep veins may be fatal. (Healthline, n.d). However, social
and mental factors are also present. These include dissatisfaction of breast
augmentation, leading to suicide and body dimorphic disorder “characterized by
an individual’s intense preoccupation with an imagined defect in appearance”
(Furnham and Levitas, 2012). The essay explores the ways in which cosmetic and
plastic surgery is a social construction to modify our bodies into the ‘norm.’
What seems rather absurd are the questions brought up by this topic. Who has
the power to decide what the standard ‘norm’ is and what is the true meaning of
beauty? Beauty may be defined as “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a
person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the
mind or spirit” (Merriam-Webster, n.d). Hence, the essay will explore how
beauty is a subjective word with different interpretations, highlighting how
ones view links to ‘social suffering’ but may be different to other’s point of
view. Furthermore, it will focus on how insecurities enhance cosmetic
surgeries, the social pressure of being ‘beautiful,’ and what do bodies, as a
medium of culture, tell us about social and economic values.

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A report by the ‘American Society for
Aesthetic Plastic Surgery’ stated that there was an increase of 446% in
cosmetic procedure since 1997 worldwide and an increase of 17% in men
undertaking cosmetic surgery. Furnham and Levitas explore “factors that
motivate people to undergo cosmetic surgery and identify the reasons for the
increase in cosmetic procedures (Furnham and Levitas, 2012). The experiment was
in the form of a questionnaire, assessing 204 British participants. The questionnaire
assessed their view towards cosmetic surgery in relation to their life
satisfaction, self-esteem, media consumption, religiosity and self-related
physical attractiveness (ibid). With an increase in technology by 55% in 2017,
Sarwer et al link this to the technological advances in cosmetic surgeries and
an increase in the availability of plastic surgeons. (Sarwer et al., 2003).

With such improvements, cosmetic surgeries are safer with fast recovery times,
and a lower cost of procedures. Hence, people have become more willing to
accept cosmetic surgery to alter their physical appearance (ibid). Markey and
Markey further examine young women in America and their interest in undergoing
cosmetic surgery. The noticed that “, body dissatisfaction, physical appearance,
teasing (being teased about 11 different body parts) and media influence
(feeling pressured to appear like people in the media)” were factors relating
to the desire of wanting cosmetic surgery. (Markey and Markey, 2009). Similarly
thought questionnaires, Sarwer et al highlight that individuals seek cosmetic
surgery as a result of their low life satisfaction due to physical appearance.


They further associate self-rated
attractiveness with self-esteem (Markey and Markey, 2009). Hence, the higher
one thinks of them as being attractive, the less likely they are to seek
cosmetic surgery. To measure self-esteem, the ‘Rosenberg self-esteem scale’ was
used. It consists of 10 items, which are rated on a “four-point scale
(1-strongly disagree, 4 -strongly agree)” (Furnham and Levitas, 2012). The
participant’s self-worth was measured using the scale. Life satisfaction was
measured by asking the participants to what extent they agreed or disagreed
with a different statement on a 5-point scale (ibid).  Lastly, Self-assessed attractiveness was
measured using a questionnaire where participants had to rate their overall
physical, facial and body appearance.

Confirming the results of Brown et al, 66.1%
of the participants showed that physical attractiveness did have a significant
effect on them willing to undergo cosmetic surgery (Brown et al., 2007). The
study further showed that there is a negative correlation between self-esteem
and the likelihood of having a cosmetic surgery. People with a low-self esteem
have shown the will to increase self-esteem by altering physical appearance.

Individuals with low life satisfaction may suffer from depression, meaning that
cognitive therapy, as opposed to cosmetic surgery, would be beneficial. Plastic
surgeons nowadays have aimed to eliminate patients with unrealistic
modifications, which could both be advantageous and may lead to further signs
of depression in patients (ibid).


Cosmetic surgery is also quite prevalent
because of the social pressures put upon individuals to look ‘beautiful.’ Such
pressures result in a social suffering of the individual. “Social suffering
results from what political, economic, and institutional power does to people
and, reciprocally, from how these forms of power themselves influence responses
to social problems” (Guntars, 2017). Hence, the forms of power, in this case,
may be the social media and how it influences people to fit the society’s view
of beauty. An online survey conducted by RealSelf surveyed 527 of their website
visitors, asking whether “social media influenced you to consider to have a
cosmetic procedure” (Reiman, 2015)? Approximately 15.3% of the users answered:
“yes” whereas, 33.40% said they were partially influenced by social media”
(ibid). Another study in New York in from 1946 to 1954 collected data from 60
voluntary patients willing from a private practice.  The data collection was non-systematic and
the interview was performed on patients willing to undergo rhinoplasty.

Rhinoplasty is a plastic surgery to modify and remodel the shape of the nose
(Free dictionary, n.d) Initially, the patients had consultations with the
doctor and then with the interviewer. The consultations with the plastic
surgeon were on the complaints about “deviated septum’s, functional impairments
and nosebleeds” (Macgregor, 1967). However, once interviewed, the patients
opened up about their lack of satisfaction with their noses and the reason for
the rhinoplasty was because of them wanting to be more “appealing” to the
society (ibid).


In several cases, patients such as flight
attendants came forward and justified that they were required to have an
‘ideal’ nose and specific looks for their jobs. What is prevalent in here is
the political body, reinforcing individuals at jobs to have a specific look in
order to please and increase the aesthetic of the brand for customers. The body
politic may be described as “the regulation, surveillance, and control of
bodies in reproduction, sexuality, work, leisure, sickness and other forms of
deviance and human difference” (Scheper-Hughes & Lock, 1987:7). In the case
of the interviewed patients, they are being controlled by an ideology that
imposes beauty as a standardized subject, meaning females and males should look
in a specific way or else they are limited to do their desired paths in the
society. Thus, the individuals are in a state of social suffering where it
“leads to an accusation of life and consequently to the responsibility of the
sufferer (Guntars, 2017). Hence, this is ‘Internal orientation,’ where the
patients blame their jobs in wanting to change their appearance and enhance
their so-called ‘beauty.’ Another example of expectation in the society is the
idea that men prefer women to look in a certain way, hence reinforcing
attraction. The study by Frances C. Macgregor, with the use of interviews,
showed that 49.4% of men expected women with a “small and straight nose”
(Macgregor, 1967). In this case, women are objectified and are expected to have
a rhinoplasty to reach the standards of most men. Therefore, beauty has several
meanings and classifying a simple model would not relate to each individual. As
a result, the limitations of this concept would be that someone’s ideology of
beauty may not correspond with others and if there were one definition, it
would enhance the social suffering. Lastly, beauty standards may change over
time and keep up with the trends is another disadvantage. Therefore,
individuals should not be a part of the ‘social norm’ and should not conform to
the body politic but rather their own will.


Aiming to be a part of the ‘social norm’
through cosmetic surgery has several issues to the mind and the body. Several
studies have linked cosmetic surgery of the breasts in women with an increased
rate of suicide. In the US, Brinton examined the risk of suicide in 13,000
women who had gone through breast augmentations (Sansone and Sansone, 2007).

The examination period was 14 years and the women’s lives were closely
examined. After 14 years, the standardized mortality rate (SMR) for suicide was
approximately 1.54 (ibid). However, 5 years later, the women were examined
again and the SMR had increased by about 0.09. The SMR may be defined as “the
ratio of the observed mortality rate to the predicted mortality rate in the
population” (ibid). Another example of a study was done by Koot. The study was
on 3500 women from Sweden who had similarly undergone breast augmentation. Koot
found that just like in Brinton’s study, there was an increased risk of suicide
after breast augmentation with the SMR being 2.9 (ibid). It seems that it is
not the silicon toxicity of the breasts but rather the psychological state of
the women that leads to suicide. Loren Lipworth, a cosmetic surgery specialist,
suggests that women who do commit suicide are due to the psychiatric illness
before the women undergo breast augmentation (ibid). This type of illness may
be caused as a result of the body politic and the social pressure imposed in
workplaces and socially to look a certain way. Hence, after surgery, the
dissatisfaction of the breasts or non-exceeded expectations is what may have
increased the death rate by such a high percentage. The disadvantage of the
body politic is that many cannot relate or compare to the social ideals, and as
a result, it disconnects the person from the reality and may cause various
mental illnesses such as depression and suicide. However, the body politic sets
a sense of equilibrium to create a standard for the population. Yet, beauty
should not be a standardized subject and people should be able to have a choice
in the way they look without being jeopardized.


With cosmetic surgery being available at a
cheap price and with improved technology, it would be expected that people who
are unhappy with their physical appearance would be able to alter the way they
look. Similarly, with changing ideologies of the ‘perfect body,’ many people,
especially women decide to mold into the society’s expectations and become what
is seen as the ‘norm.’ The social pressure created by the body politic is what
increases the number of cosmetic surgeries taken place yearly. As a result of
the social pressure in jobs and the society, individuals go through social
suffering, where they blame their surroundings for deciding to undertake
cosmetic surgery. The disconnection between the reality and expectation is what
leads cosmetic surgeries to create high suicide rates. Yet it is the social
pressure that increases cosmetic modifications. For further researches,
examining how addiction to cosmetic surgery as a result of the social
expectation and Korean cultural values of requiring cosmetic alterations may
increase the understanding to why cosmetic surgery is so common worldwide.