Accepting the New Normal: Bringing Cosmetic Procedures Into the Mainstream
With more than 15 million cosmetic procedures performed yearly in the U.S., plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures have lost their stigma, says Joel Stein in Time magazine’s July cover story, “Nip. Tuck. Or Else.” His opening statement declares, “You’re going to have to do it. And not all that long from now…You’re going to get a cosmetic procedure for the same reason you wear makeup: because every other woman is.”
With the time cover story and Good Morning America’s related segment, plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures have clearly moved past dark glasses and mysterious stays at Swiss clinics into the American mainstream. Why the shift? In a world where “selfie” has been added to the Oxford English dictionary as we post a constant stream of images of ourselves on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and other social media, as a culture, we’ve developed a hyper awareness of how we look. Doctors have responded by making cosmetic procedures more accessible, adding “spa” services to their practices, and offering attractive payment plans. Even 10 years ago, more than two-thirds of cosmetic surgery patients in the U.S. were making $60,000 or less. For nonsurgical procedures, individuals who seek services, from permanent makeup to regular facials, now come from every income segment.
In addition, advances in plastic surgery techniques that produce more natural looking results and an explosion in non-invasive techniques like CoolSculpting and Ultherapy have convinced a whole new segment of the population to improve their body image. Plastic surgery websites like RealSelf have demystified the process and have given millions easy access to skilled, board-certified practitioners.
The shift is also to a younger demographic. While aging adults continue to seek procedures that minimize the physical ravages of aging, in recent years there has been a spike in ever younger populations who feel no stigma about seeking procedures that prevent those first wrinkles and bulges from ever appearing. And age is not a factor in the two most popular plastic surgery procedures—nose reshaping and breast augmentation.
The Time article quotes Scott Westerfeld who writes a sci-fi series for teens. In his future, plastic surgery for all ages is part of the cultural norm. According to Westerfeld, teens are “the first generation to grow up with the idea that plastic surgery is neither superexpensive nor a weird thing that only the maladjusted would do. The idea that the body is this thing you are given and you can’t escape it–that no longer holds.”