The market for cosmetic procedures is no longer limited to the rich and famous, and rising social media trends, such as “selfies,” are transforming an increasingly younger age group into patients.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2012, 14 percent of rhinoplasty (nose reshaping) patients were between the ages of 13 and 19, while 20- to 29-year-olds comprised 31 percent of the rhinoplasty recipient population. The other most popular procedures among younger patients are breast augmentations, calf augmentations, ear surgeries and Botox.
Anthony Youn, a plastic surgeon from Detroit, said in an article by Zoe Mintz in the International Business Times, “My patients are getting younger and younger. At times it can be disturbing, as I get calls for plastic surgery as graduation gifts.”
It is estimated that 5 percent of women on college campuses have had plastic surgery, a figure that has more than tripled in the past decade. This figure is considered to be even higher on campuses with high concentrations of affluence.
“My mom would always say to me, if there was anything you did want, like your friends, you can do anything, so that’s a comforting feeling. A lot of my friends get boob jobs when they graduate,” senior Katie Sands said.
Sands underwent medically necessary nasal reconstruction surgery the summer before her sophomore year because of facial trauma she had suffered during freshman year. She warmly supports those who undergo procedures solely for cosmetic reasons.
“I wouldn’t have done the surgery if it weren’t for the accident, but I have nothing against plastic surgery,” Sands said. “I think it’s the best thing. I know so many people who have done it, and they look amazing.”
While cosmetic procedures are undoubtedly becoming increasingly prevalent among millennials — 76,220 teens and 243,954 20-year-olds underwent cosmetic surgeries in 2012 in the United States — Richmond students who have undergone cosmetic procedures are bashful about discussing it.
“I think people are scared to be open about plastic surgery because it is an insecurity, like the reason people would get [the surgery] is to fix their own insecurities, so it’s something people feel uncomfortable talking about,” an anonymous senior said. “Unless it’s something that’s very accepted in your family and culture, people will have a hard time talking about it because we have a hard time talking about any of our insecurities.”
The anonymous source further divulged that cosmetic surgeries were extremely normal in the source’s family and the source would likely opt to undergo procedures in the future. “It’s very socially acceptable in my family. All of my aunts have, all of my cousins have, and it’s so not a big deal, so I would definitely consider it. At this point in my life I would just consider a nose job, but later in my life I’d consider Botox and that kind of stuff.”
Plastic surgery is a medical procedure that consumers pay almost entirely out of pocket for, as insurance companies do not cover such surgeries for cosmetic purposes. However, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis, the price of plastic surgery has decreased significantly over the past two decades, making it more accessible to consumers of all backgrounds and age groups. The American Society of Plastic Surgery reports that the average cost of a breast augmentation is $3,678, while the average cost of nose reconstruction is $4,545.
Senior Annie Schonberger, who has considered getting her nose reshaped in the past, but ultimately decided against it, said she thought it didn't matter if people had had plastic surgeries and they should be more open to talking about it.
“I don’t know why anyone should think of them any differently because they got something done. I mean, I know where I went to high school, a couple of my friends got things done in high school and people would not want to talk about it, saying ‘it’s embarrassing.’ But it’s not embarrassing. Who cares?” Schonberger said.
Melissa Ooten, Women Involved in Living and Learning program associate director, weighed in on cosmetic surgeries among college students, and said those who had undergone plastic surgeries often did so in order to bolster self-esteem. Ooten also said such an “easy fix” usually did not mend the fundamental issues the patient was experiencing.
“Women these days are under constant pressure to be perfect, look perfect, get perfect grades, so getting plastic surgery can be about feeling better about oneself, and it does meet that goal for some people,” Ooten said. “But the underlying issues are not addressed by just a surgery. Women might not be able to change other things about themselves as easily, like anxiety, so they physically intervene and try to change these things easily.”
While the population of millennials undergoing plastic surgery does include men, it is largely composed of women. Richmond student Andrew Charapko said he thought most men on campus would be in support of their female peers opening up about plastic surgery they’ve had or plan to have in the future.
“I don’t think men would have an issue with it realistically. I’m not going to say they’d have no problems with it, as there would be some questions of self-esteem, but besides that, I think guys would generally be for it,” Charapko said.
In addition to women seeking to appeal to men, general pressures from the media, applied largely by Hollywood and social media, are also driving more young people to undergo cosmetic surgeries. Christopher Khorsandi, a Las Vegas-based plastic surgeon, described this manifestation among clients, as described in Mintz’ International Business Times article.
“Call it ‘hyper-vanity’ – the tremendous focus on image that results from social media’s reliance on pictures to make an impression. Post witty commentary and get 10 likes, post a sexy shot of your cleavage and pouty lips, get 300 likes – the math is simple. If you want to grow your following, improve your status and get ‘likes,’ then looks are it,” Khorsandi said.
Schonberger commented on Hollywood’s relation to the plastic surgery culture but said it was simply a part of life in 2014. “I mean, we now see women getting like these huge boobs, or women who are 90 years old not wanting to have any wrinkles, which definitely matters, but it also doesn’t matter at the same time because that’s the world we live in. So if that’s how it’s going to be, that’s how it’s going to be, and no one should have or pass judgment on someone who’s living a certain way because of that. We can’t really because as a society we’re not going to go backwards.
“I don’t think anybody should care because it doesn’t matter and everyone is always going to have a negative and a positive. Everyone is always going to have something bad to say and something good to say,” Schonberger said.
Contact reporter Katie Thomson at firstname.lastname@example.org