How Cosmetic Procedures Got a Bad Rap

July 10, 2013

(and How We Can Fix It)

When you think of someone who’s “had work done” (first of all, let me say how much I dislike that phrase!), what do you think of? Exaggerated cheekbones? Eyebrows arched so high they look permanently surprised? Overly plump lips?

Unfortunately, these are the images that come to mind for too many people when they think of cosmetic procedures— and the reason why so many are averse to the idea of considering procedures for themselves. There’s a stereotype that cosmetic procedures only achieve unnatural, almost comical results that look nothing like a “normal” person. (Think of the over-the-top appearance of someone like Kenny Rogers or Priscilla Presley.)

I’m always saddened to hear people talk about cosmetic surgery this way, because it couldn’t be farther from the truth of what it is when done right.

So, how has this stereotype become so prevalent?

The Origins of a Stigma

So much of the stigma around cosmetic surgery comes from a lack of education as to the true purpose of these procedures.

The media is partially to blame for this. People see a slew of celebrities undergo whatever the latest trend is for the season— full lips one year, tiny noses the next —and are rightfully put off by the idea of changing the essence of your appearance to keep pace with passing fancies of what “beauty” is supposed to be.

These changes are based not on a person’s own natural beauty and innate facial structure, but instead on fleeting fads or whatever the current “it” actor or actress looks like. These ideals of “beauty” are ever-changing, and sadly, too many cosmetic surgeons have been willing to accommodate people’s desire to chase these ideals—resulting in the drastic (and often unattractive) appearances that have given cosmetic surgery a bad rap.

This is not at all what cosmetic procedures are meant to do.

Done right, cosmetic procedures shouldn’t be about transforming a person into someone they are not; they should be about recovering a person’s underlying natural beauty, which may have been lost or faded due to years of sun damage, accidents, or other factors. They should focus on restoring the innate balance in a person’s appearance, making them look more like themselves, not less.

Done right, you shouldn’t even be able to tell that a person has “had work done.” You should just be able to tell that they look fantastic, though you can’t quite place your finger on why.

Reframing Patient Expectations

True beauty, as I always emphasize to my patients, is about reclaiming your own unique, natural beauty. It’s about establishing a better way of communicating with and being perceived by the world through your nonverbal cues. It’s about recovering a sense of balance in your facial features, not morphing or molding them to mimic someone else’s.

To restore this kind of natural beauty, one can’t simply zero in on one feature, but must consider all of a patient’s features as they work together to form a balanced whole. This is what I focus on and emphasize in my own work—helping patients optimize their appearances by achieving total facial balance, regardless of the procedure I’m performing. The results are subtle, yet extremely powerful, and are both transformational and completely natural-looking.

I’ve had patients who have undergone multiple treatments, completely unbeknownst to their friends and loved ones. One pair of sisters, who came to see me together, reported that their husbands had no idea they were having treatments—although one sister did say that her husband of many years had suddenly started opening doors for her, taking her out on dates, and other gestures that had been missing in their now-routine relationship.

It is my hope that as more people become aware of examples of these kinds of results, the bad rap will be lifted—and more people will feel free to pursue the reclamation and restoration of their own innate beauty.