In the United States alone, more than 15 million cosmetic surgery procedures are performed every year. This includes anyone seeking surgery to enhance their physical appearance to those who simply want to enhance their quality of life.
Although many assume that a large percentage of these surgeries are focused on the former, plenty of surgeries focus on the latter. Cosmetic surgery can benefit your overall health, regardless of the main reason you’re electing to have it.
What Does “Cosmetic” Surgery Mean?
Per the Mayo Clinic, cosmetic surgery refers to any surgical procedure performed to enhance or modify your physical appearance. Cosmetic surgeries are typically elective, meaning they’re not considered medically necessary for your health or well-being, like breast augmentation, liposuction, facelifts, eyelid procedures, skin removal, and rhinoplasties.
While cosmetic surgery can have aesthetic benefits, it is still a form of surgery. It carries the same risks and potential complications as any other surgical procedure. As with any medical procedure, cosmetic surgery should only be performed by licensed and experienced plastic surgeons in a safe environment.
But the public perception of cosmetic surgery is often quite different from the legal and medical definitions — there’s often a stigma attached to cosmetic surgery. A lot of people think anyone who has plastic surgery must be extremely vain or shallow.
Cosmetic vs Elective Surgery
For the layperson, it can be hard to tell the difference between “cosmetic surgery” and “elective surgery.” That’s mostly because the terms are often used interchangeably.
However, they have distinct meanings from both a medical and legal standpoint. As defined above by the Mayo Clinic, cosmetic surgery enhances or modifies a person’s physical appearance to improve their aesthetic.
On the other hand, elective surgery is any procedure scheduled in advance and is not considered medically necessary. Elective surgeries can be either cosmetic or non-cosmetic from joint replacements to hernia repairs and cataract surgeries.
The differentiation between the two can mean the difference between the cost being covered by insurance providers and the patient being responsible for it instead.
Cosmetic procedures that don’t aim to improve the overall health of a patient and are instead focused on a more aesthetic purpose are typically considered elective and not medically necessary. Therefore, certain insurers won’t cover them. Of course, this distinction may fluctuate depending on the procedure and the individual insurance policy you have.
Why Is Cosmetic Surgery Stigmatized?
Some would argue that a part of the reason why insurers won’t cover cosmetic surgeries lies in societal stigmas. This is often perpetuated in the media, which in turn, shapes the public’s perception of the purpose of cosmetic surgery. For example, commentary on actors that receive cosmetic surgeries is often derogatory and alters the public’s overall perception of said actor.
This negative association is very real, and can even affect one’s perception of a cosmetic surgery patient’s morality and attractiveness. In a 2021 study, a majority of the 985 participants perceived women who were reportedly wanting plastic surgery less favorably than women who didn’t want plastic surgery.
Body positivity movements have helped to challenge some of these stigmas by promoting acceptance and celebration of diverse body types and appearances. Beverly Hills Physicians say many people now view cosmetic surgery as a personal choice rather than a sign of vanity or insecurity. Whether it’s to correct a physical abnormality, address a medical condition, or simply enhance your own sense of self-esteem, having a cosmetic procedure done is slowly but surely becoming more acceptable.
Still, certain cosmetic surgeries have more of a stigma than others. Procedures that are perceived as being more invasive or drastic like facelifts, tummy tucks, and breast augmentation are often viewed more negatively than less invasive procedures such as Botox or fillers.
Cosmetic Procedures in Larger Treatment Plans
For many people, having plastic surgery is just one small aspect of a longer healthcare journey. This is true for patients who have cancer, have experienced past trauma, those defined as medically obese, or those seeking gender-affirming care.
There are several reasons a patient with cancer might seek out cosmetic surgery. For example, someone who has battled breast cancer might undergo a mastectomy to rid of any cancerous tissue. Many patients undergoing a mastectomy elect to have breast reconstruction surgery once they’re cancer free. This would be considered a cosmetic procedure. Other types of cancer can also inspire patients to want cosmetic surgery to refine the appearance of scarring.
Severe Trauma Patients
Patients who have gone through severe trauma may seek out plastic surgery to repair and reconstruct injuries sustained in an accident. For example, a patient who suffered third-degree burns may seek out skin graft surgery.
Facial reconstruction is also a popular surgery for those who may have received injuries to the face from a traumatic accident. Not only does this help a patient heal physically from any wounds they received in the accident, but it can help them heal mentally — removing any physical reminders from the incident.
Patients who have obesity may choose to undergo plastic surgery after significant weight loss when the skin and underlying tissue can become loose and saggy. Formerly obese patients might also seek out plastic surgeries like tummy tucks, body contouring, and even breast reduction after they lose weight.
Those who are currently considered medically obese may also benefit from liposuction. This surgery removes any unnecessary fat and can help patients lose more weight on their own. Since obesity is often associated with an increased risk of developing diseases like diabetes, liposuction can even reduce a person’s risk of developing diabetes and increase their overall quality of life.
Gender Affirming Care
Those who identify as transgender or non-binary usually experience significant discomfort with their physical bodies. That’s where Gender-affirming plastic surgeries like chest reconstruction, genital reconstruction, and facial feminization or masculinization are deemed medically necessary.
These cosmetic procedures can help transgender patients better align their bodies with the one they best identify with. In this way, cosmetic procedures help improve their overall quality of life.
Electing to have a cosmetic procedure done is a wholly personal choice. In the end, what you choose to have done to your body is entirely up to you.