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Mike Kaine, MD Written by Erin D. Updated on 14 Jan 2024
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Statistics: Why do people get plastic surgery?

Mike Kaine, MD

This text was written according to the highest scientific standards and reviewed by medical experts. Find out more about our quality assurance.

Written by Erin D. Updated on 14 Jan 2024

In 2020, the US led the world in plastic surgery, with almost 4.7 million procedures performed. In 2021, these surgical procedures increased by 54%. In this article we will discuss the latest findings in psychology and medihair´s user data to uncover the main motivations behind the ever-increasing trend of cosmetic surgery.

Most Important Findingssvg

Reasons Self confidence, health benefits...
Why more women than men? Society’s perception of gender roles...

What psychology says about plastic and cosmetic surgery?

Studies consistently show that a person’s looks impact how they are treated. Good-looking people tend to get more help, face fewer consequences, seem more successful, and attract more romantic interest. However, it is not just these external factors that contribute to the decision to undergo an aesthetic procedure.

Research has uncovered some interesting factors linked to choosing cosmetic surgery. These include lower self-esteem and life satisfaction and consuming a lot of media. These psychological factors can intersect and influence each other, leading to a complex web of motivations behind the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery.

Let us explore these psychological aspects to understand why people go for these procedures.


1. Self-Confidence for Dating and Career

One prominent aspect that drives individuals towards cosmetic surgery is the desire to boost their self-confidence, particularly in the realms of dating and career. A revealing insight from recent research indicates that self-esteem plays a crucial role in shaping this motivation. 

For example, our study revealed that dating and social life serve as powerful motivators for men seeking hair transplants. Approximately 37% of survey respondents cited dating and social interactions as their primary motivation for hair transplants. On the flip side, 34.7% got hair transplants to enhance their career prospects. Reasons for a hair transplant

While lower self-esteem may lead people to consider cosmetic surgery, it remains unclear whether such surgical interventions are effective in boosting self-perception.

It is also important to recognize that not all patients seeking plastic surgery fall into this category. Many people have realistic expectations and sound mental well-being when they decide to undergo plastic surgery.

Emotional impact of a hair transplant on a patient


2. Health Benefits

While cosmetic surgery is primarily associated with aesthetic enhancements and self-esteem boosters, certain procedures can offer genuine health benefits and relief from various medical conditions. 

Some examples include:

  • Research has shown that Botox injections can be effective in alleviating various medical conditions including chronic migraines, excessive sweating, Bell’s palsy, and even major depression.
  • Breast reduction surgery is another cosmetic procedure that often carries substantial health benefits. Many women who opt for breast reduction find relief from discomfort and health issues associated with large breasts. 
  • Skin removal surgery can help people who have undergone dramatic weight loss or bariatric surgery. This not only improves their appearance but also enhances their physical comfort and overall health.


3. Popular Media and Beauty Standards

In the digital era, social media has become a double-edged sword when it comes to cosmetic surgery. It offers invaluable information about procedures but also fuels unrealistic beauty standards. 

Studies show that prolonged exposure to filtered images on social media can intensify the desire for plastic surgery, particularly among those less satisfied with their appearance. Social media algorithms are also said to intensify body image issues.

Moreover, popular culture, including reality TV magnifies beauty ideals and the promotion of plastic surgery. Many makeover-themed programs also imply that deviations from beauty norms are “abnormal,” perpetuating the idea that cosmetic surgery is a remedy. Research reveals that women who consume such media are more likely to consider and undergo cosmetic procedures.


4. Reversing Aging

Statistics reveal that nearly four in ten (38.6%) cosmetic procedures performed in the US in 2019 were carried out on individuals aged between 38 and 50. 

The fascination with youth, exemplified by ageism in the entertainment industry, has led more people to consider plastic surgery as a means to defy the natural aging process.


5. Normalization & Acceptance

According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the acceptance rate of cosmetic and plastic surgery has risen from 5.4% in 2018 to 7.4% in 2019. This transformation can be attributed to various factors, including increased media exposure, changing societal attitudes, and greater accessibility.

Public figures, including celebrities, have also played a pivotal role in normalizing cosmetic enhancements by openly discussing their own experiences. This transparency helps destigmatize the topic, emphasizing personal choice and autonomy in such decisions.

Social media has furthered this trend, creating spaces where individuals can share their cosmetic surgery journeys without judgment.


6. Accessibility & Safety Due to Technology

Plastic surgery was once a privilege reserved for the elite, but today, it is widely accessible.

One significant factor contributing to this accessibility is the increased affordability of cosmetic treatments. Both surgical and nonsurgical procedures have become more budget-friendly. Various financing options including medical credit cards, personal loans, and payment plans are also available. 

In addition to improved affordability, advancements in technology have played a pivotal role in enhancing the safety and reliability of cosmetic procedures. 

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Why do more women than men get plastic surgery?

According to data from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the number of cosmetic procedures surged by over 274% between 1997 and 2014. Despite this overall growth, women account for 92% of all cosmetic procedures performed.

Some reasons for the higher rate of plastic surgery among women include:

1. Gendered Marketing and Advertising: One major factor in this gender disparity lies in the advertising and marketing efforts within the cosmetic industry. 

Many plastic surgeons have historically downplayed or overlooked male patients in their promotional strategies. This approach has reinforced the perception that cosmetic surgery is a more acceptable option for women seeking to enhance their appearance. 

2. Differing Beauty Standards and Expectations: Studies suggest that women are more likely to accept cosmetic surgery due to higher expectations and standards regarding their physical appearance. For women, such procedures are often perceived as “normal” when they enhance youthfulness and beauty. In contrast, men are more inclined to consider plastic surgery for practical reasons, such as furthering their careers. 

Society’s perception of gender roles and appearance standards also plays a role. Men have traditionally faced the expectation that they should be content with their natural appearance, regardless of age or physical imperfections. Seeking cosmetic enhancements was often viewed as a sign of insecurity or weakness. 

However, this outdated perception is gradually shifting as more men seek self-improvement. From 1997 to 2014, the total number of cosmetic procedures performed on male patients increased by more than 273%, indicating a substantial and evolving male clientele.


Why are people so against cosmetic surgery?

The popularity of cosmetic surgery has surged in recent years, but it has not fully escaped society’s negative attitudes. This raises the question: why is there so much resistance and opposition to plastic surgery? 

Several key factors shed light on this phenomenon:

  • Health Concerns: Unlike other medical interventions that address health issues, cosmetic surgery is usually aimed at enhancing appearance rather than treating medical conditions. People may view it as unnecessary and perceive the health risks associated with these procedures as unjustifiable. Furthermore, studies suggest that while plastic surgery can boost satisfaction with specific body parts temporarily, it does not necessarily lead to lasting happiness or significantly improved self-esteem. This lack of substantial benefits may contribute to the negative outlook on aesthetic procedures.
  • Preference for Natural Beauty: Negative attitudes towards cosmetic surgery often stem from the prioritization of “natural beauty.” Research also indicates that men tend to prefer women who appear beautiful without relying on makeup or artificial enhancements. 
  • Perceived as Unfair Advantage: Cosmetic procedures are sometimes seen as unjust because they provide an unfair advantage. They are considered to be shortcuts compared to traditional methods like diet and exercise.
  • Cultural Stigma: Cultural factors also influence attitudes towards cosmetic surgery. In some societies, like South Korea, the culture of “lookism” has made plastic surgery socially acceptable. However, many cultures hold negative views of these procedures, perceiving them as contrary to traditional values and authenticity.


There has been a significant increase in the number of cosmetic procedures performed each year, with the United States taking the lead. This surge in popularity has sparked curiosity about why people decide to undergo these transformations. 

Most popular cosmetic treatments

Some psychological motivations include a desire for higher self-esteem, the influence of media, and attaining social success. Additionally, societal pressures and the ever-changing beauty standards promoted by popular media also contribute to the appeal of plastic surgery. 

Thanks to advances in technology, these procedures have become more accessible and safer, appealing to a diverse group of individuals. 

However, not everyone is on board with cosmetic surgery. Some have concerns about health risks, while others prefer a more natural approach to beauty, see it as an unfair advantage, or succumb to cultural stigma. 

Recognizing these various perspectives provides a comprehensive understanding of the world of cosmetic surgery.



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