After reading a recent article regarding plastic surgery in Utah, I thought I’d share a couple of thoughts. Although this article focuses primarily on breast augmentation (and I am a facial plastic surgeon), the implication is clear that cosmetic surgery and procedures are somewhat of an obsession with residents of this state, and seemed to be painted in a negative light to some extent. Furthermore, the article asserts that this apparent trend is driven primarily by Mormon patients seeking plastic surgery. After practicing as a cosmetic facial plastic surgeon in Utah for nearly 10 years, I would seriously question the assertion that the prevalence of these procedures is driven by any specific religious group. Furthermore, I’m not sure that motivation for such procedures is driven by external pressure or a desire for perfection. In any case, the causes, prevalence, distribution, and motivations behind cosmetic procedures in Utah could be debated and explored much further. To me, the more interesting question is: What is it that motivates people to seek out cosmetic treatments and procedures?
As I meet with patients each day and discuss this very question, my sense is that this desire is not typically externally motivated or influenced in the sense that they feel pressure to meet some arbitrary standard, but rather, patients simply want to feel better about the person that they see in the mirror each day. Many are well into middle age or beyond but remain active, motivated, energetic members of society. Not only do they want to feel good about whom they see in the mirror, but often they want to project an image that fits their energy level and enthusiasm for life and career. Sometimes they are even told that they look tired and angry. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. In other cases, patients may have a specific feature such as prominent ears or a prominent nose that actually detracts from their other more harmonizing facial features. And sometimes, it might be just a simple line, crease, mole, or blemish that bothers a patient. In any case, my patients are not spineless, self-obsessed individuals trying to be like everyone else, but rather are self-confident, self-aware, intelligent members of society who are trying to be the best that they can be and trying to make a positive contribution.
As a facial plastic surgeon, it is my privilege to be able to offer procedures and interventions, to either slow or reverse the aging process or to refine a feature so that it more gracefully harmonizes with the rest of the face. Sometimes these procedures are very simple, such as a mole removal or a Botox®, and sometimes they are complex surgical procedures. These procedures can be subtle or dramatic, but in every case, they are intended to improve the individual and the impression they create when they meet others and when they look in the mirror.
No one comes into my office requesting a look that will identify them as a plastic surgery patient. On the contrary; every patient simply desires to look as natural as possible but wants to take steps to maximize their positive features and minimize those that maybe aren’t so great. To me, this is admirable, and these patients should be celebrated for their desire to be the best that they can be and to create the best impression possible. If we think about it for a moment, we can easily identify many things that we do purely to improve our appearance and the impression that we create when interacting with others. Some of these would include straightening our teeth, choosing certain clothing to wear each day, improving complexion and skin with makeup and skin care products, or choosing a particular hairstyle. No one would be criticized for taking such steps to improve their appearance. Furthermore, we all know that a positive self-image improves overall health, desire to be fit and healthy, and general well-being.
So, if it is indeed true that cosmetic procedures are more prevalent in this community, I would say thank you to all of you who want to be your best self. Thank you for caring about the impression that you create. Thank you for being brave enough and motivated enough to take action especially given that we seem to be continually bombarded with images of celebrities and others who seem to have taken cosmetic procedures too far. Thank you for taking steps that will very likely contribute in some way to your overall happiness and health, and by extension, the health of our community. I feel lucky to live here and to be fortunate enough to interact with such people.