Being cut used to mean having a trim body shape caused by disciplined physical exercise. Being cut today has taken on quite a different meaning. An ever-increasing number of people—men, women and teens—are going under the knife to achieve a desired body image. Don’t like a bulge? Cut it out. Don’t like your nose? Slice it. Want some extra shape? Insert it. Cosmetic surgery is in. In fact, it’s mainstream.
The number of people getting cosmetic plastic surgery in the United States ballooned 775 percent between 1992 and 2005, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (asps). That added up to 10.2 million cosmetic procedures in 2005 alone. Cosmetic surgery is no longer held captive to the realm of the rich and famous. It’s your neighbor, the bank teller, or one of your co-workers getting a face-lift or tummy tuck. Although Americans lead the world in the rush to be cut, the use of plastic surgery is on the rise worldwide. It is estimated that in 2007, the British will spend more on plastic surgery than on tea, according to a report by market analysts at Mintel.
People seeking plastic surgery come from every economic level. One asps study of people contemplating getting plastic surgery found that 71 percent came from households reporting an annual household income of less than $60,000; almost a third were from households reporting less than $30,000 annual income.
This same study group reported some interesting facts on the background and ages of plastic surgery patients in 2005. Most were getting procedures done for the first time. Alarmingly, one fifth of patients were teens and young adults, and nearly half were middle-aged. More than 300,000 of those patients were under 18, and 12 percent were men.
All these statistics are somewhat shocking considering that plastic surgery is painful, expensive and potentially lethal. What does this growing trend have to say about us? It’s time we examine our nip-and-tuck values.
Why the Rush
Realize, we are talking about voluntary procedures. So why are so many rushing into plastic surgery? For starters, we can safely point a finger at Hollywood.
Celebrity use of plastic surgery has been well publicized for years. Celebrities are the cult leaders of the no-sag, no-bag, no-wrinkles people. Several 60-something celebrities have gone under the knife to recapture their 30-something look. With the pressure to keep up the perfect body, many younger celebrities rely on the knife. Liposuction is often repeated dozens of times to maintain a trim waistline. Younger celebrities are using plastic surgery to perfect already beautiful appearances.
Unfortunately, many feel that if the celebs are doing it, why not me, too? It has become a sign of status to have plastic surgery done by the same surgeon who cut a star.
It used to be taboo to talk about going under the knife. Cosmetic surgeries were often performed in private hide-away facilities. Now we televise it! The media are choked with glitzy advertising promoting a one-sided, upbeat message about plastic surgery. Several reality tv shows, such as Extreme Makeover, The Swan, and I Want a Famous Face, glamorized plastic surgery, making it appear as the perfectly normal thing to do. With each episode of Extreme Makeover, two participants were chosen from thousands of applicants and transformed in appearance so they could lead better lives. In Episode 2 of the show’s first season, Melissa wanted a new look for her 10-year high school reunion. She had been made fun of in high school because of her looks. So, she had “a nose job, her ears pinned, breast implants, a brow lift, tummy tuck, eye surgery, and her teeth whitened and straightened” (iEnhance.com). What happened to just dieting, buying a new outfit, or getting a new hairstyle in preparation for a reunion? What would an individual need to do for a 20-year reunion?
The Swan put a different twist on going under the knife. Contestants underwent multiple plastic surgeries to win a beauty contest. mtv’s I Want a Famous Face opened the door for a new plastic surgery obsession. This show tracked 12 young people undergoing plastic surgery to look like their favorite celebrity idol. Is it any wonder plastic surgery has moved from an older to a younger crowd?
Cosmetic plastic surgery has grown into a $15 billion industry. Surgical procedures come with a high price tag. Because of the larger profits, many surgeons are switching to the field. The top five surgical procedures requested are liposuction, nose reshaping, breast augmentation, eyelid surgery, and tummy tuck. It is not unusual for one individual to undergo all these procedures. Based on the national average, the least total cost for all would be about $26,000, not including post-operative costs.
More than surgeons are cashing in. Think about it: How are people of average incomes paying for cosmetic plastic surgery? Since medical insurance does not normally cover the costs, the answer is credit cards and loans. Some cosmetic surgery facilities have loan departments. Banks are joining the cosmetic surgery boom. British financial institutions offer instant cosmetic surgery loans as high as _25,000. There are Internet websites that recommend individuals secure second mortgages on their homes to go under the knife.
Given the money to be made, use of cosmetic surgery isn’t likely to decline. It is estimated that by 2010, over 17 million cosmetic procedures will be performed each year. This means that the industry could easily top $17 billion.
Even though cosmetic plastic surgery is seen as the new wonder surgery, it does have its risks. Reality tv, flashy ads and some plastic surgeons have downplayed the dangers.
Most people are aware of the well-publicized problem with breast implants: They do not last a lifetime. Perhaps all implants will eventually cause problems that, in most cases, would require a second surgery.
One of the most common hazards with cosmetic surgery is scarring. All incisions cause scarring. Plastic surgeons attempt to hide the scars in a natural crease of the skin or in the hairline. Unfortunately, some have been dealt highly visible, hideous scars—some irreparable. Generally, this kind of problem is caused by unscrupulous, untrained surgeons. tv documentaries have reported on the nightmarish perils of undergoing cosmetic surgery on the cheap. Honest surgeons will tell you that each body is different and can present unique challenges for even the best of surgeons.
Serious nerve damage can occur during surgery. Other dangers include bleeding, blood clots and infection. One of the most dangerous plastic surgeries is liposuction. Some patients have had their intestines punctured; others have been left with serious infections; loosened fat can enter blood vessels broken during the procedure, getting trapped in the blood vessels, accumulating in the lungs, or circulating to the brain. One four-year study showed that a person getting liposuction is more likely to die than a person in a car accident. Other patients have died undergoing facelifts, eyelifts and nose jobs.
On top of these risks, cosmetic plastic surgery can cause psychological harm. The tv shows, advertisements and even some surgeons imply that one of the benefits of cosmetic surgery is a psychological lift. But does cosmetic plastic surgery really promote self-esteem? Obviously, for those who experience botched cosmetic surgery, the answer is a nightmarish no. Imagine the impact of permanent nerve damage, a scarred face or blindness.
What about patients who don’t like a surgery that has gone right? A growing number of patients are not satisfied with what they see in the mirror once the surgery is done and the bandages are off. In these cases, what do you do when permanent changes are done to noses, eyes and faces? You either live with it or, as some do, keep trying.
What are the results? Recent studies indicate that “women who have received breast implants are two to three times as likely to kill themselves as those who have not” (New Scientist, Oct. 21, 2006). Although experts are not yet ready to draw final conclusions, some recognize that the psychological benefits of plastic surgery can be, at best, short term. Unfortunately, for some there is no mental health benefit at all, or even psychological damage. In any case, changing the outside will never fix a problematic inside.
Why are we so bugged by body blemishes? Why have we become so insecure about our faces, noses, ears or other body parts? Men, women and teens in the Western world are obsessed with beauty. Rising use of cosmetic plastic surgery reveals our tragically false values.
Are happiness, success, confidence and self-esteem achieved by physical “perfection”? Do bodily imperfections actually rob us of fulfillment?
Human nature’s drive to belong, be liked, or be as beautiful as our favorite celebrity often short-circuits our powers of observation. Though many celebrities are beautiful, what does that beauty obtain for them? Often it brings curses. How many truly beautiful celebrities are living happy, fulfilled lives? Let’s be honest. A lot of money, big homes, expensive clothes and drinking out of that deceitful fountain of youth known as cosmetic surgery will never provide long-lasting happiness.
Every human being deserves an opportunity to be fulfilled, successful and happy. But we must be willing to be taught how to achieve what we desire most. It is time we recapture the true value that lasting beauty comes from within. No physical self-mutilation is required. True beauty is not skin deep.
The true values all men, women and children need are outlined for us in the Holy Bible. God, as Creator, is the author of beauty. Certainly His instruction book has much to say about the subject.
One verse says clearly, “[B]eauty is vain” (Proverbs 31:30). The Hebrew word translated “vain” means empty, transitory, unsatisfactory. Tradition tells us this chapter of Proverbs was a special message for King Solomon delivered to him by his mother, Bathsheba, one of the most beautiful women of her time. Her history in the Bible shows that she learned much about physical beauty. She knew that physical beauty is transitory and that worshiping physical beauty is unsatisfactory and empty. If you study the entire chapter, it is easy to conclude that Bathsheba learned that true fulfillment came from embracing her duties as a wife, mother and queen.
God intended that human beings age gracefully. Another proverb states: “[T]he beauty of old men is the grey head” (Proverbs 20:29). So many men, women and children allow mass media to set standards of beauty. Many of those standards are bizarre. We should let God set the standard for beauty. God states that the grey head is beautiful. Few today would agree. Obviously, human beings should strive to maintain good health, primarily through proper diet, plenty of water and balanced exercise. Those who follow the principles of healthful living maintain a certain natural beauty as they age.
The truth is, real beauty comes as a result of right living. There is a truly beautiful way to live. It is a spiritual life. Herbert W. Armstrong often referred to it as the way of give, outlined by the Ten Commandments. To live this way of life requires building the very character of God. This is God’s goal for every human being willing to accept it. The Apostle Peter extolled those women who chose to do so. He wrote: “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:3-4). The chief apostle is not condemning good grooming or wearing jewelry and beauty-enhancing clothing. Peter is clearly expressing the value that lasting beauty comes from the character within a person. This is true for men, women and children.
This physical life is only meant to be temporary. There is a better, eternal life coming. It is ludicrous to attempt to preserve physical beauty forever. Instead, it is critical that we build the very character of God. God promises that those people who build godly character will be made eternal. Those who attain eternal life will experience a beauty that will never fade.