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What We Think About Plastic Surgery
Back in 2020, singer Angeline Quinto made headlines after admitting to having undergone plastic surgery, even calling herself a “proud retokada”. The said procedures were eyelid surgery, botox, a nose job, cheek fillers, and a breast reduction.
In 2017, Xander Ford became viral for an even more drastic change. Formerly known as Marlou, a then-member of Filipino boy band Hasht5, Xander shocked Filipino audiences with a full transformation that rendered him unrecognizable post-surgery. He became the subject of both praise and criticism.
These two aren’t the only local celebrities who publicized their procedures. Nowadays, you’ll find a lot of local celebrities willing to divulge their “Salamat, Doc!” moments, as one article aptly put it.
But even though we’re following the footsteps of Hollywood and Korea where such procedures are normalized, the Philippines is still rife with conservative audiences who discriminate against those who have–or are rumored to have–undergone plastic surgery, leading to the majority of celebrities keeping their beauty secrets under wraps.
The question is, should plastic surgery should be normalized in the first place? In this blog, we take a deep dive into the world of nips, tucks, and Botox to explore how and why it’s becoming a phenomenon.
What is Plastic Surgery?
Contrary to what the name implies, plastic surgery doesn’t actually mean injecting your face and body with plastic parts. It also doesn’t mean plastic in the sense of “fake” or “artificial.”
The term plastic surgery actually comes from the Greek word plastikos, which means to give form or to mold.
It’s defined as a “surgical specialty involved with both the improvement in a person’s appearance and the reconstruction of facial and body tissue defects caused by illness, trauma, or birth disorders,” according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Plastic surgery can be used to correct things like a broken nose. However, this type of “corrective” plastic surgery isn’t really debated – people don’t tend to moralize fixing a broken leg. It’s cosmetic surgery that causes a lot of uproar; simply altering your appearance for appearance’s sake is often dubbed as shallow or unnecessary.
But with our appearance constantly being put on a lens because of social media, it’s hard not to scrutinize every part of our body too. Before, you’d only see celebrities or the ultra-wealthy delve into nips and tucks. Now, it’s a lot of people, even those who don’t work in showbiz.
Why Do People Get Plastic Surgery?
It boosts self-esteem
Perhaps the most common reason for cosmetic surgery is the boost of self-esteem. Think of the last time you got a really flattering haircut — though the change is only physical, you feel much better about yourself. A positive self-image and attitude can lead to an overall happier life.
Adversely, when you’re insecure about an aspect of your appearance, it can cause you to lose self-confidence, socialize less, and even undergo bouts of anxiety or depression. Fixing that part of your appearance can reduce these negative feelings, and getting plastic surgery is one solution.
Unlike a haircut, plastic surgery also has permanent and/or lasting effects, so you won’t have to do repeat procedures. Instead, you’ll have that ideal nose or those sculpted cheekbones for a long time.
It’s More Affordable and Accessible Than Ever
Plastic surgery, although often considered inferior because it deals with external appearances, is still a highly specialized branch of medicine. Plastic surgeons undergo years of education and training in order to perform their work, so it makes sense that procedures are expensive.
However, clinics now are much more affordable than they used to be, making room for people of any socioeconomic status to avail of their procedures. But it’s important to note that many of the “cheap” or affordable clinics may not have licensed plastic surgeons, and we highly advise those who consider getting it to go to a certified professional, even if it means paying a higher price!
There’s also less stigma around it
If you closely follow Hollywood actors and actresses, you’ll know that plastic surgery has been normalized a long time ago in the United States. It’s not just A-listers, either, but lifestyle influencers, YouTubers, you name it. Korea is also widely known for its affordable cosmetic procedures that many public figures like K-pop idols and actresses sport.
It’s less publicized in the Philippines, but as more local celebrities and public figures are opening up about their nips and tucks, I believe it will only be a matter of time before the stigma starts to dissipate. After all, we’ve normalized non-invasive cosmetic procedures like thermage and Ultherapy from the highly popular Belo Clinic.
Social media’s influence
Social media is often to blame for a lot of self-esteem issues. Not only does it expose us to a carousel of seemingly perfect people, it also encourages us to hyper-focus on physical appearance. With our phone cameras pretty much becoming an extension of our hands, we’re more inclined to overthink every little detail of our appearance because we want to look our best selves on the ‘gram.
We’re also exposed to a lot of influencers and celebrities on social media, which can make us compare ourselves to a higher and often unrealistic standard of beauty. There’s no doubt that this can amplify our insecurities and lead more people to consider getting plastic surgery in order to fit in with the norm.
Is Plastic Surgery Good or Bad?
So, is plastic surgery a bad thing? Not necessarily. For many people, an improved appearance can drastically change their quality of life. Their self-confidence is transformed and they have a better attitude towards themselves, which can reduce feelings of depression or anxiety.
While the ideal is to create a world that doesn’t place a human being’s value and worth on their physical appearance, we can’t deny that how we look influences how other people perceive us. So, in a way, plastic surgery can actually improve people’s lives.
Our society still has a long way to go with destigmatizing plastic surgery. We have to understand that each person has a right to do what they please with themselves, because, well, it’s their body, not ours. Imagine if a complete stranger walked up to you while you were getting a haircut (to continue our analogy from earlier) and told you not to do it because it didn’t suit you. Weird, right?
That’s why I love it when local celebrities are open about these things and shut down any nasty comments.
On the other hand, plastic surgery shouldn’t be glorified, either. Even though there are plenty of happy endings, a lot of botched surgeries still happen. Sometimes people are disappointed with their results, which can exacerbate existing self-image issues.
There’s also a lot of deep-seated personal problems that people think can be solved by changing their appearance. Those who get plastic surgery to impress other people instead of doing it for themselves are also less likely to be satisfied with their results.
The above are just some of the things that could happen. Let’s take a look at other pros and cons of plastic surgery.
The Pros and Cons of Going Under the Knife
Pro: It can transform self-esteem
Like we’ve mentioned above, insecurities about aspects of our physical appearance can actually lead to a host of mental health problems. So, no, plastic surgery isn’t superficial. It can improve one’s quality of life. It can encourage people to socialize more. And, most importantly, it can transform a person’s self-confidence.
When we have a positive attitude towards ourselves, we are much more equipped to handle stress, conflicts, and challenges that come our way. Having our real appearance align with our ideal appearance can give us the boost we need to become the best version of ourselves inside and out.
Con: The psychological benefits aren’t guaranteed
It’s true that plastic surgery can provide psychological benefits, but they aren’t guaranteed. Those with severe cases of body dysmorphia have a chance of becoming addicted to plastic surgery, as their mental condition prevents them from ever having a realistic and healthy perception of their own body.
A high-profile example of this is Michael Jackson. While he was not confirmed to have been diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder, he was known for having undergone multiple cosmetic surgeries to the point where he looked unrecognizable from his former self.
Pro: It hides imperfections and signs of aging
Many women of a certain age prefer to get Botox or facelifts to hide wrinkles. These procedures are highly effective in preventing those signs of aging, hence their popularity.
Botox works by weakening the muscles in the area where it’s injected. The substance is a neurotoxin derived from naturally-occurring bacterium called the Clostridium botulinum. Although it’s toxic in high amounts, the powder used for Botox is mixed with saline solution.
Con: Plastic Surgery Can Look Obvious
Though effective, many plastic surgery procedures, like Botox, can look quite obvious. Because those muscles are weakened, you’ll probably won’t be able to move them as much. This loss of mobility and control gives the appearance of a stiff face. Other procedures, like cheekbone fillers, are also more apparent especially in people of a certain age.
Pro: It Can Alleviate Chronic Migraines
There is another upside to Botox that isn’t related to physical appearance: it can reduce migraines. Mayo Clinic has used Botox to treat thousands of patients who have experienced chronic migraine or severe headaches at least 15 days in a single month. While it’s not a cure, it’s certainly an effective treatment. Some patients only need an injection every few months to remedy their migraines, while others need additional treatment alongside it.
Con: There are complications to any surgery
Have you ever seen the show Botched? That show has seven whole seasons. That’s 118 episodes in total, with each episode following at least two cases of botched surgical procedures. While it may be fun to watch doctors remedy these mistakes, it just goes to show how easily and frequently a procedure could go wrong.
It’s hard to put a verdict on the ethics of plastic surgery. Ultimately, while each person has the right to choose what they want to do with their own body, plastic surgery is not something to take lightly, nor should it be done for the wrong reasons.
If you’re someone who is considering it, make sure to do your research and look for a trusted clinic run by certified cosmetic surgeons. If you’re someone who has done it, we hope the experience was a positive one. Either way, we want to hear any thoughts and experiences you may have about the topic. Comment them below!
Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.