Within the United States (with the exception of rural communities) the rate of cosmetic surgery procedures is high. In 2005, more than 10 million plastic surgeries were completed. This number includes minimally invasive treatments like Botox injections and laser hair removal.
According to the report, America’s five most common cosmetic surgeries in 2005 were:
- Liposuction: 323,605
- Nose reshaping: 298,413
- Breast augmentation: 291,350
- Eyelid surgery: 230,697
- Tummy tuck: 134,746
Current American society has a very specific vision of what constitutes beauty and is highly sensitive to physical traits. Social pressure from the media and advertising, as well as personal perceptions created by these two influences are the main reasons people choose to go under the knife. According to WebMD even sub ethnic groups within the United States look to plastic surgery to alter specific physical traits.
The three most commonly requested cosmetic surgeries varied by ethnic group:
- Blacks: Nose reshaping, liposuction and breast reduction
- Asian Americans: Nose reshaping, eyelid surgery and breast augmentation
- Hispanics: Breast augmentation, liposuction and nose reshaping
In our globalized society, it is difficult to determine if the current “need” for plastic surgery is cultural or if it is based on the media’s interpretation of the current meaning of physical beauty. Within the past few years foreigners have turned to Lebanon for plastic surgery. In 2010 there was a 25% increase in foreigners traveling to Lebanon for plastic surgery. One doctor in Beirut El Haj says that her clients come mainly from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, the United States and some from Europe. Demand has definitely been increasing. People want to look like the stars they admire — they want the nose, or the cheeks, or the teeth of certain celebrities. They want to look good. Some news sources like The Daily Star are even calling Beirut a global leader in surgical embellishment – on par with or beating Brasilia and Miami.
According to Lebanon Now, the women in Lebanon who undergo plastic surgery do so to “achieve a Western standard of beauty (that) can be viewed as part of a phenomenon called the ‘beauty myth’”. (Lebanon Now) Naomi Wolf, who has written a book on the topic, states that the ideas of beauty in Lebanon seem to be “tall, underweight-yet-full-breasted figure with flawless skin and delicately pointed nose” like Haifa Wehbe. Current estimates are that 1.5 million cosmetic surgeries are performed in Lebanon every year. Even local artist, Tagreed Darghouth, creates works based on Beirut’s love-affair with plastic surgery. She states “Lebanese women hate [their] own noses and hips and breasts, because they don’t match the new [Western] standards of beauty.” (Lebanon Now)
These Lebanese women, like American women, are not in the majority, even though the numbers of plastic surgery in both countries is rising rapidly. Within an increasing global market, more ideals of beauty are exchanged, creating more pressure on women to live up to these expectations. Reem is a stunningly tall, thin and glamorous woman in her mid-twenties who lives in Beirut. Like other Lebanese women, she explains how her attitude about her body is driven by these expectations. She told Lebanon Now that she cannot go out without fixing herself up because “I don’t feel good in my skin if I do not.” She goes to a hairdresser two hours a week, a beauty salon six hours a week, and shops for clothes three days a week, using up most of her money. Reem has been on crash diets and had a rhinoplasty, which her father paid for as a gift, to get rid of a small bump on her nose. She is also thinking of getting a tummy tuck when she finishes having children and a breast surgery if it becomes “necessary.” This mindset is not far removed from that of many American women, whose perceptions of beauty are being driven so far by social pressures that they resort to surgical alterations of their bodies.