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The Surge in Surgery & Choosing Our Appearance - Why This Modern Practice is Beneficial

The Surge in Surgery & Choosing Our Appearance - Why This Modern Practice is Beneficial

Photographed by Ella Bussa of Arianna Diccico, Deavion Collier, Ava Darbyshire, Jazmin Anderson, Olivia DiBenedetto, and Skylar Medes
Styled by Cheveney Koski
Directed by Kennedy Ray
Hair and Makeup by Skylar Medes
Journalist Assist: Ashley Chase
Style Assist: Ryleigh Causey
Photography Assist: Morgan Mayberry

By Ashley Chase & Jack Turpen

What’s a $27 billion dollar industry that continues to grow every year in the United States? The answer: the cosmetic surgery industry, which now has over 14,049 businesses in the United States (Wilson, 2023). There has been a dramatic rise in cosmetic surgery in the U.S., with one plastic surgeon stating that “I can’t honestly think of another field where the volume has exploded like that” (Ghorayshi, 2022). According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there has been a 19% increase in cosmetic surgery procedures since 2019 (American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2023). Although cosmetic surgery decreased slightly during COVID-19, these procedures regained their popularity in 2021, with an 54% increase in this year alone (Wilson, 2023). Much of this growth can be attributed to social media, where the discussion of cosmetic surgery has gotten more popular.

Gone are the days of cosmetic surgery being a taboo topic. As more and more influencers share the stories of their cosmetic surgery on social media, cosmetic surgery has become more acceptable and less secretive. Alix Earle is one famous influencer who has been exceptionally open about the surgical procedures she has undergone. She has been completely honest about her experience getting a boob job, as well as getting lip fillers (Small, 2023). This sharing of experience has resulted in social media becoming an important research tool for individuals wishing to learn more about cosmetic surgery. Additionally, the multitude of plastic surgeons that are famous on TikTok have increased the ability for social media to be used as an advertising agent for cosmetic surgery. The increasing popularity in cosmetic surgery has allowed for a lowering in the cost of these procedures due to more surgeons and alternative options being available. As a result of the lowered price, more individuals can afford cosmetic surgery and this only further increased the prevalence of cosmetic surgery.

Perhaps, one of the most important increases in the prevalence of cosmetic surgery is the surge in gender-affirming surgery. While most plastic surgery procedures have a negative connotation to them, there are positivies which come out of this increase in plastic surgery. According to the Cleveland Clinic, gender-affirming surgery are procedures that give transgender individuals the body that aligns with the gender they identify as. This can involve facial reconstructive surgery, chest or “top” surgery, and genital or “bottom” surgery (Cleveland Clinic, 2021).

The frequency of gender-affirming surgeries almost tripled from 2016 to 2019 and continues to increase every year (Christensen, 2023). These changes can be partly attributed to changes in laws that require insurances to cover gender-affirming surgery. However, this increase can also be allocated to a greater societal acceptance of transgender individuals and gender-affirming surgery. Social media has definitely played a key role in the increased acceptance of transgender individuals and gender-affirming surgeries by exposing individuals to the struggles, lifestyles, and journey that transgender individuals go through. One of the most famous transgender influences, who has also undergone gender-affirming surgery, is Dylan Mulvaney. Dylan has 10.3 million followers on TikTok and originally started his account as a gay male, but later came out to his followers as a transgender woman. Dyaln documented her journey of receiving facial feminization surgery, which encompasses procedures that change that shape of the face to appear more feminine (Tolentino, 2023). Additionally, some surgeons that specialize in gender-affirming surgeries have gained popularity on TikTok. Dr. Gallagher is a surgeon based in Miami who has gained followers on social media by posting about the gender-affirming surgeries that she performs. She uses #NipRevealFriday for patients who bandages on removed and the catchphrase “Yeet the Teet” for breast removal, which allows for a more fun and positive view of gender-affirming surgery. Dr. Gallagher performs about gender-affirming surgery on about 40 patients per month, which shows the prevalence of these surgeries. Top surgery is also extremely important for nonbinary individuals, who may prefer a flatter chest as opposed to other masculine features that are brought about by taking testosterone, such as a deep voice and facial hair (Ghorayshi, 2022).

With the huge increase in plastic surgery in the past couple years, both positives and negatives can be used to argue the case of if plastic surgery is ethical. Overall, plastic surgery is used to help all people feel more comfortable in their skin and in who they are. It is important that we make sure that we use plastic surgery for the right reasons and have valid reasonings for needing it as some procedures can be very harmful if not done correctly. It is always important to do your research and get consulation before deicidng on getting some work done.

Choosing Our Appearance - Why This Modern Practice is Beneficial

Jack Turpen

Cosmetic surgery has a negative connotation surrounding the ideology behind changing one’s appearance. It is bad, it is taught as bad, it is something to be ashamed of getting. I fear I must be the devil’s advocate, as I tend to be, in saying that I think cosmetic surgery being an option to those who wish to get it is one of the best practices we have in the modern world. This idea of being able to change and alter to match the image that one wishes to portray is a very profound idea. Sounds like the plot of a really raunchy childrens movie. But I can’t help but wonder why, as a society, we are so quick in looking down upon it. Is it that we are only able to envision a botched appearance, or is it that we hate to see others thrive in their confidence? Cosmetic surgery is not bad in my book, but the book that is cosmetic surgery includes some horrific chapters.

There is a dark side in every practice. The industry that houses cosmetic surgery is ruled by the wealthy, resulting in it only being an option for a select amount of people. It also becomes dicey when we are dealing with social media showing every move of celebrities to the public. It is human nature to look at one's surroundings and start comparing. When we look at those who are attractive we often view them with an ounce or two of envy. Those feelings are also something that is collectively viewed as negative. But just because those thoughts are negative does not mean that those feelings shouldn’t be experienced. Envy is a completely human feeling that is true to the way we experience life. Just because someone may be envious of someone’s looks, does not mean they are willing to act upon changing their appearance to match. Even if they do take action to alter their appearance to match someone else's, in what way does that affect me? We do so much to ensure the actions of others, especially regarding their physical appearance, matches the way we would view them best. I don’t abide by that, I don’t think anyone should participate in someone’s physical appearance decisions. Of course until it starts to ride the line of offensive behaviors, then there should be some protest. This is of course in reference to any behaviors that appropriate cultures or read as racist, I’m looking at all those tan-oholics out there. But a nose job? Some filler? A few units of botox? That’s none of your business.

I look in the mirror as a gay male and consider all of the things I hope to get done. That’s not in applauding it as a healthy behavior, but it speaks to me being human. I yearn for what could be or what I could look like in an ideal world. I know that fantasy shouldn’t be turned into my reality. But, as I advocate for my desires, when the money is in my corner I intend on tweaking a few things. I want a nose job, I think that’s a common desire. This idea has been met with opposition from my family. They view me in such high regards that a nose job sounds outlandish to them. I listen to them, I base my decisions on their views as I have through my entire life. As I age I see myself straying from their opinions and looking toward what would actually please me. That’s not to say I’m tuned in to every curiosity I have with the hopes of acting upon it, I say that knowing my mother is reading this. Her eyes would see this and jump to the extreme, “oh you want a nose job? So you want to change your entire face?” I should mention that she’s quick to jump extremes. She is correct in theory, why should I change my nose when I should just embrace what I have? I see that ideology primarily within some liberals, and I understand where they are coming from. They look to rebuild the world in a way that will make the majority of people comfortable, so they would prefer to dismantle the system that makes me feel bad as opposed to fixing the things that I have negative feelings about. The sentiment is powerful and incredibly important. We should be active as humans in finding ways in which everyone can feel good. But the idea of rearranging the entirety of the media to ensure no one is comparative, is very outlandish. I think I would just choose the nose job.

Feeling like shit is universally human. Just because it's been deemed as bad doesn’t mean we should do everything to extinguish all negative feelings. They are crucial in the way we are shaped, feeling like shit is almost half my gig. If I didn’t feel like garbage for as long as I have I don’t think I would produce in the same quality. Negativity is innate, looking to change it is innate, the way we change it is individual. Where we lose is in looking to define each other’s methods as bad or good. What is bad and what is good? That’s another conversation.

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