A 2021 report on North America’s cosmetic surgery and procedure market suggests that the market will witness a growth trend at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.34% between 2021-2028. This figure is keeping its trajectory to becoming true.
According to The Aesthetic Surgery Society, surgical procedures increased by 54% in the U.S. alone in 2021. In Canada, the leading cosmetic surgery procedures are botox and rhinoplasty with over 18,100 and 9,900 online searches on the procedures, respectively.
Many have hailed Hollywood as the ultimate propeller of the cosmetic surgery industry. This is because Hollywood has been the hallmark for setting beauty standards on screen and off the screen. The fact that a good number of celebrities have resorted to cosmetic surgery to enhance their looks, was always going to reflect in the number of people who would tow the same path. One benefit of this movement is the gradual erosion of the stigma that has often trailed cosmetic surgeries.
Dr. Ali Esmail, a renowned fellowship-trained facial plastic reconstruction surgeon in the fields of rhinoplasty, forehead reduction, face, and neck lift, suggests that the cosmetic surgery industry has gained more popularity due to the significant rate of societal acceptance of the procedures.
He said: “It is not uncommon for people to come in trying to get what some celebrity got. However, we consider these procedures from a holistic point of view and try to guide our patients to understand what outcome they are trying to achieve and not what specific procedure they want.”
Darren Smith, a New York-based surgeon, echoed Esmail’s remarks on CNN in a conversation around the growing popularity amongst celebrities getting Buccal fat removal. A procedure that can accentuate the cheekbones through the removal of fat from the buccal fat pad.
"I think social media plays a tremendous role," he said. "We're seeing social media setting all kinds of trends, as people are having faster and more frequent access to latest celebrity looks and trends."
"People are now sharing their experiences more" which results in a "fading of the taboo of plastic surgery," as said by Smith.
"People are so much more open to talking about it," he stated.
Cosmetic surgery has always been considered a gold mine for plastic surgeons due to the high cost of plastic surgeries. Reports show that procedures like facelifts can start at $8000, exclusive of facility costs and related costs.
Celebrities like Demi Moore report spending over $500,000 in plastic surgeries to attain her looks. For Christopher Maloney, $92,000 for facial cosmetic surgeries is credited for helping him recover his confidence.
However, the cost trajectory is changing for cosmetic surgeries. There is a lowered cost of procedures mainly due to the increased number of cosmetic surgeons and alternative procedures. Dr. Esmail says this is a direct response to the newfound cultural acceptance of cosmetic surgeries.
According to him, “cosmetic surgeries are no longer such a taboo, it has become a popular option for people who want to improve their looks or well-being. The regularity means more demand and more supply, which affects cost.”
An industry that once had high-profile sparse demand, which contributed to its lucrativeness, now has a high number of suppliers meeting an increased demand rate. The rife competition makes lower costs a necessary way of surviving the competition for most practices. However, top-tier practices with a demonstrated track record are still able to charge top dollar in exchange for their stellar delivery.
As the cosmetic surgery industry booms, advanced technological innovations have been made to improve the quality of procedures. This is seen in the growing use of technological tools in cosmetic procedures, such as ultrasonic saws.
While these technologies are great, some may have questionable importance or use in cosmetic surgery.
‘’Trying out new technology is cool but you have to be careful not to fall for the gimmicks sometimes. For ultrasonic rhinoplasty, we use an ultrasonic saw technology to carry out the procedure, and it improves our precision with less risk of trauma for patients.” Dr. Esmail says.
As technological advancements make procedures more appealing, the increased rate of demand has resulted in an increased interest in plastic surgery for medical practitioners.
In the U.S. alone, the $27 billion market has over 14,049 businesses operating in the industry. This includes professionals who changed their medical practice field to get involved in the world of cosmetic medicine, such as general practitioners, nurse practitioners and even naturopaths who have left treating hypertension and diabetes to pursue botox injections and other cosmetic procedures. This has also greatly increased the number of practitioners practicing cosmetic medicine alongside the traditional core specialties of plastic surgery, dermatology and facial plastic surgery.
“Every face is different which means every case is unique. You have to be focused throughout each surgery so you don’t miss even the tiniest detail. This makes it an exciting challenge because it always keeps you on your toes. Other surgeries like tonsillectomies or septoplasty become very monotonous, like muscle memory, which in surgery for the patient is not a bad thing, usually excitement in surgery is a bad thing. Surgery like Rhinoplasty is always changing with new techniques and with each patient. It’s a blessing and a curse because you keep improving your results but can never truly master the procedure, there is always something you can do better.” He says.
The increase in the number of cosmetic surgeons has made the procedure more readily available to everyone, which in turn has increased the market’s popularity.
As cosmetic surgeries grow in popularity, the market is being considered a part of the fashion and cosmetic industry, more so even than a part of the medical industry. As currently it is considered to be more of a beauty treatment than a health procedure.
The Hollywood industry contributes to this trend with expository shows on cosmetic surgery like Botched and NipTuck among a plethora of others. This brings cosmetics surgery into the purview of entertainment and fashion.
Also, most celebrities who undergo cosmetic surgery treat it like an accessory in attaining a certain look, especially with the high rate of regular fillers, botox, and other face augmentation procedures they undergo.
This trend has evolved cosmetic surgery practice into an entrepreneurial industry with many clinics participating in perpetuity as private equity entities rather than the usual private individual practice it used to be. Surgeries, especially in Los Angeles, have thrived as a result
“Before now, retiring means your clinic closes with you. These days, you have the option of selling your practice to private equity firms when you retire. There is a lot of incentive for physicians to continue to grow their practice to increase a possible acquisition price when they retire.” says Dr. Esmail.
Despite these numbers, some people still consider cosmetic procedures taboo for different reasons, including the body-positive mantra and the associated risks of surgeries.
The View co-host, Sunny Hostin, recently opened up about her breast reduction surgery on the show, explaining what a big difference the procedure made and that she reached her breaking point two years ago.
“When I was 16, I had a very bad body image, because I had double D boobs. I never thought they would get any bigger. I had kids. Thank you, Gabriel and Paloma. They became G’s,” she said. “As many of you know, for years on the show, I have worn a sports bra, a minimizer, and a binder all at the same time, so that I could wear clothing that I felt comfortable in, and finally, my back hurt so much.”
After a conversation with her co-host, Joy Behar, she put the thought of reduction off for two years as Behar warned her of the risks involved in anaesthesia. Hostin’s husband was also against it but she went ahead anyway. Partly due, according to her, to the pain and an incident at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner where she couldn’t fit into a dress. Hostin said that the surgery cost over $30,000 and took around five hours to complete. Going from a G-cup to a C.
During the segment on The View, Hostin said she wanted to be honest with her viewers as she had often in the past thought celebrities with certain bodies were just “clean eating”.
“A lot of them are taking something, or they’re getting plastic surgery. It’s their decision to keep it private,” she told People magazine. “I wanted to be really honest. And I’m so happy.”
Ultimately, the decision to undergo a cosmetic procedure is subject to personal considerations, and Hollywood is playing a large part in its normalization.