Summary: While we’d never advocate plastic surgery tourism (in fact, we do quite the opposite), it’s often interesting to look at the ways in which other nations and groups think about and behave towards plastic surgery. In Brazil, cosmetic surgery is so popular as to be almost required—it’s more popular in Brazil than in any other country in the world. And it’s not just one procedure, as many women opt to have multiple procedures performed over a number of years. There might be some things we can learn from this, assuming we don’t go too far overboard.

plastic surgery

A Nice Place to Visit

We’ve never been a fan of plastic surgery tourism. There are just so many risks involved—the United States has a very robust certification system for a reason, and that reason is largely to protect patients. So, yeah, we actively prohibit plastic surgery tourism. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be a little envious of the way other cultures as a whole treat plastic surgery. Let’s take Brazil. Recently, NPR ran a story about plastic surgery culture in Brazil. The story followed a couple of women who saved up for plastic surgery—they had a dedicated savings account—and when they crossed the threshold where they could afford an operation, they did it.

A Popular Nation

In other words, there’s very little stigma attached to plastic surgery in Brazil. In fact, it’s a very encouraged practice. Thirteen percent of all elective surgeries in the entire world were conducted in Brazil last year, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. To put this in perspective, residents of Brazil spend more money—and have more procedures—done per 10,000 residents than any other nation in the world, including the United States.

Don’t Stop at One

And many people have multiple procedures. From breast augmentation to tummy tuck to Brazilian butt lifts—many women (as this trend effects especially, though not exclusively, women) have had all of these procedures done and more. And they’re not afraid to talk about it. Indeed, according to NPR report, Brazilians tend to view plastic surgery as a kind of merit-badge: it’s proof that you care about your body and about your beauty. The pervasiveness of this idea is quite staggering, especially when you consider the sheer number of plastic surgery clinics which offer special financing and lower prices for those who cannot afford procedures at high-end facilities. In Brazil, plastic surgery comes from the right to be beautiful. And that’s a right everyone has.

Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud

Of course, this is not without some darker consequences. For, in Brazil, that notion of beauty is very narrowly defined. Anyone outside of that very narrow definition tends to be subject to sexism and other forms of discrimination, not to mention the severe body and self esteem issues that come from such treatment. It’s worse because if being beautiful is the right of everyone—and plastic surgery is accessible—then it places the onus on those who are not traditionally attractive to explain why. This is not a very fair situation in which to put anybody. It tends to lead to alienation.

The Real(istic) You

That’s why I’m particularly affectionate of the recent trend in plastic surgery in the United States to emphasize the “real” you. Under this rhetoric, plastic surgery isn’t necessarily about looking “better”—whatever that means—it’s about looking more like the you that you’d like to look like. (Sorry for the tongue twister.) It’s a kind of realization of the self rather than a realization of a kind of idealized beauty, at least under the terms of the rhetoric used. It doesn’t always work that way in real life.

Which brings up another laudable emphasis in current United States plastic surgery services: realistic expectations. If you look at the website of, say, the Clear Lake TX cosmetic surgery experts at South Shore Plastic Surgery, you’ll see a repeated emphasis on patients maintaining realistic expectations. And that’s true of tummy tucks or breast lifts or breast augmentations. Plastic surgery is not a time machine, and most reputable plastic surgeons are very clear about that.

A New Kind of Popular

But that doesn’t mean plastic surgery isn’t very popular in the United States—which makes the curios stigma attached to cosmetic procedures here quite perplexing. Cosmetic surgery is more popular than ever, among both men and women. Likewise, satisfaction with these procedures is higher than ever—and the procedures are also safer than ever. Yet, I’d say that I don’t think the kind of unbridled obsession seem in Brazil is the right climate for the United States, either.

Rather, I’d like to see some kind of happy medium between the two. The best recipe seems to be a culture in which plastic surgery is available but not required, where people who want to take advantage of services offered are free to do so without judgment, but those who refuse or who define beauty differently are not slighted as a consequence. It may take a little bit of extra time, but I think the United States is moving in that direction, and I’ll be happy when it gets there.

After all, transformation is what we’re all after.

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