Summary: When it comes to rhinoplasty or procedures of the face, especially, there has been a long emphasis placed recently on “ethnic” procedures—that is, those procedures which preserve, enhance, or take into account certain ethnic features, such as nose or eye shape. However, this implies there’s a difference when it comes to any other “non-ethnic” procedure. Which is problematic. Doesn’t every procedure take into account your natural features, whether they’re ethnic or not? I’m not sure what the reason for the “ethnic” moniker, as well intentioned as it may be, but it’s utility is problematic for a number of reasons, especially in an area where, such as in Los Angeles ethnic cosmetic surgery is quite common due to the population make-up.

Los Angeles ethnic cosmetic surgery is quite common

Your Real Self

While the rhetoric of plastic surgery involves uniqueness—finding your real self—and unleashing that real self on the world. And while that rhetoric us usually well founded, sometimes plastic surgery can have a strange effect and go in the opposite direction. By this, I simply mean that sometimes plastic surgery procedures—and the tendencies therein—can lead to a homogenization of aesthetics. In other words, when everyone can look a certain way, suddenly everyone wants to look that way—and before long, everyone looks the same, at the cost of uniqueness and individuality. This can be especially troubling when, wound up in that uniqueness and individuality, an ethnic identity is also involved.

Of course, we all have an ethnic identity. But, due to several strong hegemonic cultural forces, “white” or Caucasian is generally seen as the “norm.” Everything that is not white is “ethnic.” You can see this on the webpages of a wide variety of plastic and cosmetic surgeons. To be fair, this is simply an easy way for the surgeons to communicate an idea very quickly—that the surgery will honor your natural beauty no matter your heritage (why this doesn’t needed to be communicated to Caucasian audiences, however, illustrates the point that this is problematic). Because white is seen as both the “norm” and as beautiful, there’s a tendency to want to be white. And this is even more of a thorny issue.

Skin Cosmetic Procedures

Now comes word out of Australia, of a new product, and problems with the popularity of that product. Indeed, Australia isn’t alone. Skin-whitening products are quite popular across the globe, with one study citing that at least 60% of Indian women had reportedly used a skin whitening product at least once in their lives. Now, this isn’t all because of Hollywood stereotypes of “white” as beautiful. In many regions, pale skin is seen as a sign of prosperity and wealth (as those with pale skin are rich enough to avoid working out of doors under the intense sun). However, these products are often problematic, and sometimes have poisonous or damaging ingredients, though this does not seem to impact their popularity.

Yet, cosmetic surgeons have been careful to avoid contributing to this, and few offer skin whitening services. Rather, most cosmetic skin services at cosmetic surgery clinics tend to focus on evening out skin tones or clearing up wrinkles and lines. Indeed, most laser skin procedures, such as Fraxel, are designed not to change skin tones, but to make those skin tones more even. In essence, laser skin procedures are designed to make patients look younger and more vibrant—definitely not “whiter.” Indeed, cosmetic surgeons are always committed to ensuring that procedures focus on your real beauty and not necessarily on making you into something you’re not.

Patient Happiness and Cosmetic Procedures

But this is important for patients to keep in mind as well. Because every patient is unique, regardless of ethnicity or background, and the cosmetic surgeons should be careful to honor that individuality. This is especially true in a heterogeneous part of the country, such as Los Angeles, where a wide variety of ethnicities make up the population of that city. Therefore, Los Angeles ethnic cosmetic surgery doesn’t necessarily fall into the trap that many other cities fall into. They are, of course, not immune from it either.

Indeed, I think a lot of this confusion comes up because surgeons simply want to communicate well with their patients. And the overall message is one of honoring your roots. Your nose, after all, might be different from my nose. But that doesn’t necessarily mean our noses should look the same in the end. Rather, it means that it’s okay for our noses to look different—and that your nose, after your non surgical nose job, should simply look like a better version of your nose. Not like my nose. Yet, for the time being, referring to “ethnic cosmetic surgery” seems to be the best way to respectfully communicate all of this.

Because when it comes right down to it, many people want to honor their ethnicity. I guess we just wish that didn’t mean “non-white,” because honoring your ethnicity is a pretty universal thing. Until we come up with a better term, however, I guess that’s what we’ll settle on. Having said all of that, it should surprise no one that cosmetic surgeons have gotten very, very good at doing just this—at honoring ethnicity. And that is something that we can all be thankful for. And it’s certainly something that could get us all to sign up at our local cosmetic surgeon a little bit more quickly.