When It Comes to Plastic Surgery, Extreme is “Out” Subtle “In”

Consumer Survey from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Shows Americans Want to Look Better, Not Different

New York, NY (December 9, 2003)–Despite the popularity of “makeover” reality shows, most Americans who might consider cosmetic plastic surgery would not want to drastically change their appearance, according to a national survey of 1000 American households sponsored by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). Among women and men who said they would consider having cosmetic surgery, 68 percent would prefer a subtle change in their appearance, while less than one-quarter (23 percent) would consider an extreme change desirable. This finding, says ASAPS, is consistent with the experience of board-certified plastic surgeons, whose patients often stress that they want natural-looking results that will make them look better but not extremely different.

Many Americans Interested in Changing Appearance

The ASAPS survey found that many people would like to change something about their appearance, and more women than men are dissatisfied with at least one facial or body feature. Among all Americans, 39 percent of women and 22 percent of men wish that they could change something about their appearance. Only 15 percent of women and 10 percent of men said they would make an extreme change. Twenty-five percent of women and 14 percent of men surveyed said they would consider cosmetic plastic surgery. Among this subgroup, the overwhelming majority said they would not want an extreme change in their appearance; only 27 percent of women and 16 percent of men said they would favor an extreme change.

Most People Want Surgery To Help Them Look Better, Not Different Among Americans who would consider cosmetic surgery, 88 percent of women and 69 percent of men said that, following their surgery, they would want family members to say they look better but “like the same person.” Only 9 percent of women and 14 percent of men said they would want to be told they no longer look like their former self.

Interest in Improving Multiple Features

Among Americans who said they would consider cosmetic surgery, 35 percent would change one feature; 26 percent would change two features; 12 percent would change three features; and 9 percent would change more than three features. Robert Bernard, MD, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, says that altering several features does not mean a person’s looks will dramatically change. “Many people have multiple cosmetic procedures, either at the same time or at different times in their lives,” says Dr. Bernard, a plastic surgeon in White Plains, NY. “This doesn’t mean that their looks are radically altered. Often, physical features may need to be adjusted only minimally to achieve aesthetic improvement or restore a more youthful appearance.”

Dr. Bernard says that the survey suggests most Americans take cosmetic plastic surgery seriously. “The results of the ASAPS survey illustrate that, while people may enjoy the voyeurism of watching television shows in which others undergo total transformations, most people don’t want that for themselves,” he says. “It takes a great deal of specialized training and skill for board-certified plastic surgeons to be able to achieve subtle, aesthetically pleasing refinements that look natural and preserve the individual’s unique character. Above all, it’s important for the aesthetic plastic surgeon and patient to establish good communication so that both parties understand the goals for surgery and what kind of results they want to achieve.”

About the Survey

The TeleNation survey, by the research firm Synovate, was conducted from November 21-23, 2003. The telephone survey consisted of 1000 interviews with adults 18 years of age or older, using a sample technique that ensures random selection among all telephone numbers and an independent sample. The results were equally representative of male and female respondents. The margin of error for the portions of the survey sampling all Americans is 3.1 percent, while the margin of error for the portions of the survey sampling only those who would consider cosmetic surgery is 7.3 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.


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