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The increasing prevalence of cosmetic surgery is having a dramatic impact on wider society.

The number of cosmetic procedures taking place in the UK has almost doubled in the last decade, and with this dramatic rise showing no signs of slowing down, we want to take a closer look at its impact on society as a whole.

What does the increased exposure to cosmetic procedures mean for young people? And is this having a negative impact on body image among different age groups?

Why are the numbers rising?

Between 2005 and 2015, the number of cosmetic procedures jumped from 28,900 to 51,000, according to figures from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS). This rise has been attributed in part to the increasing regularity with which celebrities are undergoing cosmetic surgery to achieve their perfect look. High-profile figures such as Kelly Rowland, Kylie Jenner, and Renee Zellweger have been open about their nips and tucks, which has helped to normalise this type of treatment among the masses.

The role of social media

There is one element that surgeons and industry spectators hold accountable more than any other for this increase: social media. Plastic surgeon Michael Salzhauer, also known as Dr. Miami, told Highsnobiety.com, “I think the influence of social media is enormous and cannot be overstated.”

With Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and more available at the touch of a button, fans now have a new level of 24-hour access to their favourite celebrities in a way that was unprecedented ten years ago.

Indeed, in our recent survey - which questioned 1,212 people about their perceptions of cosmetic surgery - 88% of respondents either ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that social media was partly to blame for the rising popularity of cosmetic surgery.

High-profile social media personalities, such as Kylie Jenner (94.5m followers on Instagram), use a variety of apps to share their day-to-day lives, and also to showcase the cosmetic work they’ve undergone.

The impact on younger generations

Body image campaigners and cosmetic surgeons alike are especially worried about the consequences of this increased visibility on young people. The rising demand for injectable facial fillers and Botox among ever-younger patients has been directly attributed to celebrities on social media.

Yet the impact of social media does not limit itself to non-surgical procedures – young people are also requesting invasive operations, such as liposuction, breast implants and buttock augmentation.

Plastic surgeon Michael Salzhauer said, “Ten years ago, women in their late teens and early twenties rarely sought plastic surgery, but now young people are doing it because they are seeing themselves on social media from different angles next to models like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian with curvaceous bodies.”

Our survey also revealed that 91% of people ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that people are increasingly undergoing surgery when they are too young. Similarly, in a previous survey, we discovered that young people had disproportionately been impacted by negative body image during the coronavirus pandemic.

A word of caution

Young people are advised to reduce the amount of time they spend on social media. Instagram, in particular, has been held responsible by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPC) for harming the mental health of young people.

The RSPC said, “Young people…are bombarded with images that attempt to pass off the edited off as the norm. This practice is contributing to a generation of young people with poor body image and body confidence.”

In addition, BAAPS president elect Michael Cadier warned of the dangers of people undergoing surgery too young. He told BBC Radio One’s Newsbeat, “[Young people are] still immature, vulnerable and it’s too big an operation with too many potential life-long implications”. Mr Cadier advised teenagers to investigate other avenues before resorting to permanent cosmetic procedures.

Making the right choice

While the risks of undergoing cosmetic surgery at a young age are clear, for many people, the benefits outweigh the risks. Those who do wish to undergo surgery should ensure they take the necessary steps to ensure they are choosing a practitioner who is fully qualified, and never compromise on the quality of treatment in order to cut corners.

At Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, we advise individuals who are thinking about surgery to follow these steps:

  • Seek recommendations from friends or family members who may have undergone a similar procedure to the one you are looking for. You can also gain valuable information from:
    • Your GP
    • The General Medical Council’s specialist register
    • The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgeons
    • The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons
    • Royal College of Surgeons
  • Check the qualifications of the surgeon in question
  • Be prepared to pay - cosmetic procedures are expensive, and this is justified by their complex nature and the level of skill involved with performing such a major operation
  • Ask the questions you need before surgery

Find out more about selecting a safe cosmetic surgeon in our online guide.

If you have experienced problems following surgery as a result of clinical negligence, you can call us on 0800 634 0285 or complete our contact form to speak to us and find out if you can make a compensation claim.

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