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Cosmetic Surgery Trends

Cosmetic surgery trends can come and go quickly and, with social media platforms such as TikTok contributing to the accelerated rate of changing trends, it can be difficult to keep up with what’s “in” and what’s “out”. With the rise of accessible cosmetic procedures, it is getting easier to change the way we look.

The body positivity movement of the past few years has shifted to be more inclusive and supportive of those who have had, or are considering cosmetic surgery. This ‘no shame’ attitude has given rise to people being more positive and open about their wishes for undergoing cosmetic procedures. But, has it also increased the popularity of the most common treatments?

To find out more about the way certain procedures have fallen in and out of popularity, we conducted research into search volume data in Google. We have compared the search data from 2016 to 2021 to see if there are any noticeable differences.

Breast augmentation

Breast augmentations have been a common procedure for many years and, according to The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), the procedure is often one of the most popular surgeries each year.

From Google’s data, we can see that breast augmentation appears to have been a more popular search term in 2016 than in 2021. Throughout almost the entirety of 2016, the search term maintained very high search volumes. In 2021, these numbers were significantly lower throughout the year.

It is interesting to note that, in both of these years, there was a considerable decrease in searching for ‘breast augmentation’ in the month of December.

According to BAAPS, 2016 saw the lowest number in nearly a decade of people undergoing cosmetic surgery. The number of people who underwent breast augmentation was 7,769 - a fall of 20% from 2015. This is still a huge number compared to 2021, which saw only 4,023 undergo the same surgery.

Breast reduction

Breast reductions have become more popular in recent years, with celebrities such as Modern Family’s Ariel Winter being open about their reduction surgery. Breast reductions can be available on the NHS for health reasons if the breasts are causing backache, shoulder or neck pain, psychological distress, or an inability to partake in exercise or sports. However, they can be done for solely aesthetic reasons too, but this is normally not available on the NHS.

BAAPS’ data shows that 3,886 people had a breast reduction in 2016, and 2,528 people had a reduction in 2021.

According to the search data from Google, breast reductions appeared to be a popular search term in 2021, maintaining high search figures for the majority of the year. In 2016, the search term did not seem to be quite as popular, and we see considerably lower figures for the majority of the year.

As with breast augmentation, breast reduction also sees a considerable drop in search volume in December. In the build-up to the festive period, it appears that people are not searching for cosmetic procedures in the same higher numbers that they are doing for the rest of the year.

Tummy tuck

Tummy tucks, or abdominoplasty, is surgery to improve the shape of the tummy area and can involve removing excess loose skin, fat and stretch marks, and tightening the abdominal muscles.

2016 saw 2,763 people undergo a tummy tuck, compared to 1,488 in 2021, according to BAAPS’ data.

What is interesting about the data from BAAPS is the disparity between people undergoing the procedure and those searching for it on Google. According to Google’s data, more people searched for ‘tummy tuck’ in 2021 than they did in 2016.

In both years, however, this search term appeared to be most popular around the summer months and dropped off as winter drew in. The search volumes for tummy tucks coincide with when people are most likely to be looking to be ‘beach-body ready’.

Liposuction

Liposuction may seem to be similar to a tummy tuck as they both focus on the same area, but the process for it is quite different. It is a cosmetic procedure used to remove unwanted body fat, usually by sucking out small areas of fat in the legs, buttocks, thighs, arms and legs.

2016 saw 3,218 people undergo liposuction, compared to the considerably lower figure of 1,275 in 2021.

This drop in popularity can also be seen in the search volumes for the procedure. In 2016, the search volumes for this term were considerably higher than in 2021. As with previous search terms, the volume drops off significantly in the winter months.


As we know, COVID-19 has significantly impacted the way we all live, and cosmetic surgery has not been immune to these changes. Despite the search volumes of certain cosmetic surgery trends remaining quite high in 2021, the number of people undergoing these procedures was considerably lower than in 2016.

This may be a step in the right direction, as searching for these procedures will inevitably lead to more knowledge about cosmetic surgery and should help form a more well-rounded outlook.

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