Cosmetic Surgery by the Numbers: Global Edition
When it comes down to it, there isn’t really a set standard of beauty throughout the world. Some countries idealize porcelain white skin, while others promote tanning. Preferences can even vary from one city to its immediate neighboring city! But no matter where you’re from, there’s no denying that there is a motivation to be beautiful – whatever that means to you – and more than ever before, people are hoping to achieve their best looking selves through the latest aesthetic procedures. That had me thinking, which countries top the list for the highest number of operations, and which treatments are the most popular?
While the United States has a reputation for loving plastic surgery (which includes both reconstructive and aesthetic surgery), this past year, Brazil overtook the title of plastic surgery capital with 1.49 million surgical procedures performed in 2013 – about 40,000 more than the US tallied up. This is an especially powerful stat given the population difference and the fact that they have less collective disposable income per capita. There are around 315,000,000 US citizens compared with just 200,000,000 in Brazil. The boost in popularity is due to a rise of credible plastic surgeons, as well as the availability of more flexible plans that allow patients years to pay off their bills. Brazil’s embrace of cosmetic procedures is nothing new, though. This is a country where plastic surgery clinics seem just as common as beauty salons and where plastic surgeons can become celebrities. Some doctors like Ivo Pitanguy (a.k.a. one of the founding fathers of plastic surgery) have even been honored by Carnival parades. His belief that beauty is a right for all, no matter a person’s social or financial standing, is so widely embraced that there’s a Rio de Janeiro institute named after him.
On a global scale though, the US and Brazil only account for about one fourth of all operations. After these two, the next highest figure comes in at only 500,000 (Mexico), followed by Germany and Colombia. But if you’re looking at rates by population, it’s a completely different story; in that respect, South Korea, Greece, and Italy are in the lead. In these nations, ten procedures are performed for every 1,000 people. In South Korea alone, one in five women has had plastic surgery, compared to one in 20 in the U.S.
While Americans prefer to keep information about their operations private, South Koreans are more open about what they’ve had done. Parents often pay for their 18-year-old daughters as a coming-of-age practice (K-pop-inspired double eyelids, a thinned-out nose, and a V-shaped jaw are all popular requests), and medical tourism has even more clients flying in from around the globe. The idea that beauty leads to professional and financial success is essentially a cultural belief there, and this isn’t the only country to assert that view. Aside from a high number of invasive procedures, South Korea, Greece, and Italy also happen to perform the most non-invasive treatments (i.e. chemical peels and laser hair removal). It might be surprising to see Greece so high on the list considering the country’s recent economic troubles, but, in fact, the nation is racking up more surgeries than ever. The secret? As wages go down, so do the prices of operations. Many doctors also claim the rise is due to people’s desire to feel good about themselves in times of trouble. For many surgeons, the crisis has become an opportunity.
To sum it all up, plastic surgery is on the rise everywhere, and as operations continue to become safer, more effective, quicker, more financially viable, and less taboo, that will remain true for years to come. Were you surprised by any of the stats?