Vanity only scratches the surface of motivations among people who seek aesthetic procedures, according to a study published online August 15 in JAMA Dermatology.
“Often, the motivation is not simply to look attractive, but to address serious psychological and emotional issues,” according to the authors.
This, the authors write, is the first prospective national multicenter study examining self-reported motivations of patients undergoing cosmetic dermatology and surgery. More than 500 patients from academic centers and private practices around the U.S. completed a survey from December 2016 to August 2017, which inquired about several quality-of-life domains: cosmetic, emotional, physical, social, school, work, convenience and cost.
More than 86% of respondents were women, about three-quarters were white and 56% were 45 years or older. Nearly a third of patients were interested in botulinum toxin injections; more than 18% wanted soft-tissue fillers and 16.6% wanted laser treatment for brown spots and melasma. Others were having cosmetic procedures to tighten skin or reduce scars, cellulite, fat and more.
In the category of cosmetic appearance, more than 88% were motivated to look better, prettier or more attractive for themselves, while 64.4% reported being motivated to want to look better, prettier or more attractive for others. More than 68% of patients indicated looking better in photographs was a reason — half claimed it was a key reason for cosmetic enhancement.
Increasing self-confidence, which nearly 70% reported as a motive, feeling happier, improving quality of life and feeling rewarded were among the most common mental or emotional well-being motivations for seeking cosmetic procedures.
More than 56% of patients indicated they wanted to look good when running into people they knew and about half wanted to feel less self-conscious around others.
While 46% of patients responded that physical health and well-being was not a motivating factor for their cosmetic procedures, 36% said physical health and well-being, specifically the motivation to prevent their conditions or symptoms from getting worse, was a key motivation. Many patients also responded that they were motivated to feel healthier, improve physical health by reducing anxiety or depression or to increase physical comfort and reduce pain.
Nearly 55% of patients were motivated to look good professionally and more than a quarter cited the motivation to stay professionally competitive.
In the category of convenience and cost, the survey asked about convenience issues related to patients’ cosmetic issues, including time spent applying makeup or the cost of that makeup to hide an imperfection. Cost and convenience weren’t motivating factors for 65%, but when they were, time spent to disguise the problem was among their key considerations.
The authors looked at other influential factors that motivated patients to have cosmetic procedures. They found that while 44% indicated they were personally motivated to pursue aesthetic treatment, more than 23% responded that their physicians gave them the idea to have cosmetic procedures. Another finding: The most common reason for the timing of a procedure was one’s ability to afford it.
“Together, these data add to the growing body of evidence that treatments aimed at improving physical appearance can treat significant physical and psychologic illness,” the authors write.
The findings might help clinicians better understand cosmetic patients’ motivations, which could help physicians better counsel patients and manage expectations, they write.
Future studies should look at motivations in patient subgroups, including men, according to the researchers.