Chicago — About 6 percent of American adults have had cosmetic surgery, but nearly 20 percent of the population aspires to have some type of cosmetic procedure done in their lifetime, according to the 2006 Consumer Perception Survey from the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.
Among those who do opt for cosmetic surgery, there is still a fair amount of reluctance to share the fact with the rest of the world, however. The survey found that 33 percent of consumers said they would tell only those who asked about the surgery, and 18 percent said they would tell only close family and friends. The survey, conducted by Synovate Inc., included interviews with 1,010 adults between the ages of 18 to 65, split evenly in gender.
Lingering uneaseThe responses suggest that, despite the modern age of non-invasive cosmetic procedures the social stigma that has long followed elective plastic surgery still resonates a bit, says Edward Lack, M.D., president-elect of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery and director of MetropolitanMD, a multi-specialty group and cosmetic surgery center in Chicago.
"Unless you're talking about New York or Los Angeles, it's normal that people are still very reluctant to say they've (had cosmetic surgery)," Dr. Lack says. "I think it has to do with people being self-conscious about projecting that they are inadequate, and they just don't want it to be obvious that they feel that inadequate about their appearance."
The reluctance to admit to having had cosmetic surgery may even help explain the relatively low 20 percent of respondents who said they aspired to have cosmetic surgery, Dr. Lack says.
"I think (that figure) has got to be a gross underreporting because that hasn't been my experience at all," he tells Cosmetic Surgery Times.
"If you went into any restaurant and asked for a show of hands on how many people would like cosmetic surgery, you'd likely get a showing of about 80 percent. I think patients in this survey, for some reason, were reticent to admit that they would like to have cosmetic surgery."
While feelings of embarrassment over cosmetic surgery may linger from previous generations, fear of pain related to procedures appears to have subsided. In the survey, only 18 percent of consumers cited fear of pain as a reason for foregoing cosmetic surgery.
That's one area where the media and word-of-mouth have made a dent in consumers' impressions, Dr. Lack observes.
"A lot of the unknowns regarding cosmetic surgery have been removed, with many consumers hearing from friends about their experiences," he says. "And the fact is, there's hardly a procedure we do where you can't get up and walk the next morning."
Instead of pain, however, cost appears to have become the main cosmetic surgery deterrent with 54 percent of those surveyed saying the cost would prevent them from having a procedure.
Dermatologist as confidante
Interestingly, despite the lack of understanding of the difference between cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons, patients often have enough of a relationship with their dermatologists to get the answers they need, Dr. Lack notes.
"The public is getting more sophisticated and I think it shows in the fact that the vast majority of cosmetic procedures are not performed in plastic surgeons' offices," Dr. Lack says.
"People trust their dermatologists because they already have relationships with them and would prefer having procedures done by them, as opposed to a stranger."
For more information: http://www.cosmeticsurgery.org/