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Summary: Is age discrimination causing plastic surgery? Some new research would seem to indicate that’s what’s happening. And if that is the case, what are the moral and ethical implications? Should you undergo a procedure in order to get around any stigma attached to you by age discrimination? (And does plastic surgery carry its own stigma?)

Is Age Discrimination Really Causing More Plastic Surgery?

Cosmetic procedures and plastic surgery have never been more popular, but you really do have to stop and wonder sometimes at what’s causing that popularity. Sure, there have definitely been some advancements in terms of reducing stigma around plastic surgery. But there’s also been an uptick in reports of age discrimination.

And the relationship between age discrimination and plastic surgery has never really been all that well understood. Now, a new study is claiming that a significant portion of the uptick in plastic surgery’s popularity is due to an increase in age discrimination.

According to the study, people are using cosmetic and plastic surgery as a way to make themselves look younger. That’s not a huge surprise. But they’re making themselves look younger so that they can achieve more success–both in their careers and their personal lives. At least, in part. The motivations of any individual are going to be murky and mixed–pure motivations are relatively rare. So it can be difficult to judge just where these plastic surgery motivations are coming from.

How Do You Measure Age Discrimination

This recent study, published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, looked at fifty people over the course of a year, tracking their procedures and their motivations. According to the study, 36% of those individuals reported feeling age discrimination in a personal setting (leveled at them by family members, for example). Twenty percent of those who responded that they experienced age discrimination in a workplace setting.

You can define “age discrimination” pretty broadly in terms of people pre-judging you because of your age, or ascribing negative characteristics to you because of your age. In a legal sense, age discrimination in the workplace is that one that catches the most attention (because, you know, it’s actually illegal).

And age discrimination can be a real problem–this form of discrimination can keep you from getting a job or a promotion or a pay raise (that’s true with any form of discrimination, really). And age discrimination can be exceptionally difficult to prove–so it’s no wonder that many individuals choose to side step the problem entirely and undergo a cosmetic procedure to look a little bit younger.

Is Plastic Surgery or Cosmetic Surgery the Right Way to Go?

The general rule of thumb is that you should only undergo plastic surgery or a cosmetic procedure if you want that particular procedure. In other words, you probably shouldn’t get a facelift just because of age discrimination. But if you face age discrimination and you simultaneously want a facelift, you can see how pulling the trigger on that procedure might suddenly look a little more enticing.

And if you want to look a little younger, whatever the reason, there are several ways you can achieve that:

  • Surgical procedure: The most popular rejuvenating plastic surgery procedures are usually facelifts of some kind (though, blepharoplasty–an eyelid lift–is also exceptionally popular). There are always inherent risks to surgery, so it’s always something that patients are encouraged to truly desire.
  • Non surgical procedures: In many cases, procedures such as Botox and dermal filler injections are incredibly popular, as they are very low risk and require little to no recovery time. Injectables can make subtle changes without the need for surgery of any kind.

And, of course, there are always options such as makeup. You’d be surprised what a healthy amount of makeup can do in terms of de-aging one’s appearance.

An Imperfect Solution to a Tough Problem

We live in a society that valorizes youth. That makes age discrimination a rather stubborn and intractable problem. And, to be clear, plastic surgery, cosmetic procedures, makeup–they’re all imperfect solutions. They put the onus on you rather than on those who are doing the discriminating.

But it’s unlikely that age discrimination is going to go anywhere anytime soon–so it’s hard to begrudge anyone who wants to exert a little more control over their professional fate. There are various options available to those who want to make themselves look a little more youthful, from surgery to non surgical injectables.

You should consult with your surgeon before making any decisions. And remember, even if age discrimination is a motivating factor, you’ll typically get the best results from surgery when you actually want to undergo that particular procedure. Is age discrimination causing plastic surgery? This new research would definitely seem to indicate that’s true–but with such a small sample size, it will be interesting to note what future research yields.


About the Author: Dan Voltz has been writing about cosmetic and plastic surgery for over four years. He’s constantly in communication with surgeons to ensure he has the most accurate and up to date information possible.

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