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Summary: I imagine someone quietly researching Ridgewood, NJ, aesthetic plastic surgery, hesitant to tell any of those stereotypical New Jersey (that is, loud) relatives about it for fear of judgment. And that’s probably how it is across the entirety of the country. But a new survey commissioned by RealSelf.com seems to dispel the notion of the plastic surgery patient as some kind of outlier. Indeed, the survey seems to indicate that our idea of how many people want plastic surgery is substantially incorrect—as it turns out, a very large percentage of women are not only interested in plastic surgery, but also actively looking into it.

It might be difficult to get a gage on how many people want plastic surgery.

What We Think About How Many People Want Plastic Surgery

The image of plastic surgery is somewhat exclusive. Here’s what I mean by that—our image of the plastic surgery patient is that of an outlier, someone who is different than we are, a 1 in 1,000,000 kind of person. According to a new survey commissioned by plastic surgery social media website RealSelf.com, that’s not an accurate depiction of reality. In fact, the results tend to support just the opposite view of the plastic surgery patient—that plastic is something commonly considered and often thought of in a wide variety of people. The survey suggests that thinking about plastic surgery is a much more “normal” (whatever that word means) activity than popular culture has lead you to believe.

And popular culture definitely plays a role here. Look, when we think of plastic surgery, it’s often in the context of Hollywood celebs defying their age, striving to look younger. With ample assistance from make-up teams and from Photoshop, however, those very Hollywood celebs (who the general public is often used to thinking of as the sole audience for plastic surgery) are actually part of the driving force behind a broader acceptance and desire for just that same plastic surgery. According to the RealSelf survey, which asked over 5000 women a series of questions on the topic, found that 1 in 5 American women are actively seeking plastic surgery procedures. The emphasis there is on “actively.”

Significant Implications

To be sure, there may be a bit of bias on the part of RealSelf (unintentional, of course, but they are a plastic surgery website), but even correcting for a slight amount of favoritism, that’s a huge percentage of the population. That’s 20% of American women. And they aren’t just thinking about plastic surgery or considering plastic surgery, they are engaged in the act of researching and pursuing plastic surgery procedures—they are actively seeking. This has significant implications for the field of aesthetic plastic surgery and its marketing, as previously interest in the market was measured by procedures performed. We can see by this survey that the plastic surgery market is, in fact, much larger than was previously thought.

Plastic Surgery and Unrealistic Beauty Ideals

And the reasons for this are pretty easy to locate. According to the same survey, 90% of women between the ages of 18-24 are unhappy with at least one of their body parts. This drops to 85% in women aged 55-64, but that’s still a staggering amount of people who are unhappy with one body part of another. It seems to me—and this not covered by the survey—that we need only look back to the Photoshopped Hollywood celebs, and the unrealistic ideal of beauty they represent, to discover the root of these high percentages.

Those women who do elect for plastic surgery—and the survey found that the most common age for that was between 25-34 years old—have likely discovered that the “perfect” body is not obtainable through diet and exercise. It’s difficult to look like Beyonce or Angelina Jolie without surgical augmentation. And so many women elect to undergo that. And it’s tough to blame them for that. There is a lot of pressure on women to resemble modern conceptions of beauty—personal pressure and professional pressure.

Plastic Surgery to a Higher Quality of Life and Happiness

And one way to alleviate that pressure is through cosmetic plastic surgery. That’s not the same thing as, for example, getting plastic surgery to please someone else (that is actually relatively rare). Instead, these women are finding ways to create bodies that make them feel comfortable. It’s true that this does nothing to address the root of the problem—that unrealistic ideal of beauty—but it’s not really fair to ask women to change that definition on their own, at the cost of their own individual goals and desires.

So plastic surgery presents itself as an excellent alternative to a lifetime of excessive diet and exercise or a lifetime of discontent. This is especially true when the messages about ideal beauty simply become more and more intense as the years go by. Plastic surgery, then, can offer a realistic way to achieve higher self-esteem, a boost of confidence, and an overall higher quality of life. And, after all, that’s what it’s all about. Because whether it’s possible to change your body naturally or whether you need surgery, people sort of expect women to fit into a certain body type. It’s hard to fault women who decide that they’d rather just not deal with that pressure.

So the next time you feel like an outlier because you’re thinking about plastic surgery, you can take some comfort from the fact that you aren’t alone. Roughly 20% of women in the United States are thinking the same thing. Take strength from that, and get the body you want to have.

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