1 in 5 Don't Tell a Soul About Their Interest in Cosmetic Surgery

VVartanian on 16 Sep 2013 at 9:00am

making plastic surgery decisions alone

Tina, 25, a runner, got 450 cc breast implants in May 2013. Three months later, she had them removed."Girls want 'em bigger and bigger where I'm from," she says. "I didn't think having large breasts was going to make everything magically awesome. I thought it would help my insecurities during sex, and it did not."

Kat, 35, an ex-exotic dancer, went from B cup to a D with saline implants at age 18. Fast forward 17 years, and Kat is now a member of RealSelf's explant community, after breast implant removal surgery on April 12, 2013. "I wanted them out almost since getting them in. You couldn't be subdued or low-key, they were always in your face. When I wasn't being a stripper, that's not where I wanted people's focus to be."  

What's most remarkable is not just the fact that Tina reversed her $8,000 surgery after just 12 weeks (her removal was free-of-charge as she's from Canada) or that Kat regretted her implants immediately -- it's that both women made this monumental decision alone, without telling their parents, friends, or any family

Tina and Kat's desire to keep their surgery secret isn't unusual in the cosmetic surgery community -- in fact, a survey of RealSelf community members found that 1 out 5 people discuss their interest in a surgical procedure with no one. Not a parent, a spouse, friends, strangers ... except, indeed, the sympathetic ones they might find on RealSelf.

"I was worried that people would be judgmental and I felt like I knew was right for me -- I was deluded into thinking a 'spring break' body would make me feel better," says Tina. "The [pro-implant] website I was looking at made me think a lot of things were OK. Looking back, the women on the website seemed brainwashed. I wish I'd talked with my mom before I went under -- I wish I had been open about my insecurities."

Kat also wishes she'd been open with immediate family. "As a stripper, you're in an environment that's the opposite of everyday society.  Breast augmentation is a super normalized thing. 'You've got small breasts and you want bigger ones? Go get boobs. Everybody does it...' My decision was very one-sided," says Kat.

Who is most concerned with keeping their surgery under wraps, and why?

Orange County-based plastic surgeon, Dr. Tenley Lawton, says, "Often it's mothers that feel guilty that they are spending money on themselves. Mommies have guilt. Or, they don't want to be judged by other moms who think that they are vain or if it has to with liposuction, 'Why can't you work out? Why would you spend money on that?'"

Becky, 42 (a nurse who waited a year to tell her teen daughter about her surgical plans) is no stranger to this "mommy guilt" saying, "I was on the operating table thinking, 'I'm being put under for a boob job and if something happens to me, my obituary is going to say, 'She was going under the knife to get boobs and she died and left three kids.' I was thinking, 'I'm selfish.'" 

And contrary to what you might think about women being the most closeted about their work, Newport Beach plastic surgeon, Dr. Lavinia Chong, says it's men that are most consumed with keeping it low-profile,"The standard 40-ish heterosexual male is saying, 'Hey, those 20 year-olds are nipping at my heels.' They are very reluctant to talk about cosmetic procedures -- there is a sense of still wanting to be rugged." In fact, she reports that men often ask for added reassurance that their "before" photo will not be posted on the Internet.

Clinical psychologist and expert on decision making, Dr. Jim Taylor, says research shows that decisions made without the right kind of input can be disastrous.

"People have a tendency to simply affirm their beliefs. If a woman is unhappy with her breasts, and she is thinking about getting a breast augmentation, she may start to research and go online. She may have a tendency to seek out and believe information that confirms what she already believes. Her basic bias is that, 'I want to get it done because I don't like my breasts.'"

Dr. Taylor says better decision making involves externalizing the decision making process -- and the single best thing you can do is to get feedback from people you can trust, are well informed and not overly-invested in the outcome. "A woman asking her husband if she should get a facelift or breast augmentation is probably not the best person to turn to, because the husband might have an interest in wanting their wife to look better."   

He also emphasizes that this process should be reinforced for decision making in your younger years."Research shows that the pre-frontal cortex, essential for weighing short-term versus long-term consequences, doesn't fully develop until people are in their early 20's. So, basically, young people are wired to make bad decisions. That's why it's good when people turn to their parents for feedback."

Tina, the 25-year-old, who had her implants removed after just 3 months, agrees: "I regret augmentation completely. I wish I had gotten outside opinions and asked more questions -- I didn't give anyone in my life the chance."