Psychologic and Functional Reasons for Aesthetic/Cosmetic Surgery



Emotional Health and Cosmetic Surgery




Although not for everyone, physical adjustment of the body is definitely not an aberration.  Aesthetic surgery is not a perversion foisted upon us by cultural propaganda.  Patients who seek improvement of physical appearance through surgery are not collectively low in self-esteem or narcissistic.  They are, for the most part, normal.


A study from Scandinavia examined the psychological profile of women seeking breast augmentation.  Women, in the study, were found to be emotionally stable and highly motivated.  They had chosen breast augmentation without encouragement or coercion from men.  They tended to be professionally more successful.  They also invested more in their personal appearance than the “average” woman.  In short, they were on the highly motivated side of “normal”. 






Cosmetic Surgery for Practical Reasons


               Facial beauty has not changed much over 5000 years.  There is something in our collective consciousness as human beings that see facial beauty with a high level of agreement.  Most mentally healthy people want to pursue that aesthetic goal for themselves.  Not only is psychological gain a motivator, but there are very practical reasons as well.  Better jobs might become available.  Personal relationships might flourish with a makeover. For these reasons, aesthetic surgery might be, for some, the most cost effective means to the ideal aesthetic endpoint and the very practical results that might result. 


               As mentioned above, studies by psychologists have demonstrated that attractive faces are associated with higher intelligence.  Certainly, when seeking employment, intelligence is a desirable attribute.  Influencing appearance to make a favorable impression is a practical endeavor for anyone seeking professional advantage.  Many patients come for aesthetic surgery of the face to take advantage of this psychological peculiarity in humans.


               The morphology of the body also has influence, psychologically, on perceptions of intelligence and capabilities.  It has been established that tall people are perceived to be more astute (and therefore more likely to perform better) that shorter individuals.  There is undoubtedly some logic to these subconscious conclusions if physique is a component in performance, such as professional basketball.  This perception holds, however, even in those activities that are completely intellectual and unrelated to physical stature.  Although illogical, judgments about skill and performance are made based on physical appearance.


               Sexual attractiveness of body shape is related the changes in physical relationships accentuated at puberty.  In females, the waist to hip relationship becomes more accentuated which is considered sexually attractive to males.  In men, the shoulder to hip ratio increases which is favored by the female observer.


If one studies idealized body morphology in works of art, there is a consistency from generation to generation.  Breasts (although size may vary) are attractive features of femininity.  The shape of the younger, pubescent breast prevail over more the more mature and ptotic (droopy).  The soft curves of the female body are preferred to more muscular and harsh features.  Masculine beauty is manifest in well-defined muscular structure, strong facial features, and tall physical presence.








To summarize, there are certain unmistakable, and perhaps unexpected, aspects to physical beauty.  First, the perception of what represents “beautiful”, whether referring to facial or body morphology is genetically determined to a large extent.  It also seems to be shared, for the most part, by different cultures.  There is certainly variation, but the degree of freedom in which it operates is limited.  These limits can be loosely defined mathematically.


Next, physical beauty evokes psychological responses from others that bestow performance assumptions otherwise unrelated to appearance.  Beautiful people are presumed to be more intelligent.  They are perceived to be more competent. With this idiosyncrasy of human psychological response, a practical side to cosmetic surgery is clear.  An operation to enhance appearance will be accompanied by the subconscious perception that intelligence and performance are enhanced.  As this is an asset in the professional environment, the choice to undergo surgery may, at times, be very practical.


Article by
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon