The Human Barbie: A New Trend in Plastic Surgery or Breeding Misconception?

5 Nov 2014 at 5:00pm

Written by Los Angeles plastic surgeon
Gary Motykie, MD

Ever since Barbie became one of the world’s most popular dolls, little girls have aspired to be just like the pretty plastic dream girl. As cosmetic surgery and treatments have become safer, quicker, and more affordable, trends such as body modification have become more plausible for those determined to imitate their idols.

But just because you can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you should do something. Surgery comes with risks as well as benefits — and although elective cosmetic procedures have become safer and more effective, in the proper hands they are meant to create natural, aesthetically pleasing results rather than unnatural looking patients.

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Valeria Lukyanova (aka "The Human Barbie")

What we must remember is that Barbie’s body is an exaggerated ideal: an extremely flat stomach, abnormally long legs, a tiny waist, and a large chest. Her proportions are not only unrealistic, they are often dangerous to try to emulate. While people such as famed Human Barbie Valeria Lukyanova insist they haven’t gone under the knife and that their photos haven’t been manipulated, it would be virtually impossible to look the way Barbie does naturally.

It’s possible that people who aspire to achieve such an exaggerated look are suffering from a form of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). People who suffer from BDD obsessively think about their real or perceived flaws for hours each day. When they look in the mirror, they see something different from what everyone else sees. In typical cases, patients tend to become exceptionally introverted (even socially paranoid and depressed), but body image disorders present themselves differently in everyone. Patients who desire to look like human dolls presumably believe that changing their appearance in this extreme manner is the only way to look attractive. They may go to extremes in a misguided attempt to correct something that wasn’t a problem in the first place.

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Heidi Montag Life and StyleOf course, the extremes in anything always make for an interesting story, even if they’re not the norm. The media feeds on these out-of-the-ordinary patients, propagating a misconception that plastic surgery is intended to make people look abnormal or fake. (With salacious headlines such as “Plastic Surgery Disasters” and “Obsessed With Being Perfect,” you don’t have to look any further than the newsstand to know this is true.)

In the real world, this is quite the opposite. The goal of a skilled plastic surgeon is to achieve results that appear imperceptible to the public eye. These talented surgeons rarely see patients coming into their office asking to look like someone else because they don’t advertise or promote this type of misguided surgery. In most cases, patients interested in those procedures would be forced to obtain “back room” cosmetic surgery by people simply motivated by money. It goes without saying that these procedures come with added risks and unpredictable long-term outcomes.

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The concern with doctors performing these types of surgeries is that they may actually be creating harm and permanent disfigurement to someone who’s psychologically fragile or immature. The very basis of a doctor’s Hippocratic Oath is to “do no harm.” It’s a plastic surgeon’s responsibility to improve the quality of life of their patients, which is quite the opposite of putting them in jeopardy of feeling worse about themselves in the end.

A reputable plastic surgeon has no desire to take on extreme plastic surgery cases, instead opting to spend his time helping people to look more beautiful with natural results. An ethical and board-certified surgeon understands that someone wanting to look like Barbie should be seen as a warning sign, not a dollar sign.

Dr. MotykieAbout Dr. Motykie

Dr. Gary Motykie is a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in breast surgery, body contouring, rhinoplasty, and facial rejuvenation. With about 50% of his practice consisting of revising surgeries from elsewhere, Dr. Motykie believes in performing safe and effective plastic surgery that focuses on “doing it right the first time.”

Photo credits: Courtesy of GQ; Courtesy of Life & Style