Controversies in Application of Plastic Surgery

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Across the world, the practice of plastic surgery has surpassed its primary function: to alleviate any prominent physical impairments, whether the result of an accident or birth deformity. Instead, plastic surgery has largely become a means to modify the appearance of an individual to their personal preference. These predilections originate from society's dynamic definition of beauty, which is contingent on the influence of social media. However, the pervasiveness of social media greatly affects those who obsessively focus on their self-perceived negative features, and who oftentimes unknowingly suffer from mental disorders. Plastic surgery can fail to alleviate a person’s issues with self-image, and even can open a door for addiction to those who undergo many operations to reach unattainable expectations. Although the intentions of plastic surgery are vastly innocent, the adverse effects that can arise subsequent to a procedure are undeniable. The use of plastic surgery is a controversial topic, as it is a means to provide relief for those suffering from malformations; however, the acceptance has increased to meet society's skewed definition of ideal beauty, and in turn, concealed the detrimental effects of this procedure can have on a person.

Plastic Surgery is considered a surgical specialty, where the term ‘surgery’ indicates a practice that is used to treat diseases or injuries. The term surgery, derived from the Greek Word “χειρουργεία,” is defined by Lexico, the online dictionary powered by Oxford, as:

The branch of medical practice that treats injuries, diseases, and deformities by the physical removal, repair, or readjustment of organs and tissues, often involving cutting into the body, and

A place where a doctor, dentist, or other medical practitioner treats or advises patients.

Most surgeries, as portrayed by Jennifer Whitlock, a registered nurse who obtained a Master of Science, are used to treat diseases and injuries in patients. She recommends the use of surgery as it is essential for “confirming a diagnosis, removing damaged tissue or an obstruction, repairing or repositioning tissues or organs, implanting devices, redirecting blood vessels, or transplanting tissues or organs” (Whitlock 1). As portrayed in the article “Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Overview”, plastic surgery was predominantly used at the outset in a medical sense, “to correct facial and body abnormalities caused by birth defects, injury, disease, or aging” (1). For those with birth defects, “including cleft lip, craniofacial anomalies, or hand deformities,” plastic surgery is available to make daily life and tasks more easily accomplished (“Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Overview” 1). “Reconstructive Plastic Surgery” additionally revealed that this procedure is beneficial in resolving issues prevalent in those who have sustained deformation as a result of aging, infection, accident, or disease. As a young child, I had an accident in which I sustained a large cut on my face. After a while, it healed, however, it left a scar on my face that was prominent. I was given the option to have plastic surgery to remove the scar, in an attempt to attain a more natural appearance and promote positive self-esteem, as the aforementioned article claims is an additional product of the procedure. The practice of plastic surgery can be used as a means to alleviate physical abnormalities, as well as to alter the appearance of one to meet the standards society holds for beauty.

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The upsurge in plastic surgeries is the product of the media's influence, and can directly relay either positive or negative effects on the individual. According to recent studies, the amount of cosmetic surgeries has almost doubled due to the exposure of social media influence (Saul 1). In 2002, the number of all surgeries in America totaled up to 10,700, whilst 10 years later, there were 50,000 surgeries for breast augmentations alone (Shakespeare 1). This increase is brought about as a result of the mass influence social media has on one's self-esteem. Licensed doctors of medicine, Michael Reilly and Keon Parsa assert that “the sociocultural standards in the United States and throughout much of the world are inarguably established online” (1). These standards instill an amounting of pressure, particularly on women who desire to become ‘young’ and ‘beautiful’. Although the interpreted description of beauty is constantly developing, the definition as portrayed in Lexico is “A combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.” Many people who undergo surgery believe that to be desirable in today's day and age, they must look a certain way. It is when the privilege of plastic surgery is abused and taken out of context that these procedures can be detrimental to the physical health as well as the mental health of the patient. The continuous use of facial modification on social media platforms permits upward social comparison, in which a person compares themself to other people that they regard as paramount; this way of thinking can implicate numerous hindrances in one's self-esteem (Reilly and Parsa 1). The prominent issue with how the basis of which the modern standard of beauty is contrived from social media is the ability for impractical normalities to be formed. Because it is used in a desperate attempt to resolve any self-perceived issues, the popularity of plastic surgery is rapidly advancing.

When resolving physical impairments, the use of silicone, mesh, and polyethylene, all of which are various forms of plastic, is common. Plastic, as defined by Lexico, is “a synthetic material made from a wide range of organic polymers such as polyethylene, PVC, nylon, etc., that can be molded into shape while soft, and then set into a rigid or slightly elastic form.” A distinguished writer for National Geographic, Jenna Parker, illustrates the statistics of the number of plastic products that have been produced around the world, which totals about 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic (Parker 1). The malleability of plastic allows it to be molded into various shapes and consistencies, including the numerous shapes and sizes to be used in plastic surgery. This flexibility permits people to sculpt their bodies to their preference, similar to the effects many filters have. These filters are built into many social media applications, in which encourage and “permit individuals to constantly manipulate their appearance” (Reilly and Parsa 1). Applications such as Photoshop or Facetune allow an individual to modify their facial features according to their predilections. Contrasting, applications such as Instagram and Snapchat have built-in filters, and all permit the alteration of a person's appearance on a digital level. Reilly and Parsa showed how researchers found that “the sociocultural theory suggests that people learn beauty standards within the social and cultural context… that increased engagement in social media correlated with increased consideration for cosmetic surgery, and more so with the use of certain applications” (1). This social media culture directly influences the self-image of many, as they begin to perceive the modifications that are encouraged by these applications as the only acceptable way to look in society. The negative perception of one's natural beauty in comparison to the effects these filters portray has led to the formulation of the phrase “Snapchat Dysmorphia”, where the psychological phenomena of patients lead them to bring filtered selfies to the plastic surgeon to portray the appearance they want to embody. These people will even go through numerous procedures to acquire a look similar to the filters constructed on social media platforms. However, the mass amount of surgeries can also be attributed to an underlying disorder that is highly likely to cause a person to develop a dangerous addiction.

Contingent on the type of surgery and recovery time, opioids are generally prescribed for the pain for weeks to months at a time. Author Lisa Rapaport portrays how the use of opioids is not necessary posterior to all procedures, although they are prescribed for most. One study shows that when researchers reviewed data on approximately 500,000 people who underwent plastic surgery, “almost 55 percent of patients received painkiller prescriptions afterward, and 92 percent of the prescriptions filled were for opioids” (Rapaport 1). This study also depicted that over 30,000 of the patients became what is considered persistent opioid users, which describes patients who are still having opioid prescriptions filled anywhere from 90 to 180 days after surgery. The use of highly addictive drugs for a prolonged period magnifies the probability of addiction since it is a pain reliever both emotionally and physically (Hilliard 1). In some cases, patients will undergo multiple procedures to continue to receive the prescription for the drugs administered after. The other main reason for having these surgeries is due to Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which is characterized by “an obsession with appearance, or with specific flaws that are either real or imagined” (Hull 1). These people often are extremely dissatisfied with their appearance and believe the only way to resolve this issue is by undergoing plastic surgery. However, due to this disorder, it is often said that the use of surgery to resolve such issues seldom works as it does not fix the underlying psychological issues, and can even leave the individual in a poorer mental state because of unrealistic expectations (Hilliard 1). Nonetheless, when used correctly, plastic surgery can have positive results that can prove to be advantageous to a person's health although complications are never omitted.

Several common variations of plastic surgery, such as breast augmentations and rhinoplasties, can have both positive outcomes, as well as negative ones. For those who have had breast cancer and have had to have cancer removed along with portions of their breast, a breast augmentation can provide restoration to the look of the breast post-op. Rhinoplasties can be beneficial to those who suffer from a deviated septum, as they can provide relief with breathing through the nose as well as other side effects that are brought about due to this physical impairment (Slack 1). As with any surgical procedure, the possibility of detrimental effects on the physical well-being of an individual is prevalent. “Infection, excessive bleeding, bruising, difficulty in wound healing, anesthesia problems, surgery problems,” are all examples of complications that can result from plastic surgery (1). Furthermore, an impaired immune system, smoking, medical conditions, and/or poor nutritional habits can accentuate these complications. When facing the decision to undergo plastic surgery, it is important to weigh all the pros and cons. A few years ago, I was faced with the same decision, due to an accident that happened years prior.

One morning in 2004, as a toddler, I was bouncing on my mom’s lap, who was lying in her bed. To her dismay, one time I bounced so hard that I fell straight out of her arms, and into the corner of the square nightstand right beside the bed. This fall left me with a gash on my left cheek that formed into a scar that never went away. For several years I was not aware of the mark on my cheek, nor that it was anything abnormal. However, as more of my peers inquired about it, the more I became mindful of what was on my face. As a very self-conscious person, I cared a lot about what others thought of me. That is why I decided to bring up this concern with my mother, who advised me that plastic surgery was an option to deal with the scar. In school, I learned that God does everything for a reason, that He loves us no matter who we are or what we look like, and that what truly matters to him is the state one’s heart is in. In I Samuel, Israel desired a king, so Saul was chosen to be king due to his astounding outward appearance. However, this prestigious outward appearance did not reflect his inward appearance, which is what is most important to God. Because Saul's intentions were not in the right place, he continuously disobeyed the Lord; however, God rejected him as king for these actions, and He anointed a different king, one whose heart was truly good. Society often chooses to uplift those who look a certain way, regardless of their true intentions, although in the end, what truly matters is the state of one's heart, not the state of their outward appearance. It was not until I found my true worth in God, that I was able to love myself for who I am, and the differences that set me apart from others.

Plastic surgery is a controversial topic that has been encouraged by society's influence; although it provides relief for those suffering from malformations, the detrimental effects this procedure can have on a person are ever-present. The original purpose of plastic surgery was for medical rehabilitation and to resolve physical abnormalities that prove to be a hindrance. Due to the desire for societal acceptance, many people have used plastic surgery as a method to achieve personal goals and any desired appearance. However, the majority of ideals a person holds are determined by social media influence, and the use of filters present in the applications. Because patients who undergo plastic surgery are extremely displeased with their appearance, they turn to numerous procedures to resolve this. To the person’s dismay, he or she never truly attains complete satisfaction due to a mental disorder called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Following the procedures, opioids are generally prescribed for the pain, even if it was not necessary for the procedure. The accessibility to this dangerous drug and the presence of BDD opens a door for addiction, to both narcotics and to the surgery itself. Although the intentions for plastic surgery are innocent, the skewed reasons for surgery expedite the likelihood of complications posterior to the surgery both mentally and physically; however, the only way to find your true worth and beauty is through Christ Jesus, not through surgical procedures.

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Controversies in Application of Plastic Surgery. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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