American Univesity of Beirut

Why Do We Nip & Tuck?

March 3​, 2022​

What role has social media played in cosmetic surgeries?  

Beauty advertisement and messaging have historically been through television and magazines, but social media, like Instagram and Facebook, are beginning to dominate this space. This is especially true with the rise of "influencers." Research shows that when a social media figure is well known and trusted, their promotion is equivalent to word of mouth. Additionally, researchers have seen a growing relationship between the time we spend on social media and perceived body dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction can sometimes be attributed to the fact that, on social media, pictures are heavily filtered and altered from their reality. These filters and digital alterations tend to conform towards a similar standard of what is seen as beautiful. This can lead to an increased desire for cosmetic surgery. Media, peers, and parents are usually the three parties that instill specific ideas. Still, there has been a growing movement towards body acceptance in social media and more inclusive advertisements.   

Mental health has deteriorated significantly during Lebanon's pandemic and economic crisis. Can this affect demand for cosmetic surgery?  

There might be a correlation that influence each other, but not necessarily a causation. There are restrictions about going out and having to stay in. Potentially teenagers and younger adults spend more time on social media during this pandemic and must stay home with less social interaction. This might influence self-esteem, body satisfaction, and self-image. People also had more time when they were isolated or staying at home to do cosmetic procedures.  

​What types of beauty standards are people trying to achieve when it comes to cosmetic surgery?   

There isn't any set standard for "Middle Eastern beauty." Historically, there was the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, who had symbolized the beauty of the Middle East. She was known as the goddess of beauty, and she had features of the region. Otherwise, though, Middle Eastern beauty icons are scarce in contemporary media and consciousness. Research has found in an analysis of more than 4,000 female models in fashion magazines that the image of beauty is more the result of editorial decisions than objective principles, with North American and European magazines dominating these beauty standards. There is a massive influence from Western standards of beauty, and therefore there's a lot of demand for the typical Western eyes, nose, etc. The research found that Western celebrities were selected as "modern beauties" in the Middle East. Middle Eastern women saw faces with almond-shaped eyes, straight noses, full cheeks, full lips, and prominent chins as more beautiful. There's not much knowledge on Middle Eastern people's aesthetics and facial anthropology. Sometimes, this might lead practitioners to inadvertently impose Western beauty ideas or create standards without regard to the country of origin.   

​​How do social structures affect beauty standards and the desire for cosmetic surgery to meet them?   

Social media's role is essential, but other socio-cultural influences impact self-image as well. At the same time, this is not independent of our environment. The statement of loving yourself and loving your body cannot come at the expense of examining the environment and exploring what's happening with this person. Internalizing society's beauty ideas and engaging in the behaviors to achieve that are essential components that lead to someone being dissatisfied and impact self-esteem. Internalization occurs when a person has accepted beauty ideals and is willing to engage in behaviors to achieve that ideal. This is an internalization practice, and the appearance comparison relates to when we evaluate ourselves by directly comparing ourselves to other people based on how they look.  

​​​​Cosmetic surgery is costly and not everyone can afford it, especially given the economic crisis in Lebanon. Is there a social class component to this?  

There might be a link between social class and getting cosmetic surgery. This might mean that people from higher socioeconomic classes might be more able to pay for cosmetic surgery, and they also may be exposed to people around them who have done these sorts of surgeries. This is the peer group component where social circles can influence one's decision. Suppose people around you are not participating in cosmetic procedures and are more focused on food, shelter, and how to keep their family safe. In that case, cosmetic surgeries will no longer be a top priority.  ​ 

Higher socioeconomic classes, in a way, have the luxury to afford these surgeries. Unfortunately, accessing this service is not necessarily a good thing. It just means that there are more means to participate. The more people in your social class and around you who have done cosmetic procedures, the more you potentially feel encouraged to participate as well. It can become a marker of social status to have a specific type of "look" that only surgery can provide.

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