Vanity and Cosmetic Surgery

Vanity mirror


We see all kinds of patients in our office from all different backgrounds, almost equal numbers of men and women. A common question or comment we get is “Am I being vain by wanting to do this?” when asking about an eyelid lift. Or others become immediately defensive stating “I’m not vain, but I think this needs to be done.” What is the best response for folks with these questions and concerns. Typically my answer is this: “Each day we get up and shower, comb our hair, possibly put on makeup, and do all kinds of things to make ourselves look presentable. Doing this type of surgery falls in that same vein. You want to look your best.” I firmly believe that many types of cosmetic surgery are just one other step in personal grooming. For some folks, who may be extremely bothered by a particular physical attribute, cosmetic surgery may be the best way to correct it. Does this constitute vanity? I think patients ask us this question for a couple of reasons.

The Costs of Vanity

The higher one-time costs of plastic surgery make many people think that it is some sort of luxury that they don’t deserve or they are spending way more than most people on their looks. Analyze the cost of an eyelid lift that may cost several thousand dollars versus the cost you spend each month or year on new clothing or makeup. When you look at the long term differences there isn’t much. Most of us spend on the order of a couple hundred to several thousand dollars per year on personal grooming. Over the course of just a couple of years the costs are almost the same. Most people would state that after plastic surgery they’ll have a very long term benefit from 10 or 20 years, possibly more. When thought about this way, it seems to be more of just a calculated expense.

What Others Think

Many are worried about what other people will think. This is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome. Many people feel that making a dramatic outward change tells other people that they are either very vain or just not comfortable with their body. The patients who I see get the most benefit psychologically and physically from plastic surgery are those that go in with realistic expectations. They have a certain aspect of their appearance that bothers them and that may also affect their daily living, such as heavy eyelids that restrict their vision. They don’t expect miracles but they do expect to look slightly better after surgery. They are focused more on how they personally feel about themselves and not what other people may think about them. These subtle changes after surgery thus bring them a lot more contentment.

Thinking of reasonable plastic surgery procedures as an investment in your long term personal appearance as well as analyzing your reasons behind doing it are important. If you can come to terms with these two thought processes, the question of vanity shouldn’t really enter the debate.