As the American Society of Plastic Surgeons gathered its final tallies for the 2008 business year, expectations were relatively low, considering the faltering economy in the second half of the year. However, at least one statistic revealed a rather startling increase from years past: the number of racial and ethnic minorities undergoing cosmetic procedures.
Contrasting with a 2% drop in plastic cosmetic procedures among Caucasian Amercians, the rates among minority groups jumped 11% in 2008, including an enormous 18% growth among Hispanics. It’s all part of a trend that’s been developing for several years now, as plastic surgeons’ clientele more closely begin to mirror the American population.
Hispanics, the country’s largest minority group, accounted for well over 10% of the roughly 12 million cosmetic procedures performed in American clinics in 2008. All told, more than 1.3 million Latinos underwent treatment. Meanwhile, African Americans represented 8% of the total procedures performed, with 910,000 (an astounding 10% increase over 2007) in all. The number of Asians getting cosmetic surgery increased considerably, as well, to over 860,000; a 5% increase from the previous year.
When it came to race and ethnicity, plastic surgery used to be considered an industry somewhat exclusive to people of white, European descent. These recent trends, while certainly partly a result of America’s continued influx of minorities, speaks to a larger cultural shift, as the stigma of minority plastic surgery procedure is slowly lifted.
Of the hundreds of thousands of minorities undergoing cosmetic procedures these days, the great majority make it a point not to alter the physical characteristics governed by their race or ethnicity. Whereas plastic surgery was often associated with altering these unique features in the past (particularly certain trends in rhinoplasty and eyelid surgery), new advances have enabled plastic surgeons to help patients enhance their image without sacrificing any of the traits that make them distinct and proud representatives of their racial, ethnic, and cultural heritage. This is showcased in the fact that procedures like breast augmentation, liposuction, tummy tucks, and Botox injections rank among the most popular requests for both Caucasians and minorities alike. The goal is to enhance what is already there, rather than to change the patient into a “less ethnic” version of his or her self.
Will the rapid growth of plastic surgery among minority groups continue in 2009? Only the statistics will tell, but there’s no doubt that the common conception of the American cosmetic surgery patient has changed forever.
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