Advice Centre News Why the public are shying away from going under the knife

Why the public are shying away from going under the knife

Aesthetic surgery procedures have become increasingly popular over the years, so much so that in 2015 the total number of procedures performed in the UK reached over 51,000.

It’s no coincidence that this increase in cosmetic surgery coincides with the rise in social media. Visual platforms such as Instagram allow celebrities and influencers to open up about procedures they’ve had, inadvertently encouraging their followers to follow suit in an attempt to achieve the same look via surgery.

Although social media helped heighten the desire for invasive cosmetic surgery, the honesty and freedom of speech that social platforms provide has also highlighted the downside of invasive cosmetic procedures, often in graphic detail. The days of celebrities and influencers denying any cosmetic treatments they may—or may not—have had, are long gone and now they are keen to share their stories—good or bad.

This new honesty about cosmetic surgery highlights the reality of procedures and illustrates that things don’t always go to plan, or achieve the desired end result. We often see images of celebrities who have gone overboard with surgery and botched results are as common as success stories.

Exposure of surgical horror stories, surgery addiction and unnatural treatments could well be responsible for cosmetic surgery falling out of favour, as recent figures show that just 28,000 procedures were performed in the UK during 2018, a reduction of 23,000 surgeries in just three years.

Why the public would avoid cosmetic surgery

To find out more about why invasive cosmetic surgery is falling out of favour, we ran an independent survey, here are the results:

cosmetic procedure graph

Fear of surgery looking unnatural

Fear of the dreaded ‘trout pout’ has certainly made people think twice about surgery, with 31% of respondents admitting that they would be scared of cosmetic surgery looking unnatural.

One of the big problems with surgical enhancement is it can be tempting to take it a little bit further than necessary and it really isn’t difficult to unwittingly go a step too far. Breast augmentation is a classic example of women ‘upgrading’ to a size that may look unnatural on their frame. On paper, a voluptuous D cup isn’t a huge jump from a more natural C cup, however the effect can appear unbalanced and ‘fake’ if it doesn’t suit a patient’s frame.

Fear of surgery going wrong

Worries of surgery being botched was a big fear for almost a third (30%) of those who responded to our survey. As social media routinely features celebrities with botched procedures this isn’t a surprising result, particularly when platforms like YouTube allow people to present graphic ‘story time’ features about their gruesome surgery experiences. Such horror stories aren’t restricted to social media, with prime time TV airing factual shows such as ‘Botched’ which highlights just how dangerous going under the knife can be.

self breast exam

Fears of future regret

One in ten respondents worried that they would regret having cosmetic surgery—a valid fear when fashions and trends evolve so much. Often people undergo a cosmetic procedure because they’re aspiring to a particular beauty ideal, as per the current trend for girls having lip filler to achieve fuller lips.

One of the big problems with surgical enhancement is it can be tempting to take it a little bit further than necessary and it really isn’t difficult to unwittingly go a step too far. Breast augmentation is a classic example of women ‘upgrading’ to a size that may look unnatural on their frame. On paper, a voluptuous D cup isn’t a huge jump from a more natural C cup, however the effect can appear unbalanced and ‘fake’ if it doesn’t suit a patient’s frame.

Fear of becoming addicted

Although people may intend to just have one simple surgical procedure it is not uncommon for them to become obsessed with the outcome. This can result in them desiring more and more refinements to other areas of the body and potentially ending up addicted. This was the reason why 9% of respondents feared cosmetic surgery.

Surgery that requires being ‘topped up’—such as dermal fillers or Botox—can also result in some people becoming addicted. This is because people get used to the effect of their new, more voluminous or smoother features and fail to see the difference that a ‘standard’ top up makes and subsequently want a more pronounced effect.

Researchers have found that people who suffer with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) can easily become addicted to surgery as they continuously find flaws with their physical appearance, perceiving themselves differently to how others see them. For people who are addicted to surgery, no amount of cosmetic work will satisfy them and becoming obsessed with plastic surgery can be dangerous to both physical and mental health.

Worryingly, the media’s obsession with physical appearance doesn’t help protect individuals from entering the spiral of cosmetic surgery addiction, with social media, magazine covers and TV programmes constantly bombarding us with images of ‘body perfection’.

woman taking a pill

Fear of the pain involved

Any invasive surgery will come with a degree of pain, and naturally the more extensive the surgery is, the more painful it will be. In some cases, the pain involved in surgery is enough to put people off completely, as 8% of those surveyed conceded. The most painful cosmetic procedure is said to be liposuction, with bruising and severe discomfort being an immediate side-effect.

Fears about the recovery period

The recovery after a procedure is a huge part of plastic surgery, however this was a concern for only 3% of respondents. Depending on the type of surgery, the recovery time can be anywhere from one to three weeks, and this is just what can be expected for time off work—the total healing time can be much longer. In addition, it’s essential to ensure that wounds are meticulously cleaned, dressed and cared for to prevent infection or more serious complications. In many cases the pain during recovery can be worse than the pain immediately after surgery.

preparation for a nosejob

General fear of medical procedures

There are many less common reasons why people may be scared of surgery, including fear of needles, being anaesthetised or even a simple fear of blood. All surgical procedures—no matter how big or small—will involve the use of some surgical instruments, be that needles, scalpels or dissecting knives. Even small ‘quick fix’ procedures such as inserting lip filler involves the use of a needle, but needles alone are a huge cause of fear for many people. In fact, the extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles is actually a named condition called trypanophobia.

Most type of surgery—cosmetic or not—will require some from anaesthesia, another element of surgery that many people are afraid of. A common worry about having general anaesthetic is that patients won’t regain consciousness, although this is only likely to happen in extreme circumstances. The anaesthetic itself can sometimes lead to complications such as lung infections, strokes or heart attacks.

Obviously, when anaesthetic is required for medical purposes this is a risk that will most likely be outweighed by positive health improvements, however it presents more of a gamble when used for purely aesthetic purposes.

Alternatives to surgery

If a person is uncomfortable in their own body and skin, no amount of body positivity quotes or lectures from family and friends will help them feel better about themselves. They may feel that a cosmetic procedure is the only way to help improve their self-esteem.

If this is the case, there are a range of non-invasive alternatives to cosmetic surgery which can give similar results but without the risks.

Non-invasive surgery

A non-invasive body contouring treatment such as SculpSure is a great way to get the same results as surgery, without the risks, pain and downtime.

SculpSure in particular is a great alternative to liposuction or a tummy tuck. It uses laser technology to destroy fat cells on the stomach, love handles, back and thighs without affecting the skins’ surface, permanently removing fat cells.

A SculpSure session takes just 25 minutes to complete and involves no downtime afterwards. The pain—both during and after the procedure—is minimal and results can be seen in just a few sessions. SculpSure can also be used to get rid of a stubborn double chin, acting as an alternative to Botox along the jawline.

makeup being applied

Using make-up

With the right make-up products and techniques, you can completely change and refine your face shape. The following techniques will help you achieve a very similar—yet pain free—look to cosmetic surgery:

Facial contouring and highlighting

Contouring the face can effectively change the appearance of certain features by applying shade to certain areas. Applying a cool-toned contour powder or cream on the nose can make it appear smaller, giving a similar result to rhinoplasty. Contouring can also make the jawline seem sharper and less round, reducing the appearance of a double chin and preventing the need for any Botox or filler. Highlighting the face goes hand in hand with contouring, using the two techniques together on your cheekbones can make your face look slimmer and define your features, achieving a similar effect to cheek implants or filler.

Body contouring

Contouring isn’t just for the face—many women contour around the breast area to make their cleavage appear bigger, thus avoiding the pain and downtime of a boob job.

Lip shaping

As for finding an alternative for lip filler, you can get the same—if not better—results by investing in the right lip products. You can over-line your lips to alter their shape or make them appear bigger. Applying a lighter shade in the centre of your lips will also make them look plumper. Many make-up brands sell lip plumping glosses, which work by using mild irritants such as cinnamon or menthol in their ingredients. One applied to the lips, the irritation causes blood to rush to the surface of the skin, resulting in a temporary plumping, again working as an effective alternative to surgical lip fillers.

The possibilities of with make-up are endless, find more techniques here.

plus size model


Using shapewear is a great way to achieve a more streamlined body shape. Whether you want your boobs to look perkier, your waist to look smaller or your bum to look bigger it can all be done with the right clothing.

Thanks to the Kardashians, having a large bottom is something many women long for! Some women admire this look so much that they opt for ‘bum implants’ or Brazilian butt lifts—this procedure has been a big topic in the media recently, being named as ‘the deadliest type of plastic surgery.’

Instead of risking a possible deadly procedure, there are different types of shapewear that can achieve certain effects. ‘Bum lifting’ shapewear will create a perky, firmer result, whereas others contain padding to make your behind look larger and fuller.

Investing in a good push-up bra is an effective alternative to breast enlargement surgery. Providing that the sizing is right and the padding isn’t too much—or too little—push up bras can create a natural looking lift and even give the appearance of an increased cup size. For the appearance of a boob reduction, minimising bras can comfortably compress the chest and take inches off the bust.

For a smaller waist, the method of waist training has proven to be a hit in recent years, with many celebrities swearing by the technique. It’s recommended to wear the waist trainer for at least eight hours a day for the best results. Using a waist trainer gives the immediate appearance of a slimmer waist and it’s also supposed to help with weight loss in that area due to the item increasing sweat production.

Surgery fears

As our survey highlights, there are a number of reasons why people may be shying away from going under the knife. Of course, this fear isn’t just limited to cosmetic surgery—many people are afraid of surgery as a whole, it even if it’s necessary for health reasons. If you need to undergo a health-related procedure, it’s important to seek ways to try and overcome any fears. Your medical specialist will be able to offer reassurance and many people find practicing meditation, using mindfulness apps or even having hypnotherapy can help them get over their fears.

But, if the surgery is purely for aesthetic reasons, is it really worth it?

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