Cosmetic Surgery: How celebrities are affecting Gen Zs with unattainable beauty standards

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A look at Megan Fox and Megan Barton-Hanson and how they influence cosmetic surgery and unattainable beauty standards.

When I think of cosmetic surgery, I picture a collage of botched celebrities struggling to smile with faces frozen by Botox, lips awkwardly overfilled, and bums and breasts too large to seem natural. We are exposed to these caricatures of what it supposedly means to be physically desirable.

The Kardashians, Love Islanders and social media influencers unintentionally target people to chase an unnatural and idealised version of beauty. Everyone deserves to feel confident in their appearance, but at what point does this become distorted by a growing need to become something they’re not?

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Megan Barton, Megan Fox and Molly Mae Hague (Getty) Megan Barton, Megan Fox and Molly Mae Hague (Getty)
Megan Barton, Megan Fox and Molly Mae Hague (Getty) | Getty

What is the difference between surgical and non-surgical procedures?

Surgical cosmetic procedures involve patients being placed under anaesthetic and incisions made into their skin. Non-surgical treatments are less invasive and quicker, involving methods such as Botox and lasers. Naturally, surgical procedures carry higher risks. According to the British Association of Aesthetic Surgeons (BAAPS), Brazilian Buttocks Lifts have the highest death rate of all (estimated to be as high as 1 in 3,000), as fat is injected into the large veins that can travel to the heart and brain.

As UK surgeons refuse to complete surgery on patients for pre-existing medical reasons or excessiveness, British people are flying to other countries such as France and, of course, Turkey to have treatment from under qualified surgeons. This has a direct impact on the already struggling NHS, with the BAAPS reporting a six-fold increase since 2013 of people needing urgent follow-up care after procedures they’ve had abroad. At what point does this risk stop justifying trivial changes?

According to the BAAPS, cosmetic surgery has been rising, with women undergoing more procedures than men. In 2022, breast enlargements were by far the most popular procedure, with rhinoplasty (nose jobs) being most popular among men. Breast enlargements are by default a sexualisation of the female body. The gender divide and placement of these surgeries suggest something inherently patriarchal about plastic surgery.

Women are encouraged to alter their bodies to fit what they have been told is desirable. According to an article by The Independent, a plastic surgeon who performed breast enlargements on strippers described them as: “asexual” and that “they were doing it for business. It was about power and money, not sex”. Plastic surgery can enhance someone’s confidence and empower them, but in this case, it objectifies women. This example shows an acceptance of this that I cannot understand. 

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According to Dr. Dirk Kremer from Harley Street Aesthetics, there is a correlation between body dysmorphia and cosmetic surgery, especially in those who develop an addiction to plastic surgery. Psychologist Sigmund Freud argues our deepest fears and insecurities derive from unresolved inner conflict which therefore must be resolved. For someone who feels insecure about their appearance, fillers may provide temporary satisfaction. However, there is still a nagging feeling of discontent they begin to believe will be solved by surgery, catalysing spiralling costs for the patient. This creates a toxic cycle of elitism and unfulfillment.

Actress and model Megan Fox previously told Allure: “I would encourage anyone to first speak with a therapist, to try and figure out where this want comes from, because a lot of times it’s not related to your teeth or your nose or your chin.” The NHS website details a list of questions for patients to ask themselves before undergoing surgery. Believing plastic surgery can fulfil an emotional void is detrimental to someone’s mental health, and this must be surgeons’ primary concern. 

What is the impact of social media on cosmetic surgery?

For my generation, the Love Island epidemic continues to produce unnatural beauty standards for both genders. Hannah Elizabeth from season 1 of Love Island reportedly spent over £30,000 on cosmetic surgeries, with a high proportion of this being done in Turkey.

She is also believed to have undergone a fox eye lift, where the outer corner of the eye is positioned higher to resemble the angle of a fox’s eye, which she says makes her feel ‘like a Bratz doll’. This no longer becomes a corrective surgery but lends itself into that category of the unnatural and unrealistic beauty standards of society. 

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Molly-Mae has become one of the most popular influencers in the UK following her appearance on the show, but has admitted to undergoing cosmetic surgery. In 2021, she had most of her fillers dissolved and in a YouTube vlog stated she felt prettier and thought she looked younger. She went on series 5 of the show in 2019 at 20 years old, the same age as I am now.

Navigating through this world of artificial beauty and undergoing all of those procedures to end with such a simple conclusion makes me feel sympathy towards her. As role models, celebrities should be embracing natural beauty and turning their backs on this pressure of perfection that is just unattainable.

As well as providing unattainable beauty standards, social media also allows the trolling of people who have undergone cosmetic surgery. People have moved from scrutinising the natural signs of ageing on women’s bodies to searching for any signs of their bodies being surgically altered. Many magazines contribute to this by creating before and after comparisons of celebrities. People create YouTube videos of what they see as the worst plastic surgery jobs, treating people who have undergone such procedures as if they have lost their ability to feel insulted and hurt.

Hollywood actress Jamie Lee Curtis opened up to Lorraine Kelly about her views on plastic surgery, saying: “I want to look 70 when I am 70”. Unrealistic expectations have left ageing celebrities feeling they still need to maintain the same flawless appearance they did in their youth, leaving social media responsible for distorting what beauty means. 

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At university, me and my friends often sit with a bottle of wine, letting our conversations unintentionally flow into dissecting all the things we’d change about ourselves. They’d remark on insecurities I’d never noticed before and I laugh, ignorantly, blaming this cynical talk on their empty glasses. There is nothing inherently wrong with cosmetic surgery, but it catalyses a sense of falsity I don’t want to be associated with.

For medical purposes, it can be a necessity but it’s the toxicity, the elitism and the excessiveness of plastic surgery I will never understand. I feel insulted if someone even notices I have makeup on. Everyone has insecurities, but that’s what it means to be human. I have friends and family to make me feel secure about myself - not Botox.

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