The Pros and the Cons of Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery from a Psychologist’s Viewpoint

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Mandy has been working in the mental health field for more than eight years and has worked with a diverse group of clients. These range ...Read More

One thing is clear. Cosmetic surgery stems from low self-esteem and non-acceptance of ourselves. If we truly liked and loved ourselves we wouldn’t feel the need to change anything. Women especially, are conditioned to look good. There is so much pressure to be beautiful and thin and it causes emotional distress and immense amounts of self-loathing in women all over the world.

We are bombarded with perfect images of women on a daily basis. Just look up at an advertising billboard or read a magazine and perfection stares back at you. It is easy to forget that the image you see is probably the best one of a hundred photos taken and has more than likely been airbrushed as well. Yet, these pictures of slim attractive women trigger our insecurities and self-doubt and usually cause us to reach for the first doughnut we can lay our hands on…and so the self-loathing continues.


The cosmetic surgery industry is booming and is likely to continue doing so. Yet it seems there is not enough being done to educate people from the inside out. We automatically assume that beauty on the outside will transform us within but this is wrong. Most women do not adore themselves overnight once surgery has taken place. Many find they are still stuck with the same old insecurities as before and they still compare themselves unfavourably to other women. Surgery can help individuals with deformities and obvious flaws but those women looking for superficial changes – such as breast enlargements, will more than likely find that they don’t miraculously change into the fictional women they always hoped to be. They still live with the same attitudes and beliefs as before.

Plastic Surgery Overview

Plastic surgery has witnessed a growing trend, with increasing numbers of individuals opting for aesthetic procedures to enhance their physical appearance. The appeal often stems from societal influences, including the emphasis on beauty standards in media and social platforms, as well as a desire for improved self-esteem and confidence through perceived physical improvements. [1]

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While plastic surgery can offer desired physical transformations, it comes with inherent risks and disadvantages. Less-discussed negative outcomes may include: [1]

  • Dissatisfaction with results
  • Emotional distress
  • Unforeseen complications such as infections or scarring
  • Swelling and bruising

This article focuses on the disadvantages of plastic surgery and how to weigh these pros and cons effectively.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Plastic Surgery?

There are numerous pros and cons associated with cosmetic surgery. Pros can include increased self-confidence, improved physical health (for instance, rhinoplasty can help with breathing problems), and even improved mental health by reducing anxiety and depression related to one’s appearance. However, there are also cons to consider. Cosmetic surgical procedures can carry the risks of complications such as infections, scarring, and even life-threatening problems like blood clots or anesthesia complications. There may be dissatisfaction with the results, potentially leading to the need for additional cosmetic surgeries. Furthermore, these procedures can be expensive and may not be covered by insurance.

I have given it some thought and here are the pros and cons of cosmetic plastic surgery procedures from a Psychologist’s viewpoint.

What Are the Disadvantages of Plastic Surgery? 

  • Health risks: Surgical complications and adverse reactions to anesthesia or other medications.
  • Psychological harms: Potential dissatisfaction with results and the risk of developing mental health issues.
  • Economic burden: Involves initial costs of surgery and potential expenses for future corrective procedures.
  • Societal and ethical implications: Contributes to the perpetuation of unattainable beauty ideals and raises ethical considerations regarding body image and societal pressures

The Pros of Plastic Surgery

1) Cosmetic surgery can improve body appearance and benefit a person on a superficial level

2) Confidence can be improved by altering the attitude of the person having the cosmetic and plastic surgery done. Some people need very little to jump start their image of themselves in a positive direction and tweaking their physical appearance with certain procedures can be the boost they need in order to see themselves differently. It is not just about the surgery in itself though, there is a change in attitude that helps the transformation

3) Cosmetic surgery helps people to feel more accepted by others and less inferior to some degree.

The Cons of Plastic Surgery

1) Cosmetic surgery can make someone feel less confident as they will always be thinking that others like a ‘fake version’ of them. This is not the true reflection as nature intended and it can lead to a person feeling even less in tune with themselves. They are likely to wonder whether people would still like them if they knew them pre-surgery.

2) Cosmetic surgery deals solely with aesthetics and does nothing for the emotional and mental aspects of a person. This can leave a person feeling even more lost than before they undergo the surgery.

3) Complications of surgery. There is always a risk of pain when undergoing surgery.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong here. Cosmetic surgery is an individual choice. Some people swear that it has changed their lives for the better whilst others feel that they had unrealistic expectations of how cosmetic surgery could change their lives. It won’t make people love you anymore than they already do (and if it does then those people are incredibly shallow) and it won’t make you the most popular person at the party. Make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons – to please yourself and improve upon yourself not to fit in with others or fit the ideals of others.

Health Risks and Complications

As with any surgical procedure, cosmetic and plastic surgery do come with some medical risks, some of which are specific to each type of surgery. However, some risks that come with all plastic surgeries include:[2]

  • Hemorrhage (excessive bleeding)
  • Blood clots
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Infection
  • Organ or nerve damage
  • Scarring
  • Anesthesia complications like an allergic reaction, cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, and coma

Additionally, another major risk is that of an unsatisfactory outcome, potentially leading to the need for revision surgeries. Factors like unexpected healing patterns, asymmetry, or dissatisfaction may cause people to undergo additional procedures.

One study on aesthetic surgeries found that over 8% of procedures needed revisions. Of those, nearly 14% were for thigh lifts, almost 16% were for rhinoplasties or septoplasties, and over 27% were for otoplasties (ear surgery).[3]

Psychological and Emotional Aftermath

While many people are convinced that plastic or cosmetic surgery will fix their issues or improve their mental health, these procedures can also worsen psychological or emotional health. 

Research suggests that a subset of individuals may experience dissatisfaction with their procedure outcomes. Studies have reported cases of postoperative regret, with factors such as unmet expectations, unrealistic aesthetic goals, and psychological factors contributing to negative post-surgery experiences. [1]

Although cosmetic surgery may help improve a person’s self-esteem or satisfaction with their appearance, oftentimes, it doesn’t fix the problem. Many people who seek out plastic surgery, especially several procedures, may have a condition called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). This mental health disorder involves an obsessive fixation on a perceived flaw in appearance.[4],[5],[6] 

For example, someone may fixate on the shape of their nose and once they get surgery, they may move on to obsessing over their chin or cheekbones. These individuals are typically dissatisfied with their results because the problem is psychological as opposed to physical. With growing awareness of this disorder, many plastic surgeons will not perform procedures on people with body dysmorphic disorder.[4],[5],[6]

A Plastic Surgeon

Is Cosmetic Surgery Good or Bad?

The evaluation of cosmetic surgery as “good” or “bad” is highly subjective and depends on various factors including the individual’s motivations, expectations, and the potential risks involved. For some people, cosmetic surgery may lead to improved self-esteem and improved quality of life. For instance, someone who has undergone liposuction might feel more comfortable in their skin and experience reduced anxiety about their appearance. However, like any surgical procedure, cosmetic surgery comes with risks, including complications during surgery or dissatisfaction with the results. Therefore, it’s crucial for individuals who undergo cosmetic surgery to thoroughly research, discuss with medical professionals, and carefully consider their decision before undergoing such procedures.

How Does Plastic Surgery Affect Relationships?

Plastic surgery can affect relationships in a variety of ways, both positive and negative. On the positive side, if an individual feels more confident and comfortable with their appearance after surgery, this can potentially improve their interpersonal relationships. However, changes in appearance may lead to issues within relationships. For instance, a partner or spouse undergoing cosmetic surgery may have difficulty adjusting to the change, or might feel insecure or threatened. Furthermore, if the surgery was done to meet unrealistic expectations or without the full support of a partner, it could potentially strain the relationship.

Why Are People Against Plastic Surgery?

There can be multiple reasons why people are against plastic surgery. Some individuals may hold a philosophical belief that one should accept and value their natural appearance rather than altering it surgically. Others may have concerns about the risks associated with a plastic surgery procedure, the potential for complications, or dissatisfaction with the results. There is also a societal debate around the pressures placed particularly on women to conform to certain beauty standards, which can be perpetuated by the availability and normalization of cosmetic procedures. These individuals may argue for a focus on boosting self-confidence and promoting beauty in all forms, rather than resorting to surgical alteration.


  1. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons. (2022). 2022 ASPS Procedural Statistics Release.
  2. Khunger N. Complications in cosmetic surgery: a time to reflect and review and not sweep them under the carpet. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2015;8(4):189-190. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.172188
  3. Moura, S. P., Wirth, P. J., Shaffrey, E. C., Attaluri, P. K., & Rao, V. K. (2023). Offering No-Cost Cosmetic Revisions: The Experience of an Academic Cosmetic Surgery Program. Aesthetic surgery journal. Open forum, 5, ojad033.
  4. Bjornsson AS, Didie ER, Phillips KA. Body dysmorphic disorder. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2010;12(2):221-232. doi:10.31887/DCNS.2010.12.2/abjornsson
  5. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Body dysmorphic disorder may be under-diagnosed in patients seeking cosmetic procedures.
  6. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
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