In response to a question we received, “I am looking to have a cosmetic surgery procedure, but the response I get is mixed.  Is ethnic plastic surgery perceived differently?

I spoke with Dr. Marco Ellis, plastic surgery at Northwestern University about the increased demand of cosmetic surgery in minorities in America.  Here is his response.

A Rising Trend

by Marco Ellis, MD

Cosmetic surgery has become more commonplace in mainstream society. Nearly 12 million procedures were performed in 2009 by cosmetic surgeons. The overwhelming majority were minimally invasive procedures, like Botox, dermabrasion and chemical peels.  Surveys conducted by surgeons nationwide show double digit increases in the percentage of cosmetic procedures performed on African Americans, Latin Americans, and Asian Americans.  As it turns out, African Americans make up 8% of the current market, which has increased from 5% in the 1990’s. While the most common procedures as a whole are liposuction and tummy-tucks (abdominoplasties), African American patients tend to request proportionately more rhinoplasties (nose reshaping) and breast reductions.

These numbers reflect a paradigm shift in the black community. Traditionally, African-Americans have looked upon the cosmetic surgery community, which had been perceived as elitist, with disdain.  Some shared the view that blacks seeking cosmetic surgery were trying to mask their heritage. Patients also believed that surgeons have little regard for the higher rates of scarring and keloids seen in darker skinned patients after the surgery.

Over the past decade, plastic surgeons have embraced the nuances of cosmetic surgery in patients of color. For example, there have been recent advances with rhinoplasty and blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery) in African American patients. Surgeons respect patients’ wishes to achieve facial harmony and rejuvenation while maintaining their ethnic identity. Specific strategies include showing old photographs or pictures of family members to serve as operative guides.

Cosmetic surgeons are now advertising this unique skill set to a growing segment African-Americans. Overall, growth is expected to continue in the next decade as techniques and surgical outcomes improve and the stigma of cosmetic surgery in the black community dissipates.