Why Do Patients Seek Cosmetic Procedures?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Murad Alam, MD Vice-Chair and Professor of Dermatology Chief of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery Northwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineMurad Alam, MD
Vice-Chair and Professor of Dermatology
Chief of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery
Northwestern University
Feinberg School of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: For the purposes of our study, non-invasive procedures included laser and light treatments (for brown spots, blood vessels, wrinkle reduction, scar treatment, hair removal ie laser hair removal or Hair Removal Servicesponsored), chemical peels, and non-surgical skin tightening and fat reduction (with radiofrequency energy, cold treatment, or ultrasound). These noninvasive treatments do not even break the skin, and are applied on top of the skin

Then we have minimally invasive procedures, which include those that just barely break the skin, but are like getting a shot, and don’t require cutting and sewing the skin as in traditional surgery. These minimally invasive procedures include filler and neuromodulator injections to fill out the sagging aging face while reducing lines and wrinkles, as well as liposuction through tiny openings to suck out excess fat. All of these procedures and many more are available but if you do want to have a cosmetic procedure then make sure you seek out a reputable cosmetic surgeon such as Lisa Rush.

In the old days, cosmetic treatments meant getting traditional plastic surgery, like a face lift or tummy tuck. These required general anesthesia, cutting and sewing the skin, significant risk of scarring, and days to weeks of recovery time. More recently, dermatologists have pioneered noninvasive and minimally invasive procedures, such as those I just described, which provide many of the same benefits as traditional plastic surgery without the risk, scars, and downtime, for example, somewhere like Rhinoplasty NYC talk about Rhinoplasties with noninvasive methods. Now these minimally invasive and noninvasive treatments have become more popular than traditional cosmetic surgery.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: We expected to find that people get cosmetic procedures because they want to look better, particularly to impress others. Interestingly and surprisingly, we found that in many cases patients’ reasons for getting something done were different than just improving physical appearance, and more complex. Patients wanted to feel better about themselves and to be more confident. They also wanted to stay healthy and considered some cosmetic procedures to be health improving and therefore good for them. In some cases, they wanted to look good in professional circumstances so as to be more successful at work. Unlike what we expected, most did not get cosmetic procedures to for others but for themselves. Even spouses did not influence their behavior in this regard, and they did not generally get procedures to please a spouse or significant other.

Age did appear to affect motivations. Older patients were interested in treating the visible signs of aging that had already occurred. On the other hand, patients younger than 45 were interested in being proactive to avoid or slow aging. In particular, this group was interested in neuromodulators (e.g., Botox, Dysport, Xeomin) for relaxing frown lines, as they believed slowing the appearance of facial lines in this manner would keep them looking good for longer.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Patients’ motivations for cosmetic procedures are not trivial. People who get such treatments are sensible, normal people who are not just obsessed with their appearance. They have a range of motivations. The most common underlying motivation was to enhance the sense of personal well-being. More specifically, patients wanted to feel happier and more confident in themselves, with overall better quality of life.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future research may help us further understand motivations in an even more detailed manner. For instance, this study showed that those who seek treatment for acne scars or tattoo removal, or want to improve body shape by fat reduction and skin tightening, are often grappling with serious psychological concerns, which may be helped by treatment. As we delve deeper into patient motivations, and are better able to understand the motivations of specific patients, we may be able to provide them with treatment options that better meet their particular needs.

Disclosures: I have no disclosures relevant to this study, which was partly supported by a research grant from the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.


Maisel A, Waldman A, Furlan K, et al. Self-reported Patient Motivations for Seeking Cosmetic Procedures. JAMA Dermatol. Published online August 15, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.2357

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Last Updated on November 26, 2021 by Marie Benz MD FAAD