It was quite an eye-opener to learn that borrowing money for cosmetic surgery is one of the biggest reasons for people getting into debt. And given that 90% of the people who have cosmetic procedures are women then it stands to reason that there are lots of gorgeous debt-ridden women racketing around the UK. Well, I suppose that depends on how good the plastic surgeon is and how severe the cosmetic problem was in the first place. But is cosmetic surgery worth getting into debt for? If it’s an investment where is the return except the personal psychological boost? And what’s the point of looking better if you’ve got no money left to go out and make the most of it?
The perceived need of cosmetic surgery
Granted any serious physical deformity deserves correction and this must be supplied free on the NHS. However, so-called ‘vanity medicine’ procedures such as facelifts should always be financed by the patients themselves. This begs the question: What constitutes a deformity and what is merely vanity? It’s another matter of opinion which somehow must be categorised and clearly set out so that the NHS doesn’t end up paying for non-health related breast augmentation for women who claim to be depressed because they have small breasts.
Also many women suffer from body dysmorphic disorder which means that they see themselves or parts of their body as ‘ugly’ when they are actually quite normal or even look good. This is a psychological disorder of the modern age and we can all suffer similar symptoms to a lesser degree when we look at unrealistic magazine images of beautiful models which are held up as the ideal in our society. Anything less is seen as imperfect and ageing is taboo. Women over the age of 50 and sometimes even 40 are invisible unless they are in a position of power or influence. This is because unless an older woman is exceptionally beautiful or looks much younger, men are simply not attracted to them so don’t even see them unless they have to. So ladies, let this be a lesson to you; if you wish to remain relevant in middle age and later, then develop a personality or get a career and work at becoming successful.
The financial implications
We in the UK are apparently spending £2.3 billion per annum on cosmetic surgical procedures alone with breast augmentation, facelift, abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) and liposuction being the most popular procedures for women. In men, nose jobs, liposuction and breast or ‘moob’ reduction surgeries are the most popular procedures. These procedures are expensive with the most popular procedure breast enlargement surgery costing around £3,500 to £5,000 and a facelift costing from £5.650 to £7,235. The more affluent amongst us are apparently paying cash up front but the majority are financing their surgery with credit in the form of either a personal loan or paying by credit card. Some customers are even financing their surgery with ‘Payday Loans’ which are generally designed to be short-term debts of around £1000 to tide people over for a few days during a cash emergency and paid back when they receive their next pay cheque. The problem with these loans occurs when consumers cannot pay the loan amount within the short term and they start to accrue the massive interest at rates which can exceed 10,000% APR. The customer can also be hit with late repayment fees which together with the high interest rates causes the debt to spiral out of control.
The sums involved have led many people to take on debt they just can’t afford resulting in a range of debt problems, some of which become serious. This is when people find they need debt help but either don’t know how to go about it or are too embarrassed to do anything about it or admit to those close to them why they have a problem. If the debt problem is serious then more formal debt solutions such as a protected trust deed may be required and it has not been unknown for people to face bankruptcy.
Some plastic surgeons claim that they discourage patients from using credit cards and loans to pay for their surgery stating that if a patient requires a loan to pay for it then they shouldn’t have it or at least wait until they’ve saved up for it. However this is an unrealistic expectation in these days of instant gratification. Some of these online loan companies promise to have the cash in your account in 15 minutes and private healthcare means that you won’t have to wait very long to be scheduled for surgery. So the lure of a quick fix for any perceived imperfection is very strong in our vanity-led cosmetic surgery consumers. And of course cosmetic surgery can become addictive to some people who, on experiencing the psychological rush when one area is improved by surgery, crave more of the same. And what’s the point of having a perfect nose when the rest of your face is imperfect? When your face is up to snuff you can move on to the rest of your body and by the time that’s all done and you’re tens of thousands of pounds in debt you can start all over again because you need a little tweaking here and there or you’d like a different style of nose. Where does it all end?
Is it really worth it?
The implied investment angle of cosmetic surgery is not just the personal satisfaction a patient experiences when surgery improves their appearance but some cosmetic surgery websites claim that a customer’s improved looks and the greater self esteem this creates, improve their life and career opportunities. And it’s true that research shows that, all other skills being equal, good-looking people are more successful in job interviews and get more promotions. And I’m sure some women hope that their improved appearance will snag them a rich husband. The problem is that most of the people I know who have had facial cosmetic surgery (nose-jobs excluded) or even non-surgical procedures such as Botox have a certain unnatural look about them that indicates they’ve had work done. Yes, their skin may look less lined or saggy but they acquire a pulled and vacant, long-faced appearance typical of their surgically-enhanced peers. You just have to look at some of the ‘after’ photographs of celebrities who’ve recently been done over and compare them to their ‘befores’ to see what I’m talking about. The trouble is that the ‘after surgery’ look is becoming so commonplace that soon it will become normal and if you don’t look that particular way then you’re out of sync with the fashionable set. It could even become the look we all aspire to. It won’t matter if you look vacuous as long as you look young and perfect.
It’s all about the money
And of course this all means more money in the pockets of the cosmetic surgery companies and more business for those companies who offer loans for cosmetic surgery. You only have to search the web for cosmetic surgery and you bring up pages upon pages of people spending well over £30,000 to get the look they aspire to or even to find pages of tragedies when surgery goes wrong and appearances are ruined due to inept surgeons. People sometimes forget that things can go drastically wrong during such procedures and sometimes high expectations are not met. There is also much pain and discomfort involved in any surgery and many patients can only visualise the end result when they set out on their quest for beauty. Independent cosmetic surgery information can be found at a The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.
An undesirable culture
It’s very sad that today people and most particularly women are valued mainly on their physical appearance and that their talent, intelligence, personality and compassion are largely ignored or come in much lower on the value rating. The easy availability of cosmetic surgery and its growing uptake will only make matters worse. It seems the ideal woman is tall, very slim with unnaturally large boobs and impossibly long legs. She should also have perfect skin with symmetrical features and be waxed smooth all over. Who can achieve that ideal? If you‘re naturally very slim you will normally have correspondingly small boobs. It all goes against nature and women are being punished by being overlooked for not being young and attractive.
I feel very sorry for future generations having to live in a world where success depends on your appearance. And of course the next big issue we will face in our quest for perfection will be the genetic engineering of our future offspring. Although the health related benefit seem worthwhile it won’t be long before those with the money start demanding children with perfect looks to match their perfect health. That’s when everyone will start to look so similar and what a mundane existence that would be. Life without variation is no life at all.