Changing beauty ideals and how they reflect in plastic surgery trends

Changing beauty ideals and how they reflect in plastic surgery trends

22nd Oct 2020


Beauty is not something that you can put your hand on and say: This is beauty. It is a complex term, and an abstract one. No wonder there is the expression “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” The time you live in, the country, and its culture have an important role in the way people view beauty. Even sex matters; usually the ideals of beauty seen by a woman for a woman, differ widely to those in men as they see women. On the one hand, we now live in a world where the self is more important than ever before. People are encouraged to be whoever they want and to be proud of who they are.

But on the other hand, this is the decade of Instagram Stories in which everyone is somewhat reduced to one picture. Therefore, you can say we live in an era when image is the most important thing in someone’s life. This fact is especially valid for youngsters as it is the only way to share experiences and life with others. Moreover, people have grown used to always looking good, making it sometimes a priority in their lives, since you never know when you’ll appear in a picture.

Beauty ideals

Beauty ideals differ according to the time we are in, culture, ethnicity, studies, environment. If we look at what was considered a beautiful woman throughout time, the differences in features are really significant. During the Renaissance period, to be considered beautiful you needed to have a very full figure with large hips and a rounded stomach, as well as light skin and hair. This beauty ideal could be clearly seen in the famous paintings of the period, like those created by Rubens, Botticelli, and Leonardo Da Vinci. 

In the Victorian era, women had to have big breasts with great cleavage, round hips, but small waists. It was a time of corsets in which women were ready to do anything to have that hourglass figure. The ‘20s brought a new woman with the beginning of her emancipation where she tried to look more like a man: flat chest, short hair. Then came the Golden Age, the beginning of Hollywood and the apparition of stardom. Beauty ideals were now on the big screen: Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, those curvy women with full bosoms and bottoms, but a small waist. 

During the sixties, another trend appeared, and it was the reinvention of the boyish look of the ‘20s. Only now there were Hollywood stars and models that shaped the way people saw beauty. The ideal woman would be thin, had slim legs, and resembled a teen girl rather than a woman. The symbol of this era was Twiggy, the British model that reestablished the pattern of beauty for that time.

And so the 80s came, the age of supermodels: tall, athletic, slim, butt toned, long legs, full busts. Women exercised everywhere as aerobics was in trend, but it was also the time that cosmetic surgery became known and many women first started to alter the way they look, because let’s not forget: this was the era of Pamela Anderson and her running on the beach on Baywatch. The ‘90s was a strange period in beauty ideal trends since women had to resemble young boys rather than women; they had to be extremely thin and have translucent skin.

Today, the standards in beauty are probably more diverse than ever. Ranging from full figures like that of Kim Kardashian to those slender and toned like Jennifer Aniston. But we can surely say that the traditional female shape is again trending: big breasts, small waist, and a big bottom.

Trends in cosmetic surgery

One important thing that you could say is important these days is proportion. Many women understand that featuring just a part of your body makes you look odd, so you need to harmonize everything. This can be reflected in the growing request for smaller breast implants. It is true that implant producers have developed a very wide range of sizes, so you are not limited by just a few possibilities, but you may choose from around 140 implant sizes. 

Today a successful cosmetic procedure is not supposed to be evident, but discreet. Some say that this is the era of refinement because people who want plastic surgery nowadays are not keen on looking like someone else, but rather like themselves. Women are looking for body contouring, stressing only their feminine features like the breasts and the butt, and that is why some only choose lifting those two parts to give them a profile and not really volume.  

There are also many women that choose to reduce their breasts. In the time of Pamela Anderson’s boobs, one would be regarded as crazy to even think of reducing the size of their breasts. No one even thought of the burden a large pair of breasts can be, the inability to sleep well, to have a comfortable position, the impossibility to go to a gym and do whatever exercises you wanted, and the self-consciousness a young teen might feel when all her classmates are looking at her bust. This new vision that encourages a proportionally shaped body together with a better understanding of individual needs has resulted in an increased number in breast reduction surgeries.

Women are not only more aware of the importance of proportions, but aging is no longer something that cannot be enjoyed or lived through. Twenty years ago, women over 40 were thinking only of things related to the household, and most did not care for themselves. Because aging happens slower, women are now encouraged to enjoy a much longer active and sexual life. Women over 40 are now an important part of those that seek the help of plastic surgery to correct some of the traces of time on their bodies. Women get pregnant later nowadays, closer to their 30s, and around their 40s they are ready to begin a new life. When the children are old enough to tend to their basic needs, their mothers are able to regain their beauty and curves. Breast lifts with or without augmentation, liposuction, or even a Brazilian butt lift are those procedures sought of by this age category.

Buttock augmentation with implants and the Brazilian butt lift are two procedures that are in high trend this decade. During 2015 only these procedures have seen an increase in demand of around 35%. This is the perfect example of how changing beauty ideals reflect in plastic surgery trends. In the ‘90s, no one would ever think of asking for a bigger butt, but conversely smaller.

Advancement in medicine has given birth to a range of fat grafting procedures. Enhancing a part of the body has now become available even for those that are still afraid of trying implants. This option extracts fat by means of liposuction from a part of your body and injects it in another part of your body to enhance that specific feature. It is considered a good method for those who do not want a bigger change but rather a smaller one, and those who want to choose a more natural method. 

To summarize, breast augmentation is trending again, being the most practiced cosmetic surgery in the world, and having a steady growth in number every year. Apart from cosmetic face surgery, other areas that have seen a rise in numbers is breast reduction and breast lift, and a growing trend is butt augmentation and/or lift.

As a replacement for plastic surgery, some people are turning to niche procedures. You might be mesmerized by ads that promote filler injections to increase the size of your bottom or even breasts. You need to be very careful where you go and what you choose to do. There are numerous women that tell horror stories of not only getting a major deformity later to be corrected by a surgeon, but also health problems. You need to make sure that the one that performs any kind of cosmetic procedure is a certified doctor.


Beauty ideals change with every century, but they tend to move around the same characteristic features for each individual. Since beauty is such a subjective norm, it is important for the surgeon to clearly discuss with their patient the exact outcomes they expect from their new look. It is true that medicine is an objective field of study, but aesthetics is a subjective one. Cosmetic surgery mixes the two concepts together, and as such, this field of medicine is able to bring together culture and society with knowledge and science.

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