News & Features

Minorities: More Receiving Plastic/Cosmetic Surgery

When the American Society for Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) surveyed their membership to see who was receiving how much of which procedures during 2004, the number crunchers found that racial and ethnic minorities consumed 20 percent of the estimated 11.9 million cosmetic procedures done that year.

Minorities: More Receiving Plastic/Cosmetic Surgery
Then, when the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) did their own survey, they found that patients of Hispanic descent had increased their numbers in the offices of plastic surgeons by 49 percent over year 2000. Moreover, in 2004, African-Americans had five percent of total procedures with Asians scoring three percent. Latinos had seven percent of 2004’s total cosmetic and plastic surgical rejuvenations.

A Rising Tide

Experts say it’s because everybody watches the same television programs about plastic and cosmetic surgery, thereby making the entire field more acceptable all groups. Additionally, in the rising tide of the U.S. economy, everybody’s boat floats a little higher so more people can afford surgical rejuvenations. Moreover, according to the American Association of Facial Plastic Surgery, (AAFPS,) some minority groups used to have mixed feelings about surgical changes that might reject their ethnic heritage. But most now realize that facial plastic surgery can refine features, correct disharmonies and reduce the signs of aging, all without changing anybody’s background.

Observes the AAFPS: “There is not one standard of beauty by which all persons can be compared; instead, the objective is to look our best – and this transcends cultural and racial boundaries.”

Leading Issue

Nonetheless, differences do exist in Asian, African -American, Anglo and Latin skin textures, internal support structures and other body features. Plus, some operations are more popular with some ethnic groups than with others.

Minorities: More Receiving Plastic/Cosmetic Surgery
Observes Dennis J. Hurwitz, M.D., F.A.C.S., author of the newly released book, “Total Body Lift Surgery” and a clinical professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine: “One of the leading issues in elective plastic surgery among black people and, to a lesser degree, other ethnic groups with darker skin, are keloid formation and scarring,” says Dr. Hurwitz.

Keloids are sharply elevated, thick, hard scars which may continue growing where a cut, wound or surgical incision was made. For unknown reasons, keloids are more prevalent in darker skin; the unusual scars often require lifelong treatment and care. (Another characteristic of darker skin is that cancers are rare.)

“Surgeons first of all look at the patient’s medical history for clues about keloid formations,” Dr. Hurwitz says. “If the patient has healed well in the past from cuts and other injuries, he or she will probably also heal well after plastic surgery.”

Other plastic surgery experts say African -Americans, like most ethnic groups, want to preserve their racial identity when having rhinoplasties (nose reshaping) and ask their surgeons to narrow the width slightly and perhaps elevate the dorsum (bridge of the nose.)

Larger Rears

Minorities: More Receiving Plastic/Cosmetic Surgery
Some cultural preferences appear among various ethnic groups, too. For instance, when many black women ask for buttock augmentation, surgeons say most request a larger rear end than Anglos who usually prefer a slimmer, more athletic derriere. Latin women like a slightly larger -- but very curvy -- bottom while Asians, who are normally flat in the haunches, usually request some curves without the extra size.

The annual surveys also revealed that 71 percent of African Americans and 45 percent of Hispanics are most likely getting nose reshaping (followed by breast reductions and liposuction) while 49 percent of Americans of Asian descent are asking for blepharoplasties (eyelid surgery,) followed by nose reshaping and breast augmentation. About one third of Anglos have facelifts, with another third having rhinoplasties and 24 percent receiving eyelid procedures. (The other ten percent had various other procedures.) According to the ASPS, Asians and African -Americans recorded a 24 percent increase in cosmetic surgery procedures compared to year 2000.

“Americans of Northern European descent tend to have thinner skin that crinkles at an earlier age than the other ethnicities,” says Dr. Hurwitz. “Moreover, Anglos seem to lose the facial fat under the skin earlier than other racial groups.”

The loss of facial fat leads to drooping skin and a more rapid onset of an aged appearance. However, Asians, blacks, and Hispanics tend to have somewhat thicker skin that does not wrinkle as easily so aging appears later.

About 90 percent of Asians naturally have more fat in their upper eyelid; that causes an overhanging upper eyelid skin so many Asians to request an operation known as a double eyelid surgery (Asian blepharoplasty.) That produces a brighter, more open-eyed look while preserving the look and shape of a typical Asian eye. Many Asians also request nasal augmentation because they tend to have a lower nasal bridge.

Among Mediterranean patients (those of Jewish, Persian, Italian or Greek heritage,) popular procedures include removing larger dorsal humps in the middle of the nose and correcting the drooping tip of the nose.

While many plastic, cosmetic and dermatologic surgeons offer various types of skin resurfacing, with lasers, abrasives and chemicals, patients with darker skin need to be cautioned that the procedures may cause the skin to become darker.

Minorities: More Receiving Plastic/Cosmetic Surgery
Overall, surgeons have to balance any requested changes by the thickness of the skin, the amount of oil it contains, the degree of pigmentation and the quality of underlying cartilage.

Add Dr. Hurwitz: “No matter what the ethnic background, plastic surgeons want to enhance your features to come up with the best possible version of that unique individual who is you.”

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