The Ethics of Cosmetic Surgery in Relation to Autonomy
The Ethics of Cosmetic Surgery in Relation to Autonomy
The Ethical Implications of Cosmetic Surgery and Autonomy Under the Beauty Industry
By Olivia Santoro
Table of Contents
- Introduction to Cosmetic Surgery
- Effect of Beauty Standards on Women
- Impact of Cosmetic Surgery on Mental Health
- Is purely aesthetic cosmetic surgery ethical if it can result in unintended or long-term harm to the patient?
- Autonomy vs. Beauty Standards
This paper discusses the ethics of cosmetic surgery with a focus on autonomy under the pressure of external beauty standards. It begins with a brief introduction to cosmetic surgery, the difference between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery, and an overview of some of the most popular cosmetic surgeries. After, the paper transitions to research about the effect of external beauty standards on women. It specifically looks into Eurocentric beauty standards, and how COVID-19 and the increase in the use of technology have contributed to increases in rates of eating disorders and desire for cosmetic surgery. In the last section of background information, before delving further into the ethics of this issue, I discuss the relation between cosmetic surgery and mental health, both potential positive and negative impacts. The first main ethical question asked is: Is purely aesthetic cosmetic surgery ethical if it can result in unintended or long-term harm to the patient? This section highlights the ethical values of responsibility, safety, autonomy, and the ethical principle of beneficence. Some considerations covered in this section are the role of a doctor in terms of responsibility and informed consent, examining how cosmetic surgery could impact the mental and emotional health of a patient, and how the treatment of women based on their appearance can impact their desire for cosmetic surgery. The following section discusses the impact of external beauty standards on the autonomy of women when making the decision to undergo a cosmetic procedure. The main ethical question of this section is: Does the pressure from society to achieve external beauty standards interfere with a woman’s autonomy when deciding to undergo purely aesthetic cosmetic surgery? Throughout this section the ethical value of autonomy is primarily discussed, as well as the topics of influence and coercion in relation to societal conditioning and pressure. The paper concludes with a focus on targeting the root issue of women generally finding fault in their natural appearance, which is toxic external beauty external beauty standards. It emphasizes the need to diversify the types of people and features being presented to young girls as beautiful and the breaking down of the toxic beauty standards, rather than placing blame onto to women for how they choose to respond to these societal pressures, whether that be through cosmetic surgery or by other means.
In 2020 alone, there was $16.7 billion spent on cosmetic surgery in the U.S. (Bertie Taylor). Not surprisingly the rates of self-esteem issues in not only women but also young girls are on the rise (Shipman, Kay, and Riley). As adolescent girls enter their teenage years their self-confidence is likely to significantly decrease (Shipman, Kay, and Riley). Around adolescence, girls are increasingly exposed to the harsh beauty standards placed on women in today’s society. As these women get older, many of them will turn to cosmetic surgeons to fix perceived flaws instilled by the beauty industry through surgical procedures. The beauty industry is no stranger to profiting off of the insecurities of women. This begs the question: Are women who undergo cosmetic surgery acting autonomously, since they are under such immense social pressure to achieve an ideal beauty standard? Additionally, is purely aesthetic cosmetic surgery ethical if it can result in unintended or long-term harm to the patient?I will explore these questions through the ethical values of autonomy, safety, and responsibility, as well as the ethical principles of beneficence and non-maleficence. This paper will focus on cosmetic surgery, primarily in women, and how the strict beauty standards in place in today’s society impact their autonomy in making decisions regarding cosmetic surgeries.
Introduction to Cosmetic Surgery
It is not uncommon to hear the terms, “cosmetic surgery” and “plastic surgery,” used interchangeably. Cosmetic surgery is a unique discipline of medicine focused on enhancing appearance through surgical and medical techniques. Cosmetic surgery can be performed on all areas of the head, neck, and body. Because treated areas function properly but lack aesthetic appeal, cosmetic surgery is considered elective (The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery). Plastic surgery differs from cosmetic surgery; plastic surgery is defined as a surgical specialty dedicated to the reconstruction of facial and body defects due to birth disorders, trauma, burns, disease, etc. (The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery).
In 2020, the top three most commonly performed cosmetic surgeries performed in the U.S. were rhinoplasties, blepharoplasties, and rhytidectomies (Villar). Rhinoplasty is generally known as a “nose job,” and it can be performed to improve one’s ability to breathe through the nose (Mayo Clinic, Rhinoplasty). However, it can also be performed to change the shape of one’s nose to create a desired appearance (Mayo Clinic, Rhinoplasty). Blepharoplasty is generally known as double eyelid surgery. This surgery is done with the intention of creating a supratarsal crease in one’s eyelid (Nguyen, Hsu, and Dihn). This surgery is also extremely popular in Asian countries because the double eyelid or creased eyelid feature that this surgery gives to patients is intended to erase the pre-existing feature these patients have, a monolid, a feature that over 50% of Asian women have (Nguyen, Hsu, and Dihn). Lastly, a rhytidectomy, which is generally referred to as a facelift, gives patients a more youthful-looking appearance. It reduces wrinkles, sagging, or folds, and pulls back the skin on both sides of the face, again creating a tighter, more youthful appearance (Mayo Clinic, Face-lift).
Although it is becoming increasingly popular and in high demand, cosmetic surgery is not a new trend. For years, people have been surgically altering their appearance to achieve their desired look. Undergoing cosmetic surgery has become normalized. In 2020 the average cost of a rhinoplasty in the U.S. was $5,483 according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The average cost of a breast augmentation is around $6,300 and a rhytidectomy on average is $8,005. These average prices are derived from surgeries that were performed legally by certified physicians. There is no way to know how many illegal cosmetic procedures are performed. However, compared to the 25,000 legal gluteal augmentations performed in the U.S., tracked by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in 2017, Dr. Tansar Mir, a double board-certified plastic surgeon, estimates that there are around 100,000 Americans that have received dangerous, illegally administered gluteal injections (Shea).
Whether it is through paying large amounts of money, undergoing dangerous procedures from unlicensed practitioners, or by other means, people are determined to change their appearance. Although people of all genders seek out cosmetic surgery, data has shown that women are much more likely to undergo cosmetic procedures than men. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons published that of all of the cosmetic procedures done in the U.S. in 2014, 92% of them had been requested by a woman (Crown Valley Cosmetic Surgery Center). Although this disparity cannot be attributed to any one factor, it is clear that women undergo cosmetic procedures at much higher rates than their male counterparts.
Effect of Beauty Standards on Women
Wanting to be perceived as attractive and treated well by one’s peers is a very natural desire for all people. However, as societal beauty standards have developed, the increasing emphasis on looking a certain way, meeting certain standards, and achieving “pretty” has harmed the mental and physical health of many girls and women. As social media, advertisements, and the beauty industry have increased in popularity, women are increasingly pressured to achieve a higher standard of beauty. Additionally, the market for producing goods advertised as a fix for many women’s insecurities about their physical appearance is an extremely lucrative one. In a poll that I recently conducted, when asked, “When you think about society’s view of how an ideal woman looks, what are some physical traits that come to mind?,” the most common responses were “petite,” “blonde,” “blue-eyed,” and “thin” while having a “big butt and breasts.” This narrow view of what is commonly thought of as the societal view of an ideal woman is broadcasted to girls, through social media, advertisements, toys, etc., at very young ages. This typical view of an ideal woman and the message that there are certain standards to live up to in order to be considered beautiful has harmful effects on many girls as they are growing up. A study done on girls as they reach adolescence shows that the self-confidence levels of girls rapidly decrease around the ages 8-14, the same time when many of them are being introduced to social media and online advertisements (Shipman, Kay, and Riley). Additional studies show that by age 13, 53% of American girls will consider themselves to be unhappy with their body and appearance, and by the age of 17, this number will jump to 78% (National Institute on Media and the Family). 98% of girls report that they feel immense pressure to live up to certain beauty standards (National Report on Self Esteem), and 92% report that they wish they could change something about their appearance, with their weight ranking the highest (Dove Campaign). This pressure put on women and girls to enter into a never-ending cycle of continually trying to achieve greater beauty can have extremely harmful impacts on women. For instance, the number of women who have eating disorders has nearly doubled since the 1960s (Jennifer Daw).
Out of the around 329.5 million people who live in the U.S., 28.8 million of them will most likely struggle with an eating disorder in their lifetime (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders).
This research regarding the impacts of beauty standards on young women is so significant because it shows how this problem does not just exist as societal pressure, but also how it can contribute to behaviors that inflict physical harm upon women, for example, eating disorders or self-harm. How influential and impactful these beauty standards can be is important to keep in mind when considering how beauty standards impact the autonomy of women and their decision to undergo cosmetic surgery.
Although different beauty standards exist in different parts of the world, one that is very consistent is the Eurocentric beauty standard. Across the world, but particularly in Asian countries, the desire for Eurocentric features can be seen through the types of cosmetic surgeries that are most popular, as well as through different beauty products. Major beauty brands like L’Oreal, Nivea, and Lancôme all sell soaps that target whitening the skin of their user. In addition to creams or soaps, women also use laser treatments, injections, and chemical peels to lighten their skin. (Maglente) Additionally, the three most popular cosmetic procedures in the cosmetic surgery capital of the world, South Korea, are skin whitening, blepharoplasty, and rhinoplasty surgeries (Jacobs and Zheng). Each of these surgeries creates a more stereotypically western appearance for the patient: double eyelid surgeries erasing the monolid feature found in over half of Asians (Nguyen, Hsu, and Dinh) and rhinoplasties created a slimmer appearance of the nose with a more defined bridge.
The impact of Eurocentric beauty standards being portrayed as the ideal can even be seen in children as young as 3. One example of the impacts of Eurocentric beauty standards can be seen in the results of an experiment known as the “Doll Test” conducted by Kenneth and Mamie Clark. This experiment examined black girls between the ages of 3 and 7 who attended public schools in Arkansas and Massachusetts (Bryant). The experiment entailed asking the children participating to choose out of a white and black doll which one was prettier. Two-thirds of the children chose the white doll (Bryant). To see how these results compared to more current times (the original “Doll Test” experiment was conducted in 1947) Kiri Davis held a re-creation of the experiment in 2005 (Bryant). Although there were more than 50 years in between both experiments, they yielded similar results. 16 out of the 21 black children participating in Davis’ experiment still chose the white doll when asked which doll they preferred (Bryant).
The impact of beauty standards and narrow views of what an ideal woman looks like can be seen in songs and pieces of art by women that portray the impact of being taught to believe their physical appearance was of utmost importance as girls. One example of this is the song Mrs. Potato Head by Melanie Martinez. Some lyrics include, “Kids forever, kids forever/ Baby soft skin turns into leather/ Don’t be dramatic it’s only some plastic/ No one will love you if you’re unattractive.” This song and ones like it express how great the pressure that comes with the emphasis of looking a certain way is on young girls, and how plastic surgery is presented as a quick solution to what should be their greatest fear-peers thinking they are unattractive.
Given the pervasive unhappiness of many women with their appearance and the influence of beauty standards and the beauty industry, it may not be surprising that the overall desire for cosmetic surgery is increasing. As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, the demand for cosmetic surgery has increased. When asked his opinion on why he believes the pandemic has spiked many people’s interest in cosmetic surgery, Dr. Reece (Professor and Chief in the Division of Adult Plastic Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and Chief of Adult Surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital) said,
“More people were using video technology and they became more aware of what they looked like in a public setting. Also, employees across all industries were working remotely, which allowed more time for elective surgery and recovery.”
As the beauty industry has expanded, so has its influence. Girls are conditioned to grow up thinking that a part of their worth or importance is based on their physical appearance. Many times this pressure to achieve what is pushed by the media and beauty and fashion companies as the ideal appearance can have detrimental effects, like increased rates of disordered eating and self-harm. Many women view cosmetic surgery as a remedy to their perceived physical flaws and turn to achieve a desired look. The next sections will discuss the intersection of cosmetic surgery and potential mental health effects, as well as look further into the ethics surrounding the conversation about the role of cosmetic surgery and beauty standards in the lives of women.
Impact of Cosmetic Surgery on Mental Health
Women’s mental health can be impacted as a result of undergoing cosmetic surgery. Many women who undergo cosmetic surgery report that it has improved their self-confidence and body image (Ditman). The majority of women who undergo cosmetic surgery also report being happy with their surgery results and believe that their increased confidence as a result of their procedure has improved their lives (Ditman). There can also be adverse effects of cosmetic surgery as well. One study in Norway found that there is a relationship between women in the country who have undergone cosmetic surgery and higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide (Ladergaard). This is not to say that cosmetic surgery causes increased rates of depression and anxiety among women, but rather, that there is just a correlation between women who have higher rates of depression and anxiety and a desire for cosmetic surgery. Additionally, when women who undergo cosmetic surgery think that achieving what they believe to be a more attractive look will fix certain problems in their life, but that turns out to not be the case, many can face disappointment (Ladergaard). Given the potential risks of cosmetic surgery, physical and otherwise, the ethical question could be raised: Is purely aesthetic cosmetic surgery ethical if it can result in unintended or long-term harm to the patient?
Is purely aesthetic cosmetic surgery ethical if it can result in unintended or long-term harm to the patient?
Given the mental and physical risks of cosmetic surgery, its ethicality could be questioned as it is potentially putting people at risk for a procedure that is not medically necessary. This issue questions the autonomy given to patients to be able to receive surgeries for non-medical reasons, the value of safety, and the responsibility of doctors in accordance with the ethical principles of beneficence and non-maleficence.
One argument that arises when discussing the ethics of cosmetic surgery is the potential of the procedure negatively impacting the mental health of a patient for a non-physically necessary surgery. This issue could also question the role and responsibility of a doctor because the procedures being performed are not in the hopes of aiding the physical health of a patient. However, as stated before, although a cosmetic procedure could result in negative mental health impacts (Ladegaard), it could also result in positive ones (Dittman). No one knows the future, so if doctors have no reason to believe that their patient is at a heightened risk for negative mental and physical health impact post-surgery, then they are acting in their patients’ best interest. Additionally, this argument claims the responsibility of a doctor is to solely perform procedures that benefit the physical health of their patient. However, the responsibility of a doctor could also be to act in a way that they believe benefits their patient physically, mentally, or emotionally. For example, performing a cosmetic surgery procedure, even if the procedure they are performing is not to help their patient’s physical wellbeing. It is the responsibility of a doctor to do what they think is in the best interest of their patient, and if they believe that performing the cosmetic surgery is in their patient’s best interest then they would be fulfilling that responsibility. Patients should still have the final say when making personal medical decisions. However, it is a doctor’s responsibility to use their medical knowledge to inform patients about what potential risks, side effects, and what they think would be most beneficial for their patient. Additionally, there are benefits to cosmetic surgery even if the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery can be influenced by toxic beauty standards. The majority of women report having a self-confidence boost post-surgery (Dittman), and cosmetic surgery can also be used to help people who are transgender achieve the outward appearance that matches their true identity.
In an ideal world, there would be no desire for cosmetic surgery in order to achieve certain beauty standards because everyone would love themselves and a person’s outward appearance would not impact their treatment or self-perception. However, that is far from reality. In a recently published Harvard study, it was revealed that people who were thought to be more naturally attractive were more likely assumed to be likable, approachable, and more capable of their jobs based on first assumptions (Scott). The problem is that the beauty industry is an oppressive system telling women that they must conform to a certain ideal to be valuable, liked, etc., not women taking actions to conform to those ideals because of their desire to be valued.
It is a common belief that the continuation of cosmetic surgery only furthers the unrealistic beauty standards placed on women. However, one of the main problems with the beauty industry is how lucrative it is. Products that are advertised as targeting and “fixing” women’s “imperfections” are presented to women as necessities in order to be perceived in a certain way. Thus these companies are able to make a profit from the insecurities of many women, insecurities that women are told from an outside source they should have in the first place. The harmful beauty standards placed on women will be there regardless of whether or not women choose to undergo cosmetic surgery. While it is also harmful to falsely perpetuate the idea of liberation through cosmetic surgery onto women, blaming the doctors who perform it and the women who undergo cosmetic surgery for the harmful beauty standards placed on women would be misplacing blame. Instead, there should be an effort to fix the problem of the toxic external beauty standards that women are conditioned to follow, rather than criticizing the way certain women choose to react to the toxic standards placed on them.
As there are potential negative health impacts of cosmetic surgery, both mental and physical, one could argue that it is not beneficial for a doctor to perform cosmetic surgery as it is not medically necessary, and therefore not worth the potential risks. They could further argue that a doctor’s job is to help the sick and injured, a category cosmetic surgery does not fall under. However, cosmetic surgery is a resource in high demand and one that requires medical training to perform correctly. Through consequences of illegally performed cosmetic surgeries, death being a potential result, it can be seen that people will go to damaging lengths to receive cosmetic surgery when they cannot access a licensed doctor. Additionally, a doctor can never ensure the success or outcome of an operation, whether physically or mentally. However, it is their responsibility to act in a beneficent way, and if they believe that what they are doing is the best for their patient then they are fulfilling that duty. It could also be argued that by performing cosmetic surgery doctors are furthering the oppressive beauty standards placed on women because they are making it so that what is deemed the most beautiful can only be achieved surgically. However, it is important to note that there have been strict beauty standards placed on women long before cosmetic surgery was made possible. Even in medieval times, women were expected to have fair skin, a small waist, and a narrow chest to be considered of the utmost beauty (Gilbert). Cosmetic surgeons did not invent beauty standards and without them, beauty standards would still remain an oppressive force in society. Women taking action to feel more beautiful and surgeons helping their patients to feel that way is not the problem, but rather that women feel the need to alter their appearance in any way to be considered beautiful or valued.
Autonomy vs. Beauty Standards
Autonomy is definedas the “right or condition of self-government” (Oxford English Dictionary). In the medical world, autonomy is typically viewed as one’s ability to make personal, consensual decisions free from coercion (Stammers). As stated earlier, given the pervasive unhappiness of many women with their bodies, it is not surprising to see many turning to cosmetic surgery in search of becoming what they believe to be a more attractive version of themselves. However, this could raise the question: Does the pressure from society to achieve external beauty standards interfere with a woman’s autonomy when deciding to undergo purely aesthetic cosmetic surgery?
If one is basing their answer solely on the direct definition of autonomy, they could argue, “yes,” the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery is completely autonomous if the patients undergoing the procedure make an informed, consenting decision. This means that the patient has complete knowledge of the recovery time, side effects, potential problems, etc. of their surgery. The patient makes their decision to undergo surgery based on their wishes, not those of a family member, significant other, etc. Patients are competent and capacitated, meaning that their doctor has ensured that they are a suitable patient physically and mentally to undergo their desired cosmetic surgery. Their doctor has ensured that they are going through with the surgery based on realistic expectations. This relates to the ethical principle of beneficence and the ethical value of responsibility. It is a doctor’s responsibility to act in a way that they believe will most benefit their patient. This means that based on what they have observed about their patient and what they know about their medical history, they inform their patient using their medical knowledge about what they believe is in the best interest of their patient. Doctors have knowledge and training that the majority of the population does not. Patients may request certain procedures that could be dangerous to them or have a small chance of producing the results they desire. It is a doctor’s responsibility to inform the patient of all potential outcomes because this is knowledge that only doctors may possess, and to make a consensual decision a patient must be informed.
There is controversy, though, on what pressures and influences hinder women’s autonomy when making the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery in hopes of achieving a desired look. Many philosophers, feminist theorists especially, believe that the oppression of women under the beauty industry is so present in society that one cannot look at a woman’s decision to undergo cosmetic surgery through such a narrow definition of autonomy. It could be argued that the socialization of women, especially that of young girls to believe that an overwhelming part of their value is directly linked to their physical appearance, threatens autonomy when making the many times permanent decision to undergo an often painful cosmetic surgery (Meyers). As women grow up they are subjected to certain social constraints of what it means to be feminine, and their objectification impacts their autonomy in a way that it does not for men (Meyers). It could be argued that this socialization of young girls means that they cannot make an autonomous decision regarding cosmetic surgery because this decision will not be based solely on their desires, but rather on what physical features they believe they need to possess in order to achieve “pretty.”
The question of whether or not the pressure of external beauty standards impacts women’s autonomy when deciding to surgically change their appearance may not be able to be answered with just a yes or no. While the influence of the beauty industry is very present, and the socialization of young girls impacts their autonomy in a way that is not mirrored in men, the claim that this means that women cannot make autonomous decisions about undergoing cosmetic surgery is too simplistic. While the socialization of girls under the beauty industry as they are growing up heavily influences decision-making regarding cosmetic surgery that may not necessarily mean that it hinders autonomy completely. This concept of a gray area builds on the idea that even though there are factors, in this case, the beauty industry and socialization of young girls, that undermine a person’s autonomy, that does not mean that it takes away autonomy completely. This can relate to Marilyn Freidman’s “threshold account,” meaning that if a decision is made based on the participant’s wants, cares, values, and commitments then it meets the threshold for what is autonomous, even if there are outside influences that do not make that decision an autonomous one to the highest degree (Friedman) (Stoljar). The beauty industry has shaped the world’s view of what an “ideal woman” is and what the standard is for “pretty”. These standards do impact the decision-making of women who choose to undergo plastic surgery. However, autonomy is the ability to self-govern. So, even though patriarchal and Eurocentric beauty standards influence cosmetic surgery decisions, autonomy, by definition, is still in effect, despite these influences if women are making them out of their self-governance.
By just examining the definition of autonomy one could argue that the decision for a woman to undergo a purely aesthetic cosmetic surgery is completely autonomous if the patient’s decision is an informed consensual one if they are aware of all the possible risks of the procedure, and there is no coercion involved in their decision. However, it can also be argued that because beauty standards are so present in the lives of women from a young age their autonomy when it comes to making this decision is hindered, and in this way these beauty standards are coercive. There is also a middle ground, where many believe that although beauty standards are a major influence a woman’s decision to undergo cosmetic surgery still reigns an autonomous one because it is something she desires to do, even if that desire stems from the toxic culture surrounding beauty.
It is clear how the overwhelming amount of pressure put on women to change their physical appearance to meet certain standards can be so influential. I believe that external beauty standards do inherently interfere with a woman’s autonomy when choosing to undergo cosmetic surgery in order to meet certain beauty standards. However, I do not think the answer to this ethical question is so black and white. While I do believe that certain aspects of autonomy are lacking when a person chooses to undergo cosmetic surgery for the reason that they believe it will make them more beautiful, because of how much beauty standards and the beauty industry influence what is thought of as beautiful, that does not mean the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery is completely nonautonomous. For example, certain cosmetic surgeries are gender-affirming surgeries. The goal of these surgeries is to help people who are transgender have physical traits that are more closely aligned with their gender, so, the influence of external beauty standards is not at the core of these decisions. Additionally, many women choose not to have cosmetic surgery. The pressure of beauty standards does not mean that all women will choose to surgically alter their appearance; however, the value placed on women based on their physical appearance cannot be ignored when examining their autonomy when making decisions about surgically altering their appearance.
As stated before, the root of this ethical issue is the amount of pressure placed on women to be in a never-ending quest of becoming a more attractive version of themselves. The solution should be not on shaming women who receive cosmetic surgery, but rather on working to instill self-confidence into young girls and push back against the toxic beauty standards placed on women. This means working towards changing the typical view of what an ideal woman looks like. The typical barbie-like woman, white, effortlessly gorgeous, thin but with big breasts, etc., is what adolescent girls have been conditioned to view as the ideal representation of beauty. This oppressive idea of what an “ideal woman” should look like is behind many decisions to undergo cosmetic surgery. Dismantling this fictional image of what an “ideal woman” is helps to solve the self-confidence issues seen in many girls and women. Even though the problem of toxic beauty standards is not easy to rid, there are steps that can be taken that can help to change the culture surrounding beauty. Some examples include pushing companies to diversify the people that are presented as beautiful to their consumers, having specialists hold education sessions for parents and teachers on what kind of language and messages can be harmful regarding physical appearance, as well as supporting organizations that are trying to change the way young girls are taught about the importance of beauty. One example of this kind of organization is Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run empowers girls and presents running and physical activity as a fun way to be healthy, rather than focusing on weight loss or appearances.
Some questions that may stem from this ethical debate are, “What do we do to stop this problem of women being valued for their appearances?” “Should there be restrictions on cosmetic surgery?” “Should cosmetic surgery be more readily available, even covered by insurance?” Again, I think that it is most important to focus on the root of the problem, toxic beauty standards, and the culture that has fostered an environment where people are judged and treated differently based on their physical appearance. Cosmetic surgery can be used as a way to better one’s self-perception, affirm one’s identity, and even potentially better one’s treatment. Restricting it would not provide a solution to a problem that has existed in society well before the creation of cosmetic surgery. On the contrary, providing increased access to cosmetic surgery will also not address the problem of toxic beauty standards, but rather send the message that they are a necessary pressure. Faulting a group of people for how they choose to respond to an oppressive system will not put an end to that system. It is necessary to work towards ending the toxic culture that has been created surrounding beauty, but this needs to be done by addressing the problem of beauty standards, not by criticizing how women choose to react to these toxic pressures.