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Is Gen Z plastic surgery getting out of hand?


Is Gen Z treating plastic surgery like a disposable fashion accessory? 

Lend us your imagination. 

You’re young, in your 20s, and you’re deeply self-conscious about your height. It’s bothered you for as long as you can remember and it’s really affecting your confidence and self-esteem. 

You’d do just about anything to be taller. 

And, as it turns out, there’s a surgery for that. 

Leg lengthening surgery is not for the faint of heart. During surgery, the leg bone (femur or tibia) is cut (osteotomy) and then stabilized with external and/or internal fixation devices along with a lengthening apparatus. This is an extreme surgery with several potential risks, including bone infection (osteomyelitis), nerve damage, poor bone healing, and damage to the surrounding muscles and vessels. Results are also not quick, with each centimeter of bone length gained requiring ~36 days to heal. 

It's also a hard surgery to come by and expensive. In Canada and the USA, a cosmetic leg lengthening surgery will set you back close to 75,000 USD and there aren’t a lot of places performing them. Luckily, the surgery is offered overseas at a discount which – being cash strapped and in your 20s – is where you likely decide to go. 

You can see one young man’s leg lengthening journey here, where he increases his height from 5’5” to 6 feet. We’re really happy to see he’s pleased with his results, but the decision between him and his doctor to pursue and document his surgery isn’t the topic of this blog post. The more than 70 million views his extreme, leg lengthening surgery journey has had on Twitter is

Let’s think about that. Over 70 million views. 

The pursuit of plastic surgery by Gen Z has become a worldwide phenomenon. In China, elf ear and calf reduction surgeries are the rage. In South Korea, it’s almost become a career rite of passage to have something done. Injectables, BBLs, plastic surgery-like filters, the A4 and Kylie lip-style challenges… It’s all readily available on social media with the click of a button. 

At what point do we sound the alarm that our youth’s obsession with plastic surgery might just have gone too far?

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Houston, we may have a problem…


At what point do we call it and say Gen Z has a plastic surgery problem?

This blog isn’t meant to be alarmist or discourage plastic surgery. I strongly believe that plastic surgery plays an important role in our society. There are many good reasons people pursue plastic surgery. It helps people every day feel more confident with themselves and able to lead fuller lives. It’s naive to label plastic surgery as vain or selfish. 

But globally people are pursuing plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures more than ever before. Part of this is due to plastic surgery becoming more accessible, whereas before it was reserved for the wealthy and elite – not that they didn’t run into problems. For a dose of plastic surgery history, read up on paraffin injections which were popular in the early 20th century as an injectable filler treatment. For those plastic surgery history buffs reading, The Dark History Podcast does a great deep dive into some of the early 20th century elite who suffered the first injectable complications. 

Speaking of paraffin deformities, our modern procedures are not risk free. The most well-known risk of surgery – though very rare – is death. But non-surgical procedures also carry risks including necrosis, blindness, infection, and allergic reactions. And these realities seem to be getting lost in the excitement over positive results being shown online. There are hundreds of thousands of videos of young women and men altering their faces and bodies surgically and cosmetically. Are they being cavalier in their decisions and ignoring potential consequences? It’s hard to tell. 

Again, there are a lot of great reasons to get cosmetic plastic surgery, but a good point that’s being raised right now is that an awful lot of young people are getting these surgeries. We’re seeing a spike in plastic surgeries in the under thirty crowd that were typically reserved for older patients, such as face lifts. Are there potential long-term consequences 15 years down the road to getting a face lift so young? With a lack of data, it’s hard to say. 

Peer pressure to get plastic surgery is also a concern, along with the social media fueled expectations. Plastic surgery cannot make someone look like a different person or replicate the effect of an AI filter. Considerations must be made for starting physiology and that seems to be getting lost in translation. People’s sense of themselves is still developing through their mid-twenties, and the wrong plastic surgeries can be profoundly damaging. 

Gen Z’s plastic surgery obsession is alarming, but it takes two.

The blame isn’t entirely on social media and Gen Z. I think surgeons hold some responsibility. Plastic surgeons often only show their best work, which can give a false sense of what patients can expect from results. As well, social media often makes serious surgeries seem routine and risks non-existent. This makes for a potent and dangerous mix – minimizing risk and overinflating patient expectations. Patient selection is also crucial – and that is the surgeon’s responsibility. 

Final thoughts


Gen Z needs to weigh expectations against the risks which are not always mentioned on social media.

Is Gen Z taking plastic surgery too far? It’s impossible to pass judgement over an entire demographic who are, in essence, a reflection of the times and technology. But it may be time for a tempering dose of reality from the surgeons. No one needs a purely cosmetic procedure and I think we need to do better balancing how we share information about the surgeries and decreasing social stigmas without making people feel obligated to chase surgical fixes they really don’t need.

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Written by
Kristi Charish
Edited by
Dr. Gary Linkov
The content of this newsletter is for entertainment and educational purposes only. This content is not meant to provide any medical advice or treat any medical conditions. Patients must be evaluated by an appropriate healthcare provider on an individual basis and treatment must be tailored to meet that patient’s needs. Results and particular outcomes are not guaranteed.

 

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