Why Fewer Brits Are Having Plastic Surgery (It's Not A Good Thing)

Illustration by Anna Sudit
The number of people in the UK undergoing plastic surgery is on the decline, according to new figures, and the rise of fillers and other non-surgical procedures could be to blame.

In 2016, 30,750 procedures were carried out – a 40% decline from 51,140 in 2015, said a report by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS).

The reason being that more men and women are opting for non-surgical procedures, such as chemical peels and dermal fillers, which are cheaper than cosmetic surgery and have become increasingly popular.

The popularity of brow lifts dropped the most – by 71%. Breast augmentation, meanwhile, was still the most popular surgery, with 7,732 procedures carried out last year. But even that figure was a 20% fall from 2015.

“In a climate of global fragility, the public are less likely to spend on significant alterations and become more fiscally conservative, by and large opting for less costly non-surgical procedures such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion, rather than committing to more permanent changes," said Rajiv Grover, the plastic surgeon who compiled the report.

The current "negative news and economic uncertainty" has "re-invigorated the famous British ‘stiff upper lip’", he said, but these days it's achieved through fillers and wrinkle-relaxing injections, rather than surgery.

However, Grover warned people to be vigilant when seeking non-surgical treatment, as the sector is "rife with lax regulation, maverick behaviour and unethical promotional gimmicks," adding that "non-surgical does not, and never has, meant non-medical."

The top cosmetic operation for men was rhinoplasty (nose reshaping), which dropped in popularity from 2015 by 35% to 529 procedures.

Tummy tucks are a burgeoning trend among men, however, with 172 opting for it last year, up 47% from 2015, BAAPS said.

Simon Withey, consultant plastic surgeon and president of BAAPS, said the decline in plastic surgery could be considered positive. He said more and more patients seem to be realising that "cosmetic surgery is not a ‘quick fix’ but a serious commitment and are... carefully evaluating risks as well as benefits surgery may offer."

"If it means people are taking their time to be truly sure a procedure is the right investment for them, then this can only be a good thing.”

We'd like to see the non-surgical sector become better regulated first before we start celebrating this latest trend.
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