Women of Color and Plastic Surgery: A Look at the Complicated History and Recent Uptick in Augmentations in Minority Communities

The dialogue around plastic surgery is becoming increasingly accepting. Yet, even with these open-minded conversations, many women struggle with their decision to undergo plastic surgery. 

Some women of color, specifically, display confidence in their physical appearance, but many struggle with a negative internal dialogue about their look. 

Because of this, women of color are becoming more open to plastic surgery as time goes on. According to the American Society Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, cosmetic augmentation surgeries increased 56% among black communities between the years 2005 and 2013. There are various reasons for this willingness to move forward with procedures more frequently, ranging from a cultural shift to financial accessibility. 

Challenges With Self-Acceptance 

Women of color have long struggled with accepting themselves. Their brown skin has yet to be entirely accepted by society. Features and styles that were typically created and popularized by Black women have historically been ridiculed, and yet, have been culturally appropriated by white women.

This lack of societal acceptance can lead to significant issues with self-acceptance and self-love. Although all women of color should have complete confidence in who they are and what they bring to the world, our society continues to highlight the link between beauty and light-skinned features especially in media, therefore affecting confidence levels in women of color in and out of America. 

This lack of self-acceptance has led to a variety of beauty trends, including “bleaching.” Not only does this trend endanger the health of women of color, but it also continues to spread the message the lighter skin equates to beauty. In addition to skin bleaching, women of color are also rushing to get other procedures done, neglecting to prepare thoroughly for what’s to come. Some women have even sought out illegal or deadly injections that they could easily find at the store, leading to scars, health issues, or even death — all in the name of beauty.

Cultural Influences 

As well as receiving pressure from an increasingly white and colonialist society to conform to white beauty standards, Black women are also receiving a similar pressure from Black men. For example, hip-hop artist Trick Daddy contributed to this pressure to get plastic surgery by warning Black women to “tighten up” to compete with other white and Hispanic women. 

There is also a concern that Black women may be rejecting their own unique physical features, seeking to trade them in for features displayed on white women to be accepted more in American culture. 

According to this article, Dr. E. Carol Webster, a Black psychologist, said that “a Black woman seeking cosmetic surgery is a ‘paradox of assimilation and integration’ that has come with upward mobility. She is concerned that Black women seeking such a look are rejecting their black features. Some minority women find it desirable to have tiny waists, large breasts, blond hair, and blue eyes.”

Black women have seen over the years how people are in awe over the above-mentioned features. Because they aren’t as apparent in Black culture, women of color are seeking out cosmetic surgery to obtain those features with the hope that society will adjust and accept them more openly. 

Procedures are More Affordable and Accessible 

Another reason why women of color have historically turned away from plastic surgery is financial inaccessibility. However, technological advancements have contributed to making plastic surgery more accessible to women of color. 

Telehealth, for example, has made its way into the plastic surgery sector. Plastic surgeons are offering virtual visits to their patients, including consultations, follow-up appointments, and any applicable appointment in between. 

Telehealth visits can generally be more affordable than in-person office visits, as well. They are also accessible to anyone with a mobile device and internet connection, but sometimes that’s not even necessary. 

As stated above, the cost of plastic surgery procedures has made them out of the question for many women of color as well. But today, there are various options for financing cosmetic surgery. If you have health insurance, some cosmetic and plastic surgeries can be covered if they’re proven to be medically necessary. For example, breast augmentation or reduction can help with back pain and improve one’s overall health. 

Additionally, many plastic surgery facilities offer discounts on services if you combine multiple procedures. As an alternative, there is always the option to opt for a payment plan. Many surgeons offer payment plans to make the cost more affordable if you have to pay out of pocket. 

Better accessibility and affordable procedures are most likely contributing to the uptick in plastic surgery among women of color. 

Health Concerns Prompt the Decision 

The uptick in augmentations in minority communities could be because of an increase in health concerns that can only be remedied with cosmetic surgery.  

Women of color and curvy women, in particular, are also seeking out plastic surgery for health concerns. Even as cultural icons like Kim Kardashian appropriate these figures, a curvy figure can oftentimes come with a cost, especially for women of color who have had this curvy figure their entire lives. 

That cost is often neck and shoulder pain from heavy breasts, frequent backaches, an inability to participate in sports, and so forth. There was a time when women of color couldn’t even consider surgery because of racism— even if it would improve their physical and mental health. Even still to this day, people of color experience racism in the healthcare field that endangers their lives. 

According to the Journal of the National Medical Association, “race is important in American health and healthcare, whether viewed from the perspective of racism adversely affecting clinical decision-making regarding patients; white indifference to the African-American Health crisis, etc…”

Whether Black women needed or wanted surgery, racism could have very well prevented them from receiving the procedures at all. Even if they did, they were most likely treated unfairly throughout the process. 

But now that these procedures are readily available and conversations about remedying racism in the healthcare system are starting, Black women can cite health concerns as a reason to proceed with surgery and receive the quality of care they deserve. 

Conclusion 

Even in the COVID-19 pandemic, plastic surgery is still being sought out by many. 

Women of color and plastic surgery have a long, complicated history. But they’ll continue to undergo cosmetic procedures so long as they’re available, and have a right to — no matter the reason.

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