OPINION: The case for destigmatizing plastic surgery in college communities

Graphic by Chloe Frelinghuysen

Lying on the table, I really didn’t know what to expect. This was, after all, my first time. He soothed me, told me it would be alright, that it always hurt the first time but the pain would become bearable after a certain point.

What have I gotten myself into, I wondered, before, slowly yet sharply, he stuck it in me. I winced, holding my breath all the while. I felt him masterfully slip it in and out, in and out, little spurts filling me with each thrust.

This is the story of the first time I got lip injections.

I want to begin this piece by debunking a few misconceptions: No, I do not have self-esteem issues. No, I am not merely attempting to conform to hegemonic Western beauty ideals. No, I am not “destroying my body.”

Yes, I am tired of my peers making these assumptions. The stigma needs to end.

Contrary to popular belief, the likelihood of long-term adverse effects associated with injectables is extremely low. According to a 2013 study conducted by the Journal of Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, “serious adverse events are rare, and most are avoidable with proper planning and technique … [while] the majority of adverse reactions are mild and transient, such as bruising and trauma-related edema [i.e., swelling].”

And given that the flesh is being pierced with needles and filled with foreign substances, bruising and swelling are to be expected. But the belief that lips never revert to their original size or ultimately become wrinkly following the dissolution of temporary lip fillers is not substantiated by research.

People often think vanity is the reason for getting plastic surgery, but many utilize these services for more personal reasons.

For instance, research has found onabotulinum toxin A Botox — to be an effective treatment for migraines and axillary hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating in the underarm region). It would be difficult to find an individual undergoing one of these treatments for vanity purposes.

Even when the recipient’s ultimate goal is beautification, though, vanity is not necessarily the motive.

Gender dysphoria, the discomfort associated with identifying with a gender that does not align with one’s biological sex, is a serious problem affecting many in the transgender community, myself included; in these cases, plastic surgery is not sought out due to self-absorption, but as a means of feeling at home in one’s body.

But even conventional uses of plastic surgery are defensible.

Particularly among self-identified “broke college students,” there has been an increase in the pursuit of “sugar daddy/sugar mommy” relationships and other such arrangements.

Such relationships are often based on attraction and the provision of certain services sexual, romantic or emotional in exchange for money. It’s usually up to the benefactor or “sugar daddy/mommy” to determine how much money to offer.

Therefore, particularly for low-income “sugar babies,” conforming to conventional beauty standards can help pay for ever-increasing college tuition fees, eating out with friends and shopping for school or personal supplies.

Simply put, sexy sells, and one should not be chastised for capitalizing from physical gifts or resources.

Regardless of motive, the decision to undergo plastic surgery is difficult and deeply personal; don’t complicate that decision by judging others without first acquainting yourself with the facts.

Cameron Tipton PO ’20 is a psychology major. They are passionate about creative writing, Iranian-American politics, LGBTQ issues and iced coffee.

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