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Cosmetic treatment: self-love or stigma?

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  Posted by: The Probe      31st March 2022

Cosmetic work generally divides public opinion – many people can agree that cosmetic intervention, whether that’s receiving botulinum injections, dental implants or rhinoplasty, can greatly enhance an individual’s life. However, many are also of the opinion that individuals seeking to enhance their physical appearance do so for the wrong reasons.

What prompts this harsh divide in opinion? There are many interlinking factors that

influence public opinion on cosmetic treatments – this can also prompt much misinformation that is potentially dangerous for those seeking cosmetic work. For the medical professionals who perform cosmetic procedures, it’s crucial to recognise the ways that public opinion, misinformation and the patient’s own self-perception could affect their desires and expectations of procedures.

You’re so vain

Modern day cosmetic surgery is, as one study[i] dubbed it, a paradox. Despite its unwavering and increasing popularity, those who choose to receive treatment are often viewed unfavourably. Where does this opinion come from, and why is cosmetic work held in such poor regard by so many? A recent survey,[ii] carried out by Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, found that 84% of respondents either disagreed, or strongly disagreed, with the statement “I like the way lip fillers look on other people.” A further 33% admitted to “negatively judging those who have obviously undergone a procedure”.

Social media and celebrity culture certainly play a phenomenal role in the perception and education regarding cosmetic treatments. Famous faces are often seen sporting certain exaggerated body parts, bright white veneers and lip filler. More often than not, many of them are ridiculed by the media for the work they’ve had done. Similarly, older female actresses who undergo some form of cosmetic work are often criticised for not “embracing” natural aging. Thus, individuals may develop the view that those with cosmetic work, particularly women, have some form of “aging anxiety”.[iii]

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is “a disorder of self-perception. It is the obsession with perfection”. [iv] This disorder can be treated with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or medication,[v] but many individuals with BDD undergo cosmetic intervention to remedy any “defects” they perceive in their physical appearance. One study[vi] noted that cosmetic work rarely improves BDD symptoms.

Disorders such as BDD may fuel the view that those who seek cosmetic work are ill or have dangerously low self-esteem. However, cosmetic intervention can make a positive impact on those who seek it for more appropriate reasons. 

A remedy for self-esteem?

Because cosmetic treatments are designed to enhance and “tweak” an individual’s appearance, there may be a common misconception that people are self-obsessed and are not “aging naturally” should they choose to go down the cosmetic route. But self-image is very much tied in with self-esteem and, ultimately, mental health. Various literature exists on the topic, and it is generally widely accepted that poor self-image can determine the condition of an individual’s mental health.[vii] [viii] Improving self-image, therefore, can have very positive effects on mental health. One study[ix] concluded that minimally invasive cosmetic treatments positively impacted mental health. Whether that’s to manage mild self-esteem concerns or to look more refreshed and revitalised,[x] many patients with appropriate expectations can benefit from cosmetic intervention.

However, the decision to undergo cosmetic treatment should be a hefty consideration, as it will not always be suitable for everyone. Many individuals may not recognise whether cosmetic work is a healthy option for them. This could partly be down to unrealistic expectations encouraged by disorders such as BDD, or misinformation shared by social media personalities or even friends and family. For medical professionals who perform these procedures, whether they’re cosmetic surgeons, tattoo artists or dentists, knowing how to adequately assess why a patient is seeking a certain procedure is paramount to providing safe and ethical care.

Your role

As a dentist who offers cosmetic dental options in your practice, it’s crucial to have the skills to be able to guide your patients. Providing relevant information and resources can help your patients to better understand why they would like treatment, help them set more realistic expectations and ultimately help promote more positive outlooks regarding cosmetic intervention. It will also benefit you when identifying why patients seek these procedures, so you can alter your approach to care accordingly.

The British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD) is proud to be a world-leading authority on cosmetic dentistry. By becoming a member of the BACD, you’ll have access to exceptional training pathways and educational resources. This will help you develop your skills and confidence, and enable you to continue the BACD’s mission for safe and ethical cosmetic dentistry. Plus, with unmatched networking opportunities, you can share ideas, receive feedback and guidance from experienced peers. 

Changing public opinion on cosmetic dentistry certainly won’t be a straightforward task. However, by furthering your own knowledge and skills in the field, you can help patients make a decision that best suits them.


For further enquiries about the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, visit


Author: Dr Chirs McConnell, President BACD

Dr Chris McConnell is a private dentist based in Cornwall with a special interest in advanced dental treatments including implants, sedation, cosmetic and digital dentistry. He has two practices, a General Practice, and a bespoke designed clinic that focuses on the digital workflow in cosmetic and implant dentistry. Chris is President of the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and a Key Opinion Leader with a number of International companies, as well as founder of the REAL Dentist course which teaches Dentists how to maximise efficiencies in practice. He has undertaken the Royal College FGDP Implant Diploma and lectures on dental efficiencies, and advanced implant and cosmetic solutions using digital dentistry to improve your results. 


[i] Bonell, S., Barlow, F.K. and Griffiths, S. (2021). The cosmetic surgery paradox: Toward a contemporary understanding of cosmetic surgery popularisation and attitudes. Body Image, [online] Available at:,negative%20attitudes%20toward%20cosmetic%20surgery[Accessed 3 Feb. 2022].

[ii] (n.d.). Opinions on Cosmetic Surgery – Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2022].

[iii] Slevec, J. and Tiggemann, M. (2010). Attitudes Toward Cosmetic Surgery in Middle-Aged Women: Body Image, Aging Anxiety, and the Media. Psychology of Women Quarterly, [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2022].

[iv] Vashi, N.A. (2016). Obsession with perfection: Body dysmorphia. Clinics in Dermatology, [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2022].

[v] NHS (2021). Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2022].

[vi] Bowyer, L., Krebs, G., Mataix-Cols, D., Veale, D. and Monzani, B. (2016). A critical review of cosmetic treatment outcomes in body dysmorphic disorder. Body Image, [online] Available at:  [Accessed 3 Feb. 2022].

[vii] Moksnes, U.K. and Reidunsdatter, R.J. (2019). Self-esteem and mental health in adolescents – level and stability during a school year. Norsk Epidemiologi, [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2022].

[viii] Choi, Y., Choi, S.-H., Yun, J.-Y., Lim, J.-A., Kwon, Y., Lee, H.Y. and Jang, J.H. (2019). The relationship between levels of self-esteem and the development of depression in young adults with mild depressive symptoms. Medicine, [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2022]

[ix] Rudolph, C., Hladik, C., Stroup, D.F., Frank, K., Gotkin, R.H., Dayan, S.H., Patel, A. and Cotofana, S. (2019). Are Cosmetic Procedures Comparable to Antidepressive Medication for Quality-of-Life Improvements? A Systematic Review and Controlled Meta-Analysis. Facial Plastic Surgery, [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2022].

[x] Sadick, N.S. (2008). The impact of cosmetic interventions on quality of life. Dermatology Online Journal, [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2022]. Offers UK Dental Practice Owners The Chance To Sell Their Practices For A Premium Price. We Are One Of The UKs Leading Company's In The Sector.

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