Modern women feel compelled to meet near-impossible standards of beauty. For many, this pursuit ultimately culminates in cosmetic surgery – a radical form of beautification that is rapidly becoming popular worldwide. Paradoxically, while prevalent, artificial beauty remains widely unaccepted in contemporary society. This narrative review synthesizes feminist dialogue, recent research, and real-world case studies to argue that female beauty standards account for both the growing popularity of cosmetic surgery and its lack of mainstream acceptance. First, we implicate unrealistic beauty standards and the medicalization of appearance in popularizing cosmetic surgery. Second, we analyze how negative attitudes toward cosmetic surgery are also motivated by unrealistic beauty standards. Finally, we generate a synthesized model of the processes outlined in this review and provide testable predictions for future studies based on this model. Our review is the first to integrate theoretical and empirical evidence into a cohesive narrative that explains the cosmetic surgery paradox; that is, how cosmetic surgery remains secretive, stigmatized, and moralized despite its surging popularity.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Ltd.