Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Not everyone perceives beauty the same way. While what is considered beautiful depends on basic proportions and balance regardless of culture and values, ideals of beauty differ around the globe.

People of different nations place different levels of emphasis on what parts of the body they want to change or beautify. Looking at what cosmetic procedures are in greatest demand in a country can give us a good idea about what is valued in terms of beauty. It is also interesting to note that beauty ideals change over time.

Let’s find out what’s hot and where!

Some women in Japan are spending money to have their teeth made to look crooked, even attaching mini-fangs for the ‘yaeba’ look which translates as ‘double tooth’ or multilayered. Women in Europe go for the understated, natural look, with nothing too obvious, even as they choose breast implants and liposuction. Cosmetic procedures popular in a nation or continent can be a reflection of society and its values, at least to some degree. And when times are tough and purse strings have to be drawn tighter, priorities change.

It is all about taste…

Cosmetic surgery and what we’d do to change our bodies and faces says a lot about taste. And says a lot about how much or how little we want to fit in with or stand out from the crowd. However individualistic we are, we still live in society, and societal expectations have a role in shaping our thinking and behavior. Our ideals of beauty are filtered through the same societal worldview that we inherit or inhabit.

Think about it for a moment. What body shape do you think is beautiful? What sort of hair and face? Where did these preferences come from? You weren’t born with them. You must have developed them afterwards, absorbing ideas of beauty from what you see, read, hear and experience both in person and through media or fiction. Our worldviews are a product of our culture and our times. Despite the globe becoming a village, despite the amount of time we spend in cyberspace, we are mostly anchored to where we are. And what is valued depends on where exactly we happen to live.

Which procedures are most common in which country?

The USA is the cosmetic procedure capital of the world and leads in many popular surgical procedures: lipoplasty, breast augmentation, eyelid surgery and tummy tucks. According to statistics from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, the US accounted for approximately one in five cosmetic procedures performed around the world in 2011,

The next contenders for the most procedures come nowhere close, with Brazil at 9.8 percent and China at 7.1 percent of total global cosmetic surgical procedures. In number terms that’s 3 million plus procedures in the US compared to less than half a million in Brazil.

Japan, Mexico and Italy are other countries that make a frequent appearance on the top five nations’ list for most cosmetic surgery procedures.

One noted exception to this rule is rhinoplasty. Noses seem to matter more for people in China, Japan, and Brazil than in the US.  South Korea, the country with the largest number of cosmetic procedures per person in 2011, follows the US to take the top fifth slot in nose surgery.

Butts still matter to South Americans, but not, it seems, as much as they used to. The top five cosmetic surgeries in Brazil are lipoplasty, breast augmentation, tummy tucks, eyelid surgery and breast reduction for women. While butt augmentation has the highest demand in South America, with Brazil leading the way and Colombia in second place, even in these meccas of cosmetic surgery the demand for impossibly perfect proportions is giving way to more natural looks. China, Japan and Mexico complete the top five list for butt augmentation.

The US is far behind the world in numbers for surgical lip augmentation. The global leaders by numbers are Brazil, China, Japan and South Korea. Do not take this as an indication that lips don’t matter in the US. The second most popular non-surgical cosmetic treatment in 2011 was an injectable most commonly used as lip filler. So women in the US are just opting for injectable enhancements instead of surgical augmentation.

Brazilians, Italians, Chinese, Japanese and the French seem to be more conscious about their ears than Americans. Perhaps Americans have become reconciled to having their ears stick out, just as their President, Barack Obama has.

Brazilian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian and South Korean women appear to be very conscious about their lady parts too, because they lead the world in demand for surgical vaginal rejuvenation.

South Korea on top

South Korea tops the world in the number of cosmetic procedures per 1000 persons. Others who came close to beating South Korea’s record of nearly 13 plus procedures per 1,000 persons included Greece, with its 12 plus procedures and Italy, with 11 plus procedures, each per 1,000 in the population. Despite having cosmetic surgery capital status, in the U.S. there are fewer than 10 cosmetic procedures performed for each 1000 persons.

Asia leads the world

The ISAPS 2011 survey found that Asia was home to more plastic surgeons than North America, South America or Europe. This may only reflect the fact that Asia is the most populous continent on earth. Asian plastic surgeons made up approximately 26.3 percent of all plastic surgeons in the world, while North America was home to 25.2 percent of the world’s plastic surgeons. Europe and South America were next in line with 23.3 percent and 22.5 percent of global plastic surgeons. In contrast, plastic surgeons in Africa and Oceania represented a mere 1.9 percent and 0.9 percent of global plastic surgeon totals.

Asian surgeons reported performing a total of 4,336,866 procedures in 2011 compared to 4,188,171 performed by North American surgeons and 3,544,572 by European surgeons. South American surgeons performed 2,271,302 the same year. Compare that to the African continent, which only saw 238,964 procedures and Oceania with 127,952 procedures. You must remember that procedures performed in Australia accounted for over 85 percent of the latter figure.

What do we Aussies want?

of the global number. They performed 108,124 cosmetic procedures in 2011, of which 40,427 were surgical and 67,698 were non-surgical. In terms of procedure totals, Australia was ranked 23rd on the global list.

Here’s what Aussies had done through plastic surgeons in 2011:


Cosmetic Surgical Procedures


1. Breast augmentation


2. Blepharoplasty


3. Lipoplasty


4. Rhinoplasty


5. Abdominoplsty


6. Breast reduction (women)


7. Breast lift


8. Facelift


9. Forehead lift


10. Gynecomastia, treatment of (male breast reduction)


11. Lip augmentation (other than injectable materials)


12. Otoplasty (ear surgery)


13. Upper arm lift


14. Thigh lift


15. Vaginal rejuvenation


Less than 400 procedures each in chin augmentation (324), buttock lift (57) and buttock augmentation (18). Again, when reading these figures, don’t forget what we said before: these figures only include procedures by plastic surgeons, not cosmetic surgeons. You might imagine the figures if cosmetic surgeons were included in this list.

Most popular non-surgical treatments in Australia

Of the nearly 68,000 non-surgical procedures performed by plastic surgeons in Australia, approximately 59 percent were injectable treatments. Of that, nearly 60 percent were anti-ageing injections.

There were 11,469 facial rejuvenation procedures reported for 2011. The top three choices among Australians were IPL laser treatments, chemical peels and laser skin resurfacing treatments. Other facial rejuvenation treatments included dermabrasion and microdermabrasion.

Over 15,000 Aussies had laser hair removal treatments in 2011, making it the second most popular non-surgical treatment, behind anti-wrinkle injections. Just 360 underwent sclerotherapy for varicose veins and other issues.

What will 2012 and 2013 statistics look like? It’s just a matter of time before we find out.

Pin It on Pinterest