Plastic and cosmetic surgery can have benefits and drawbacks. Plastic surgery addresses areas of dysfunction or irregularity, such as congenital disabilities or trauma. Cosmetic surgery enhances appearance for aesthetic reasons.

Plastic surgeons carry out plastic surgery, while surgeons or other physicians, such as dermatologists, may also carry out cosmetic surgery.

People may need to consider whether the potential risks of plastic or cosmetic surgery outweigh the benefits, as well as how the surgery may affect their physical and mental health.

This article looks at why people may undergo plastic or cosmetic surgery, the pros and cons, and how to seek help for concerns such as body dysmorphia.

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Plastic and cosmetic surgery are neither good nor bad. Both types of surgery have pros and cons.

For example, they can benefit people medically or psychologically and help improve a person’s confidence and self-esteem.

However, they also come with physical risks and may have a negative effect on mental health if people are not happy with the results or have untreated mental health conditions.

The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery notes that plastic surgery aims to treat areas of the body that are not functioning as they should or to enhance appearance.

For example, a person may wish to undergo plastic surgery to help treat severe burns or congenital disabilities or to reconstruct the breast after a mastectomy.

Cosmetic surgery focuses on enhancing appearance for aesthetic reasons rather than medical ones. People may have cosmetic surgery to change the appearance of the face or body, such as a nose surgery or a face-lift.

Cosmetic surgery is elective, meaning that a person chooses to undergo the procedure rather than doing so at the recommendation of a healthcare professional.

The following sections outline the benefits of plastic and cosmetic surgery.

Improved body confidence and mental health

Plastic and cosmetic surgery can help people align their bodies with the way they want to look.

For example, a 2022 study suggests that cosmetic surgery can help improve body confidence, self-esteem, and symptoms of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Increasing body confidence may help improve emotional and social health and overall quality of life.

Improved function

Plastic surgery focuses on improving function and correcting areas of irregularity or dysfunction, which may help enhance a person’s quality of life.

Gender affirmation

In people who seek gender affirming plastic surgery, these procedures may help reduce gender dysphoria and improve overall well-being and mental health.

The following are potential drawbacks to cosmetic and plastic surgery.

Unrealistic expectations

People may have unrealistic expectations for the results of cosmetic or plastic surgery.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) states that a surgical procedure may be able to fix a specific issue, but it cannot make a person look like someone else or reach the level of perfection people may be seeking.

Unregulated practitioners

It is usually up to an individual to find a suitable cosmetic surgeon, and it is not always clear whether a doctor has the necessary training and skill set to perform certain procedures.


Plastic surgery can be expensive, and health insurance may not cover cosmetic surgery without proven medical reasons.

However, health insurance may cover reconstructive plastic surgery, depending on the procedure.

Body dysmorphia

If people have an underlying mental health condition, such as body dysmorphia, physical changes may not change the way they see themselves.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition that causes excessive anxiety related to how a person views and thinks about their appearance.

The ASPS advises that people should be in a clear state of mind before they undergo any surgery that could permanently change their body.

Even if the results of a procedure meet the person’s expectations, they may still not be happy with their appearance after surgery and may look to have repeat procedures.

According to a 2018 article published in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, performing cosmetic surgery on people with BDD involves legal, safety, and ethical considerations.

The article authors state that surgeons need to use a refined decision-making process when determining whether to perform cosmetic surgery on this population.

This decision may be based on:

  • the severity of BDD
  • the person’s level of functioning
  • the involvement of mental health professionals

Recovery and downtime

Major procedures will require recovery and downtime. People may need to take time off from work and may need assistance from others with everyday tasks.

Like any other surgery, cosmetic and plastic surgery have risks and possible complications that may negatively affect a person’s health.

All types of surgical procedures, including reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, have risks. Potential risks include:

  • infection
  • anesthetic complications
  • fluid buildup around incisions
  • delayed healing of incisions
  • blood clots
  • excessive bruising or bleeding
  • numbness, which may be temporary
  • dissatisfaction with the outcome
  • non-permanent results
  • significant scarring

Seeking help for body dysmorphia

People who believe they may have BDD can find support by speaking with a healthcare professional or consulting online resources such as the following:

Plastic and cosmetic surgery are neither good nor bad. Both types of surgery have benefits and drawbacks.

For example, plastic or cosmetic surgery may help improve a person’s confidence and mental well-being. However, surgery can also come with risks, and people may not be satisfied with the results.

Before undergoing cosmetic or plastic surgery, people should take some time to consider the risks and benefits of the procedures.

If a person is considering surgery, it is advisable that they speak with a healthcare professional, look for surgeons with extensive experience and training, and have realistic expectations of the results.

If someone thinks they may have BDD or another mental health condition, it is important that they address this condition before undergoing cosmetic surgery.