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Our Strange Cosmetic Lives

published on May 1, 2013 in Design

It’s a fact: human beings have imperfections. But that doesn’t mean they have to like them; not when covering, contouring, injecting, surgically removing, surgically enhancing, chemically peeling, laser shooting, and medication can make those imperfections disappear. And it’s all thanks to science. Along with its many essential, life-giving technologies, science has also brought a seemingly endless supply of strange, expensive, painful, and sometimes dangerous tools and techniques for fighting that omnipresent enemy of the face and physique: time. In this case, science isn’t driven by the pure motivation of discovery. It’s heavily funded by a culture that values very specific types of beauty. Few people are born who meet this standard naturally. So, vast numbers feel like they have to pony up to measure up. Beauty is big business.

Celebrity role models with their endless coffers and daily close-ups lead the pack, but cosmetic procedures are popular among every demographic group. Here is a look at the hard data on our strange cosmetic lives.

Beauty’s Benefits

Before leaping into the nitty gritty of the beauty industry, it’s important to understand why being beautiful seems so important. It runs much deeper than simple frivolous vanity. It’s more than feeling pressure to live up to media standards or cultural expectations. It turns out being beautiful really does make life better. It leads to higher earning power, finding more attractive mates, and a generally happier and healthier life.

The Business of Body Enhancement

How much are people really spending on body enhancing procedures anyway? How many are performed each year? The infographic below answers these questions in rather shocking detail. For example, Viagra is a $1.9 billion dollar industry, despite the many side effects of the drug. And over 10 million women in the world have breast implants. That’s practically an ocean of saline!

Cosmetic Surgery Facts from Figures and The State of Plastic Surgery

There are lots of weird beauty treatments out there: pedicures with fish that eat off dead tissue, chemical peels that burn off layers of skin, placenta facials made with real human placenta, snake venom injections that smooth wrinkles, bull semen hair treatments… the list goes on and on. But cosmetic surgery is the most extreme of them all. We’re talking about general (potentially life-threatening) anesthesia, scalpels, the removal of body parts, and the breaking of bones. And yet, cosmetic surgery is incredibly popular, especially in the United States, where more than 3 million procedures are performed annually. And the U.K. is following close behind, with its number of cosmetic surgeries performed each year growing strong. These two infographics explore cosmetic surgery culture in the U.S. and across the pond.

Celebrity Plastic Surgery Secrets

While plastic surgery is strikingly popular in general, celebrities are what most people think of when they think of facelifts, tummy tucks, and butt implants – because celebrities are known for their weird and obsessive surgical lives. From Michael Jackson’s dozens of facial surgeries (removals, augmentations, and reconstructions) to the strange puffy lips and pointed cheeks of Joan Rivers, Meg Ryan and Lara Flynn Boyle, the tell-tale look of a face stretched to its limit is synonymous with show business. But just how far down the rabbit hole celebrities have gone isn’t always public knowledge. They aren’t exactly shouting their surgical histories from the rooftops.

Plastic surgery experts were consulted for this infographic, sharing their professional opinions on the surgically altered faces and bodies of Hollywood’s most notorious knife-lovers.

Celebrity Body Insurance

If you’re going to invest thousands (or, in some cases, millions) in cosmetic procedures, you’d better protect your investment. Celebrities of all sorts purchase body insurance just in case those moneymaking lips, noses, legs, teeth, and breasts take a turn for the worse. In fact, body insurance isn’t a new trend in Hollywood. Stars like Betty Grable and Bette Davis were insuring their assets, even though they only appeared in black and white.

Is HGH an Anti Aging miracle?

Of course, surgery is just one of the many cosmetic treatments available on the market and, as scientists learn more about the aging process, it may begin to play second fiddle to medication and hormone-based therapies. In America, the quick miracle cure always gets top billing. Why diet and exercise when you can take a pill? Why use expensive and time-consuming facial treatments every day or have painful surgery when you can fix your wrinkles with a quick injection of human growth hormone?

HGH is the latest medical miracle cure-all to hit the market and it’s a perfect example of the risks people will take for their looks. The infographic below paints a one-sided picture of HGH’s many health and beauty benefits. And while it may very well make a significant difference in the way you look, there’s a major potential downside. HGH can cause nerve, muscle, and joint pain; swelling; carpal tunnel syndrome; and high cholesterol. It can raise the risk of diabetes and contribute to the growth of cancerous tumors. But who cares, if it makes you beautiful?

Anni Murray is a writer, editor, multimedia artist, amateur mycologist, and biology student. She is currently working on Prism, a speculative science fiction story cycle. All opinions expressed in this article are her own. Follow her on Twitter.