Barbie vs. Star Wars: Part II – Customization and Ethnic Diversity in Plastic Surgery

Park Avenue Plastic Surgery Class

Episode 3

Barbie vs. Star Wars: Part II – Customization and Ethnic Diversity in Plastic Surgery

Once upon a time, in the 1980’s there were 8 cosmetic surgery procedures: facelift, blepharoplasty, rhinoplasty, browlift, liposuction, abdominoplasty, breast lift and breast augmentation.  While there were always a few techniques or variations to each operation, most surgeons used a single technique each and every time with only minimal variation.  This cookie cutter approach has been transformed over the past few decades, bringing us to a wholly different plastic surgery world.

First, there are many more procedures and variations.  The big impetus for this was the desire to do something minimal if that was adequate and save bigger variations of the procedure for later in the aging process or for bigger aesthetic issues.  Also options are often selected based on how much recovery time the patient can afford.  Having many options creates a new task –the need to pick the right procedure for the stage of aging.

The end result is light to heavy treatments in a very gradable fashion.  Not one size fits all.  Little treatments to do early and more extensive procedures for later.  This broad range is a very powerful thing.

The depth of understanding of aesthetic features and aging changes continues to expand.  We are now treating many features of aging that were previously ignored.  Not just lifting skin with a facelift but improving skin itself, and many small aging features not addressed by the facelift.

View of beauty

Historically, plastic surgery in the United States relied on classic Greco-Roman principles of facial harmony and beauty that dated back centuries.  Every human loves youth and beauty but the vision of beauty is different person to person.  The Barbie doll serves as a metaphor for a classic iconic image of beauty –stylized, not real and a universal single image.  Now Barbie dolls are more ethnically diverse in how facial and body features are represented and they look more real like actual human body shapes.

Similarly, plastic surgery has incorporated a broader view of what’s beautiful.  In addition, the patient population seeking plastic surgery has changed.  For the past 20 years there has been so much about plastic surgery in the media.  Whether this is due to a major increase in public interest about plastic surgery or that interest was fueled by this media coverage,  a much broader portion of the public is seeking and obtaining plastic surgery.  That broader participation means a broad range of national origins, ethnicities and views of beauty.

Just as most industries now work on the international stage, plastic surgery teaching and education takes place on a global playing field and considers the differences in appearance and beauty goals of people around the world.  Locally, plastic surgeons have developed techniques to produce much more variation in appearance and apply that based not on their vision of beauty but that of their patients.  This is also done to maintain ethnic diversity or blunt it at the preference of the patient.  The results are natural and varied, not stylized and monolithic.

Rather than assuming the patient’s aesthetic goals , more detailed communication is taking place between patients and plastic surgeons to accurately  identify and target the desired endpoints.  Imaging systems have helped insure that patients and plastic surgeons hold the same picture in their minds.  Media’s increasing representation of varied appearance in just the last few years has also fostered a broader view of beauty. Plastic surgery cannot create an exact appearance or guarantee a result but techniques constantly improve to serve our enhanced understanding of the nuances of beauty.

Why is this change good for patients and plastic surgeons?  Options mean more precision, more scalability than ever before.  Non-invasive treatments have transformed plastic surgery from a more traditional surgical model with a short-term physician patient relationship to a long-term relationship driving anti-aging and beauty care over time.  Patients are in the driver’s seat controlling frequency and amount of services but both the doctor and patient improve at anticipating needs, increasing the precision of results based on mutual learning over time.

Important Takeaways:

  • Not stylized, iconic or monolithic
  • Patient centered focus
  • Greater level of detail in how appearance is modified.
  • Better communication taking place


What plastic surgery question do you want to learn about in the Park Avenue Plastic Surgery Class?  Email us with your questions or topics

More coming soon.  Subscribe to avoid missing any episodes at Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts.