About Plastic Surgery and Body Image

I, Ronnie Pettersson, have since 1989 worked with aesthetical plastic surgery by starting plastic surgery clinics in Norway and Sweden. My story began when I underwent plastic surgery (hair transplant) in order to improve my appearance. I spent a long time looking for alternative treatments, visited many clinics and consulted with several specialists to get advice and guidance.

The goal of Art Clinic, which I launched in 1999, is to run high quality healthcare and provide you, the patient, a holistic concept. We depart from you and focus on the entirety, meaning we give you information before, during and after surgical procedures. Furthermore we have produced material and information surrounding aftercare and convalescence, everything you need to prepare for possible surgery.

Many women who come to us for plastic surgery have given birth to around one to three children. The pregnancy has often left them with sagging excess skin on their stomach and/or the breasts have become ”empty” after breast feeding. Patients that come to us wishing to improve their appearance do so for their own well-being. It is often thought that one undergoes aesthetical plastic surgery only to pleasure ones partner or another, but this is wrong. That beauty lies within is a well known notion. However, we consider a combination of both external and internal qualities provide a more real notion of beauty.

Many of my friends, acquaintances and people I meet in different situations ask me why people undergo surgery to alter their appearance. Many think it is only younger people in their 20’s, influenced by media that want larger lips and/or breasts. But the average patient age is considerably higher, it is 30+.
Often the patients that come to us, have considered the procedure for a longer period. Most patients that undergo surgery are women, but today we see an increased interest in men also.

Therefore, most of our patients are not teenagers but instead middle aged men and women – women due to pregnancy, age etc that have experienced a change in appearance and therefore wish to turn back the clock a couple of years. It is like our medical founder, Dr Lennart Bartholdcon, specialist in plastic surgery and with more than 35 years experience of aesthetical surgery, says ”we at Art Clinic work with normalising surgery”. With this he means that most of those who come to us wish to undergo a procedure that will improve their appearance with a natural and nice result.

Often the patients wish is that no one shall notice that he/she has undergone surgery. For instance, women wishing to reconstruct their breasts – the breasts are then dimensioned around the woman’s height and weight. Heavy eyelids are corrected so that the patient no longer looks tired and then ones sight is also corrected (because the skin no longer hangs low one can see better). Of course younger women also come to us to enlarge their breasts. But even this patient group has thought long and hard about the procedure. Many of the patients have an A-cup bra size and wish to have B- or perhaps C-cup if this is proportionate to the patients’ height and weight. Most patients though, are looking for that”little extra” or ”the icing on the cake”, as we like to say.

Living conditions have changed dramatically during the past hundred years and it has taken hundreds of thousands of years to physically develop our body. What was once desirable, for instance broad hips and extra fat, is today seen more negatively. Can one ask where this body image is going? How much is our bodily perception influenced by what we see in magazines and on TV? There is even evidence that identifies how more beautiful inmates are released earlier than their less beautiful companions with the same criminal record!

The ideal body varies around the world, in Asia it is popular to undergo nose surgery to get a more western nose, whereas in South America a larger bottom is more popular and breasts can be smaller. European women usually wait with plastic surgery until they have given birth to their children, and then it is usually the stomach which is treated. In the USA plastic surgery is often seen as a measure of success, one doesn’t hide the fact that the bulging C-cup is the result of surgery. In France the chest is often supposed to be small and firm. One can only wonder what the ideal will be in 100 years..?

It is worth considering that we spend 24 hours a day in our body and how much money we spend on things we eventually discard. There are many ways to feel good – being comfortable in one’s body can be one way. It occurs that patients say they no longer recognise their mirror image. They mean that their mirror image no longer matches how they feel inside. Most often the body ages sooner than the soul.

When did the field of plastic surgery begin? One can safely say that plastic surgery was born in India. Plastic surgical methods where first applied in Europe by the Italian Gaspara Tagliacozzi (1545-1599). Therefore one can say that plastic surgery is no modernity, but has existed for many years. The interest in plastic surgery increased greatly during the 1960-1990’s.

Many think that all surgeons perform procedures in the same way. But a plastic surgeon is somewhat of an artist that sculpts living material. Just like artists produce different paintings, plastic surgeons do the same – they don’t perform all the surgeries with the same techniques. The medias interest in the notion of beauty and its meaning is escalating, no matter what newspaper one reads. Today one can hardly open a paper without reading about something surrounding plastic surgery. This is often because the topic, just like dieting and sex, attracts readers and buyers.

I feel that the media most often portrays a wrongful image of those that have undergone aesthetical procedures – there is a tendency to show large – or very large breasts, lips etc. This often results in an incorrect image of those who undergo appearance altering surgery. When we read about celebrities extreme surgeries we can think that these are most often done as a way to get back into the limelight. In many countries plastic surgery is undergone in order to appear different, whereas in Sweden we use it in order to merge with the environment.

Statistics. In Norway approx. 8 000 cosmetic surgeries are performed each year. The number increases on average with 5% per year. The number of cosmetic surgeries performed in Sweden is not absolute, but approximately 25 000 surgeries per year are performed. It is estimated that the plastic surgery industry has a turnover of 600 million Swedish Crowns per year.

Sifo presented a study in April 2004 which stated that every forth Swedish woman under 30 would consider undergoing appearance improving surgery. The number of equivalent surgeries in the USA is around seven million per year! The most common surgeries are breast surgery (augmentation, lift and reduction), liposuction, tummy tuck, eyelid surgery and nose surgery.

In the USA, women stand for 88% of the turnover, around 46% are aged 35-50. Astonishingly enough, as many as 23% belong to a younger patient group who are between 19-34. In Scandinavia however the largest group is 30+. The most common plastic surgery procedures that men undergo are: liposuction, eyelid surgery, nose surgery and hair transplant. In Scandinavia roughly 5-8% of cosmetic surgery is performed on men, but the figure increases each year.

Art Clinic is one of a few clinics in Scandinavia which has built a network of plastic surgeons. The clinic offers young specialists internal training with us within cosmetic plastic surgery. They have the opportunity to work alongside a mentor before they can operate independently. The aim is for you the patient to always have the best possible treatment and safety.

I have during my years working with cosmetic plastic surgery come to the conclusion that most of those who wish to undergo an appearance improving operation, wish to correct a small defect which has during the years appeared more apparent in the mirror. Also most undergo procedures for their own sake and not for others. They are pleased if people notice something is different, but are most content is people can’t figure out what it is. If you have recently got divorced, are sad or depressed plastic surgery is not the answer to moving on. If the goal is to be a happier person then cosmetic surgery is not the right method either. However, an increased self-esteem is often a lucky side effect. We are all different, and like I said earlier, I think it is important to find a balance in life. I suggest a combination of external and internal characteristics provides a true notion of beauty.

One can note that the demand for serious specialists increases every year and with this also the amount of procedures. All our specialists at Art Clinic have long documented experience and we will gladly assist you with advice and guidance both before and after surgery. I hope you find our homepage informative and interesting. If you have any viewpoints or suggestions for improvement please contact me at email: ronnie@artclinic.com

Kind regards,
Ronnie Pettersson.
CEO for Art Clinic Sverige AB