Plastic Surgery Trends for Millennials: What Do They Want?

Dr. Sacha Obaid, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Serving Dallas, Plano, Southlake, and Nearby Fort Worth, Texas


By Sacha Obaid

People in every age group are different than those who came before them. Millennials are no exception, but this new generation—born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s—differs in some surprising ways, and Millennial plastic surgery trends are always a point of interest.

For one thing, Millennials are more open to having plastic surgery and are having procedures sooner than people of older generations typically have.

What kinds of people choose plastic surgery?

The average plastic surgery patient is a woman over the age of 40, but these days, women are starting to have procedures at a younger age. Men, too, are opting to enhance their appearances more often than in the past.

A report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons® states that women aged 40 to 54 years have more plastic surgery than people in other age groups, but the number of people aged 20 to 39 who are having treatments is slowly rising. In 2015 alone, 64% of plastic surgeons saw an increase in the number of patients under the age of 30.

In all age brackets, quick treatments like BOTOX® have become common. While Millennials haven’t caught up to the over 40s when it comes to sheer numbers of people having plastic surgery, the older Millennial age group—those in their early 30s—are having more surgery than they did in previous years.

What do people want from plastic surgery?

The reasons that people have plastic surgery are very personal. Appearances are one part of the story but not the whole tale. Often, it’s more about confidence and self-esteem. This is true for people in all age groups, but Millennials are having plastic surgery at fairly young ages, and their reasons for doing so may not be the same as for older people.

For people over the age of 40, having plastic surgery often means altering or reversing common signs of aging such as sagging skin and wrinkles that knock their self-esteem.

For Millennials, it can be a different story. For example, one 24-year-old woman said,

“…the reason I get the Botox is because down the road I don’t want to be like, ‘Oh, my goodness, I have so much I need to do.’”

In other words, many Millennials may choose to alter their appearances to slow down aging as it occurs or before it progresses too far, taking care now to avoid early signs of aging in the future.

What makes Millennials different?

The world that Millennials grew up in is nothing like the world of the generations that came before, so they themselves are different too. As the first people to grow up wholly in the digital age, they value flexibility and independence, they like to get things done quickly, and they have a strong sense of self.
plastic surgery trends

They are well-informed.

One of th e plastic surgery trends that is different between Millennials and older people is that Millennials are more likely to have a clear idea of what they want before they see a surgeon. They know what kind of treatments they want and the results they want to achieve. This frame of mind is thanks, in part, to the World Wide Web and how well Millennials know how to use it. They have easy access to information about procedures like BOTOX, liposuction, breast implants, and more.

There’s another factor, too: Sites such as Facebook and YouTube mean that people are more visible than ever before. YouTube has become a useful place for interested people to research plastic surgery, with many patients discussing their surgeries and recoveries on the site. Young people are also more likely to be heavy users of social media platforms such as Facebook, where the ability to easily share photos and other information means that they have access to a wealth of content. For 72% of Millennials, Facebook is still the most popular social media platform, and there’s even evidence that for some people, social media plays a role in the decision to have plastic surgery.

They make smaller changes.

When the field of plastic surgery was new, many procedures were less advanced than they are now. Facelifts, for example, had less natural-looking results that were more likely to be noticed. Advanced techniques can now produce results that look more natural, and it’s not always easy to tell when someone has had surgery.

Millennials can choose between dramatically different or natural-looking outcomes. Even so, they are more likely to make subtle enhancements rather than major alterations to their faces or bodies. For example, in the 1990s larger breast implants were considered more fashionable, but these days it’s more likely for women to choose smaller, more natural-looking implants.

Another example of plastic surgery trends for young people is to have less invasive surgery. Many Millennial women are putting off having children until later in life to favor careers, travel, and other preferences. This means they have less need for mommy makeovers at younger ages. Instead, these women are more likely to have liposuction or breast implants, making smaller changes that enhance their looks rather than making big changes to dramatically alter their bodies.

They have different cosmetic concerns.

The top five procedures for people aged 20 to 29 are breast implants, rhinoplasty, liposuction, breast lift, and tummy tucks. In the 30 to 39 age group the list is similar but ordered differently: breast augmentation, liposuction, rhinoplasty, tummy tuck, and breast lift. And in the 40 to 49 age group the list differs again, with breast implants, eyelid surgery, liposuction, rhinoplasty, and tummy tucks taking the top five spots.

While the lists are similar in terms of what’s on them, they are reflective of the different concerns for people in each age group. Millennials choose rhinoplasty more often to have a problem nose fixed earlier in life. Older people are more concerned with reversing the changes made by pregnancy, parenthood, and aging.

Millennials are also more focused on health and wellness than older people. They are more likely to focus on having active, healthy lives, and so they may be more likely to view plastic surgery as one part of a healthy lifestyle, rather than something that solely helps them look good.

Millennials are more comfortable having cosmetic work.

Overall, it seems that Millennials don’t view plastic surgery in the same way older generations do. Young people are having plastic surgery procedures earlier in life and are more often concerned with slowing down the signs of aging before they start to show. They often view cosmetic treatments as something they do to take care of themselves. On the other hand, older people are more likely to think of surgery as something that they do to hide or reverse their aging.

Millennials seem to be more comfortable with the idea of cosmetic work, while older people are more likely to avoid talking about their procedures and may see them as taboo. Young people are also less likely to feel uncomfortable about wanting to improve their looks and find it easier to talk about the procedures they have.

Many surgeons point to the rise of celebrity culture as one reason for these changes. The stars themselves are more likely to be open about having work done, and the public picks up on this.

As today’s Millennials move into their 40s and 50s, it may be that treatment rates increase even faster. This open-minded and self-confident group sees nothing wrong in using surgery to enhance their lifestyles and appearances and is more likely to view plastic surgery as another tool for health, beauty, and wellness than as something to be reserved for later in life.