Many women consider undergoing various procedures to restore or improve the appearance of their face and body. Although many factors weigh into these decisions, many potential patients worry what friends and family will think, especially their husbands or significant others.
The notion of a woman being influenced by a man’s opinion — particularly when it comes to altering her appearance — may seem outdated, sexist, or irrelevant but the importance of patient “support” should not be overlooked by clinicians as it encompasses emotional, physical, and financial aspects of care.
A survey of 1000 men conducted by Southern California’s Advanced Institute for Plastic Surgery (AIPS) showed that more than 80% of respondents would be either somewhat or fully supportive of their female partner undergoing cosmetic procedures after having children. More than 57% said they would even pay for most or all the cost of procedures and almost 30% said they would contribute half the cost of procedures.
With nearly 80% of the men reporting that they would feel happy for their partner if she pursued cosmetic procedures, clinicians should be attuned to the support a potential patient is receiving and address the concerns of those who surround them. What the survey revealed to the doctors was that most men simply want their significant other to feel good about themselves — aesthetic procedures or not.
We spoke with Esther Yoonah Kim, MD and her colleague, Andy Wongworawat, MD, about these survey findings and what they experience in their own practice.
1. What inspired you to conduct a study on this topic? Was it something you saw or didn’t see in your own practice?
We conducted this study because we wanted to get solid data on men’s perceptions towards plastic surgery. During our interactions with patients, we spend a lot of time sorting through their motivations, hopes, and expectations. Most of the time, there is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm as our patients embark on this journey. But we also sometimes unearth fears and anxieties such as: “how would I heal,” “what would my scars look like,” and “is surgery safe?” We also hear worries about how their significant other would perceive this transition and whether they would be supportive. Well, there’s no better way than to ask the men directly. That’s why we commissioned this study.
2. How many women proceed with procedures despite not having their significant other’s support?
This would be a minority of cases. We find that couples who we’ve encountered are quite supportive of one another. If a woman first talks about wanting surgery, and their significant other is not supportive, usually over time, they come to understand the reasons for the woman wanting surgery. By the time the woman comes in for a consultation, the couple is usually already on the same page. Of course, occasionally the significant other voices their reservations for the first time during the consultation process. In this case, the couple usually pauses to sort things out before proceeding. We love seeing this! It’s very caring and respectful of both parties.
3. How often do women come to your practice seeking procedures that they don’t plan on telling their family and friends about?
Their significant other is almost always part of their decision. That’s not surprising as there are many aspects involved such as financial, recovery support, and well, you can’t hide this forever. However, it is common for women not to tell their extended family or friends.
4. Is there a typical procedure that women are more inclined to be discreet about, and not want their family and friends to be aware of?
If there’s anything that women are most discreet about, it would be face lifts and other facial work. It’s quite interesting that women are quite open to breast and body surgery but are more hush-hush when it comes to facial surgery. We theorize that this hesitancy is due to fear of judgement, being labeled as “vain,” as well as worry about negative responses from others.
5. How are you defining “support” in this context — emotional, physical/caretaking, financial?
Often, it’s a combination of all of the above. The most important is the emotional component. The relationship between the woman and their significant other is very important to the woman so they clearly would like to have the man support their decision. Sometimes, they do need physical caretaking after the surgery but that can also be done, at times, by a friend or older child. As far as financial support, that is dependent on each individual case. But, in a marriage, it usually requires both the husband and wife to agree to that expense.
6. Do you sense that it’s truly that men want their wives/girlfriends to feel good about themselves via procedures, or is their enhanced physical appearance also a reflection on the men?
This depends on the type of surgery. For example, when it comes to breast augmentation, men are often supportive of the decision. But in the case of a tummy tuck, they often don’t understand how much having the abdominal excess skin affects the woman’s self-esteem, including during intimacy. But to be clear, it isn’t that the man is unsupportive — but that some men don’t understand why the wife/girlfriend needs a flatter tummy to feel better. Other times, men think just doing sit-ups or eating better will somehow undo the effects of pregnancy. Once that conversation is broached and the men are educated, this usually isn’t a problem.
7. Do you see the same kind of reservations or reactions from women if their husband/boyfriends seek out plastic surgery? How is it similar or different?
This question brings out a lot of delight in our office. More often than not, women are the ones suggesting that their men seek plastic surgery. We get questions all the time: “can you talk to him, please?” They tell us that their man won’t go to the gym, the beach, or hang out with friends because of his insecurities. The next thing you know, he’s in our office.
8. Can you please comment on community support for nonsurgical cosmetic procedures?
While there were stigmas in the past for even nonsurgical cosmetic procedures such as Botox and fillers, we’re way past that. It’s now almost seen as “no big deal” since so many people do it. In fact, it’s become so commonplace that people think of it like getting their hair done and forget that it’s still a medical procedure and they’d want to seek out qualified providers who are especially trained in such treatments.
9. Do you have any actionable advice for clinicians about how to speak to hesitant partners and ease any of their concerns or misconceptions?
- Set aside some time to have a conversation about it with your partner. Try to avoid casually bringing the topic up at the dinner table and rather, make time to discuss your thoughts, feelings and why you want to undergo plastic surgery.
- When talking about plastic surgery with a hesitant partner, try to use a lot of “I” statements to focus the conversation on your own wants and needs. For example, “I’ve been feeling insecure about myself,” “this is something I want to do to boost my confidence,” or “I’ve been considering this.” Avoid using “You” statements that are pointed at your partner and attempt to highlight what you want and why this could be beneficial.
- Lastly, understand that your partner loves you, wants to know how you feel and make you happy. If you express why this is something you truly want, they will be supportive of your decision.
Men & Mommy Makeover Survey. Advanced Institue for Plastic Surgery. https://www.aiplasticsurgery.com/learn/men-and-mommy-makeover-survey/ Accessed May 9, 2022.