Almost seven million Australians, or 38% of the adult population, are considering undergoing cosmetic surgery in the next 10 years, according to surprising new research.

And almost half are doing so to ‘feel better about themselves’ – pointing to a desire by Australians of all ages to take control of their looks and image in the digital age.

The Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery and Medicine research, the first of its kind in Australia, finds that patients are happy with their surgical results (88%), with 41% “highly satisfied”.

Cosmetic surgery in Australia is booming. More than $1 billion is spent every year on more than 500,000 procedures, making it more popular per capita than the United States.

The ACCSM research examines the ten most popular cosmetic surgical procedures:

  • rhinoplasty (nose surgery)
  • breast augmentation
  • blepharoplasty (eyelift)
  • rhytidectomy (facelift)
  • lipoplasty (liposuction)
  • abdominoplasty (“tummy tuck”)
  • platysmaplasty (neck and chin surgery)
  • brachioplasty (arm lift surgery)
  • gluteal lift (“Brazilian butt lift”)
  • genital surgery (labiaplasty or phalloplasty)

The research reveals differences between age, state, and gender.

“Millennials aged between 23 and 42 are undergoing cosmetic surgery at a greater rate than any other generation,” ACCSM President Dr Anoop Rastogi says.

“This suggests the ‘pressure for perfection’ created by social media could be contributing to an idealistic version of what we should look like, even if patients are happy with their surgical results.

“The College advocates for awareness and caution among practitioners, to guide and advise their patients towards good decision-making.”

From July 1, new safeguards will take effect in Australia to protect cosmetic surgery patients.

The Australian Medical Board’s new standards will allow patients to see which practitioners have AMC accreditation in cosmetic surgery.

Internationally cosmetic surgery is on the rise.

In the United States, patients report they want to look younger and improve how they feel about their appearance, with almost half (47%) of surgeons seeing a rise in demand.

Lipoplasty (liposuction), rhytidectomy (facelift), breast augmentation, and abdominoplasty (“tummy tuck”) are the most popular surgeries in the U.S., in contrast to Australia where rhinoplasty (nose job), breast augmentation, and blepharoplasty (eyelifts) are the most common. In the U.S., trends include patients seeking combination procedures (undergoing more than one procedure during surgery).

Key Findings

Generational differences

  • Millennials want to undergo cosmetic surgery more than any other age group. One in four Aussies aged 23-42 have had cosmetic surgery (22%) in the past. This rises to 59% of Millennials considering it in the next decade, compared to 45% of Gen Xers (aged 43-58) and 28% of Boomers (aged 59-77).
  • Millennials are also the most willing to travel overseas to undergo surgery (34%) – and more than half (53%) of the Millennials getting cosmetic surgery do so to feel better about themselves.
  • Millennials are also the most likely generation to lie about it, with 11% confessing they “sometimes” lie about cosmetic work they have had done.
  • Gen X, aged between 43 and 58, want to look younger, with a greater proportion of them opting for a facelift than any other generation (25%). This suggests that insecurity about looks is a hallmark of entering middle age.
  • Baby boomers, aged between 59 and 77, are the happiest about their cosmetic outcomes, with half (50%) “highly satisfied” with their surgery.

Women vs. men

  • Men overwhelmingly undergo surgery on their faces, suggesting they are sensitive about their looks, but less so about their physiques. The most popular procedures are facelifts (36%), eyelifts (24%), and rhinoplasty (29%).
  • In contrast, women want to improve their bodies, with the most popular procedures being breast enlargement or reduction (31%), tummy tucks (10%) and liposuction (14%).
  • More women are happier with their new bodies (88%) than men are with their faces (85%).

State-by-state comparison

  • 19% of Western Australian respondents have had cosmetic surgery in the past at least once, compared with 17% in NSW, 16% in Queensland, 15% in Victoria and 9% in Tasmania.
  • But over the next decade the picture changes, with 47% of ACT respondents considering cosmetic surgical improvement, followed by Tasmanians (43%), Queenslanders (40%), Western Australians (39%), South Australians (38%), Victorians and NSW residents tied on 37% and Northern Territorians at 33%.
  • Victorians and Western Australians are the most definitive about their intentions to get cosmetic surgery in the next decade, with 19% answering “yes” to the question, the highest percentages in the country.
  • New South Wales is the most bashful state – with the highest proportion of cosmetic surgery patients confessing to “sometimes” lying about the work they have had done.
  • Queensland is the recovery stats with more than half (51%) undergoing cosmetic surgery to ‘correct’ their appearance. Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, suggesting they are focused on repairing chronic sun damage.
  • Queenslanders trust a medical recommendation when it comes to selecting a cosmetic surgeon (47%) – but South Australians look up reviews from former patients (38%).
  • South Australians are not keen to head overseas for cosmetic surgery – the highest “no” in the country (82%)South Australians rank patient understanding of the procedure the most important part of undergoing surgery higher than any other region (14%).
  • ACT residents have been the most reluctant cosmetic surgical patients to0date, with only 6% having undergone a procedure, but this rises rapidly to 47% considering surgery in the next 10 years and represents an enormous shift in ACT thinking.

How do Australians choose a cosmetic surgeon?

  • Australians exercise responsibility when looking for a cosmetic surgeon, largely making the decision based on advice – whether it be a recommendation from a medical professional (37%), from word-of-mouth (28%), or from reviews from former patients (20%)
  • Boomers (59-77) place the highest value in patient reviews (41%), but they are also far more likely to factor in availability (17%) of the surgeon

Dr Rastogi said Australians should make wise decisions when choosing a cosmetic surgeon, avoiding cheap overseas options, and making sure their surgeon of choice in Australia is qualified.

The new AMC accreditation standards will take effect on July 1.