A New Look at Plastic Surgery for African Americans

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Today, more and more people of color are showing interest in enhancing their appearance through surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures. According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the number of procedures performed on certain ethnic groups has increased dramatically in recent years –– up 200 percent for Hispanics, 323 percent for African Americans and 340 percent for Asian Americans. With predictions that by the year 2050 more than 50 percent of the U.S. population will be comprised of people of color, the upward trend is more than likely to continue.

For the African American community in particular, the growing interest in cosmetic surgery represents a newfound social acceptance for what has long been considered cultural taboo. This acceptance is due to a variety of factors, the most obvious of which is an increase in awareness fueled by the Internet, television and other media outlets. Reality television shows, for instance, now feature African Americans undergoing cosmetic surgery with positive results. Mega–star Michael Jackson is no longer the isolated poster child for the pitfalls of plastic surgery. African Americans can now look to their reality TV counterparts and their own peers to witness the benefits of cosmetic therapy.

More importantly, there have been significant changes in the field of cosmetic surgery to meet the growing demand of diverse populations. For instance, there are more African Americans cosmetic surgeons providing expertise and cultural sensitivity. As well, technology has advanced to provide safer options for African Americans undergoing cosmetic procedures. These techniques reduce the risk of scarring and hyperpigmentation. In addition, there are a number of nonsurgical procedures and injectibles that do not require making an incision. Still, even in cases where an incision is necessary, the incisions are much smaller and more hidden.

In the upcoming months, we will look more closely at cosmetic surgery and the African American community.

Monte O. Harris, M.D. is Co–Founder and Director of Plastic Surgery, Cultura Cosmetic Medical Spa, Washington, D.C.

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