Editor’s note: This story has a sidebar headlined “Bottoms up: new trends in cosmetic surgery are focused on the lower body”
Perfection — at least in the physical sense — isn’t something many Utahns are willing to leave to chance. Salt Lake City had more plastic surgeons in 2015 than any major city besides Miami, according to RealSelf.
If national estimates are correct, the number of Americans seeking to reshape their bodies through surgical procedures will continue to rise.
The global cosmetic surgery market is expected to grow to $12 billion from 2015 to 2022, according to Grand View Research, Inc. The trend could benefit surgeons in the U.S. — the worldwide leader in cosmetic surgery — the most. U.S. physicians performed 18.6 percent of the world’s plastic surgeries in 2015, based on the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery International Survey on Aesthetic/Cosmetic statistics.
Americans had more than 17 million cosmetic surgical and noninvasive procedures in 2016 — a 3 percent increase from 2015 and a 132 percent increase from 2000 — according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Salt Lake City not only had the most practicing plastic surgeons per capita in 2007; it was also ranked America’s most vain city by Forbes. The city has carried that stigma ever since, and billboards advertising cosmetic procedures along I-15 add to the state’s national reputation.
In 2015, Salt Lake City was second to Miami for the most surgeons per capita at 3.12 and 3.9 respectively, according to RealSelf. Although Utah no longer leads the country for plastic surgeons per 100,000 people, fierce competition drives down prices for plastic surgery procedures in the Beehive State.
According to an article by Salt Lake City plastic surgeon York Jay Yates, tummy tucks cost $5,000 to $7,000 in Utah compared to $8,000 to $15,000 in places like California. Additionally, breast augmentation costs about $4,000 in Utah, compared to $6,000 to $10,000 in many other states.
In an article about Utah’s reputation for plastic surgeries, Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess concluded, “just because a city becomes a medical mecca for something doesn’t mean that it’s always local residents who are taking advantage of it.”
Surgeons per capita, lower cost of living and the convenience of the international airport for out-of-state patients are all factors that entice people to travel to Utah for cosmetic procedures. About 20 percent of the people Yates sees are from out of state, and out-of-state patients and “mommy makeovers” make up his largest group of patients, he said.
The “mom” demographic is also the largest group plastic surgeon Dr. Mark Jensen sees.
“Young moms who are done having children want to have their bodies back,” Jensen said. “They still feel young and vibrant and want their bodies to feel that way, too.”
Jensen believes this is his largest demographic of patients because Utah has a lot of women who get married and have children at a young age.
“(Childbearing) changes their self-image and the way their body functions,” Jensen said.
The second largest demographic for Jensen is divorced or widowed women who are seeking out a new relationship but feel insecure about their bodies.
Jensen said his patients are more forthcoming about surgery to friends and family. As people are more transparent about seeking plastic surgery, it will continue to become de-stigmatized, he said.
Before social media, people would need to come into the office and meet for a consultation to know what the facility had to offer, said Dr. P. Daniel Ward, a facial plastic surgeon and owner of Form Medical Spa. He also is an adjunct associate professor of facial plastic surgery at the University of Utah.
Jensen said plastic surgery can be both cosmetic and reconstructive to improve both appearance and function. It is commonly performed due to birth defects, disease and other types of trauma.
“These are normal people; many of them are scarred by accidents, cancer, congenital deformities and things like that,” Dr. Jensen said. “The only thing they really see is the scar.”
Dr. Jensen said he likes knowing that he can restore rather than remove the problem for his patients.