This article focuses on the effects of cosmetic surgeries primarily aimed at women. I understand that women get plastic surgery for a variety of reasons. My goal is to provide information so women can make well-informed choices about their body. I also aim to identify the unquestioned beliefs that allow the cosmetic surgery industry to maintain its foothold in our Western culture.
The wrong guest post inquiry
I don’t usually respond to guest post inquiries that are entirely off-base from my goal of empowerment and sustenance. But I couldn’t help myself a few weeks ago, when a plastic surgeon reached out with an offer to write about Botox and cosmetic surgery.
This was my response:
I do not believe the human body should be subjected to toxic ingredients and needless surgery to fit our culture’s impossible and constraining standards of beauty.
The cosmetic surgery industry fights the natural process of aging to such a degree that women’s real bodies are disguised for the sake of anti-aging.
The cosmetic surgery industry participates in our cultural belief that a woman’s face should show no sign of truth, and that her body should appear unmarked by life.
I believe the human body was made to display the full story of life in lines and scars and marks. The body’s purpose is not a statue but a story.
In other words: I am not interested in a guest post.
Why I’m writing about the effects of cosmetic surgery
I want present and future generations to champion women’s natural bodies. I hope that, in the future, cosmetic surgery procedures will no longer be deemed helpful or necessary.
I know the challenge of accepting my body in a culture that tells me it is inherently inadequate. At age 11, I developed a severe case of anorexia. Throughout middle school and high school, I poured my money into beauty products. I spent hours watching beauty videos on Youtube, and then spent countless more hours “practicing” hair and makeup techniques.
In high school, when I felt deeply insecure about my body, I entertained the fantasy of getting various plastic surgery procedures. I thought it was my only option to finally make my body “pretty enough.”
If you have ever been a pre-teen and teenage girl in our culture, you know that my experience is standard, rather than the exception of the rule.
Through a challenging road of healing, which included recovery from anorexia and a severe autoimmune disease, I learned how to love my body for what it is: a unique expression of my own kind of beautiful. My body is a vessel for me to know my soul, and to share my gifts of healing with others.
I believe the effects of cosmetic surgery are physical and psychological, and are often under-publicized and inadequately grasped. As a result, our culture’s obsession with cosmetic surgery can be perceived as a threat to women’s health and mental wellbeing.
The definition of cosmetic surgery
Cosmetic surgery is defined as any medical procedure that alters one’s appearance, temporarily or permanently. Within this definition I include Botox, which is the most popular cosmetic surgery performed.
1. Cosmetic surgery introduces toxic substances into the body
Botox, the most popular non-invasive cosmetic surgery, works by paralyzing facial muscles. The botulinum toxin is injected into the face, where it blocks the nerve signals communicating with specific muscles to contract.
While this is a localized procedure, recent research shows that the botulisum toxin can indeed migrate to other parts of the body. In 2009, the FDA required Botox to include a warning that the botulinum toxin may spread throughout the body.
The FDA stated, “Understand that swallowing and breathing difficulties can be life-threatening and there have been reports of deaths related to the effects of spread of botulinum toxin.” (Source.)
Many of the affluent women who use Botox avoid GMOs. These women understand that GMOs are inadequately tested, and are the attempt of human beings to outsmart Mother Nature.
Similarly, the impact of injecting toxins into the human body has been insufficiently tested, and is based on the false belief that science is smarter than our wise bodies.
Breast implants, the most popular invasive cosmetic surgery, also introduces toxic substances into the body. Like Botox, GMOs, and pharmaceutical drugs, breast implants are on the market with deficient and biased safety research.
As a matter of fact, implants were on the market for 30 years before the FDA required proof of safety. In the mid-90’s, manufacturers paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to women who suffered serious health consequences from implants (source).
For instance, silicone implants may lead the body to produce antibodies against the silicone, as the body perceives it as a foreign invader. Research shows women with breast implants have higher levels of igE levels, an indication the body is perceiving the implant as a threat. Implants may increase the risk of developing an autoimmune disease, particularly in those predisposed to autoimmune issues (source).
Silicone implants may also increase the risk of cancer (source). This could be partly attributed to the disruption of the lymphatic system, which removes toxins from the breasts (see point #4).
2. Cosmetic surgery diminishes cues of empathy and connection
The human face is intended to express emotional states, particularly through expressivity around the eyes. The wrinkling and softening around the eyes in conversation sends subconscious cues to the person with whom you are communicating.
Researcher, Stephen Porges, has presented one of the most cutting-edge theories on human connectivity and empathy. He calls it the Polyvagal Theory, which is outlined in his book of the same title.
In a nutshell, the vagal nerve is the wiring that connects our brain and body. When the vagal nerve is activated, it causes our eyes to crinkle up with expression.
Dr. Porges describes how we are always subconsciously asking “am I safe?” in relation to our environment and other people. Our nervous system answers this question, and picks up cues of safety.
A primary safety cue is the eye and facial expressions of other people. Are their eye and facial muscles engaged and crinkled? If so, our nervous system receives the message that this is most likely a safe person with whom to connect.
At a subconscious level, it can be argued that we may feel a lack of safety or empathy from someone whose facial muscles are restricted due to Botox. Their limited facial expressions fail to signal our evolutionary safety response.
In this way, Botox may hinder the vulnerability and subconscious connection that is so critical to our sense of community. Women may be sacrificing evolutionary-body-level connection with other people for a cultural beauty standard.
3. Cosmetic surgery diminishes the body’s wisdom
Contrary to our culture’s belief, the body is for feeling, not simply looking. Vast and subtle dimensions of reality are available to us through all our body’s senses.
Our modern Western world, predominantly governed by science, considers real only that which can be measured. As a result, the psychic and energetic realms, known by our ancestors in all cultures, are no longer part of the picture in this Western paradigm. These realms require us to feel, or sense them with our bodies, rather than see them with our eyes.
I use the phrase the body’s wisdom to refer to the levels of interaction between our body and environment that are not necessarily accessible only by our mind.
I believe the body’s wisdom makes possible our intuition and our sense of meaning. It makes possible communication beyond words, between humans, plants, and animals. (I’m currently writing a book about this topic.)
When we reduce our body’s ability to feel, we reduce its wisdom. Therefore we should seriously consider the sacrifice of reduced sensation due to cosmetic surgery.
Many cosmetic surgeries carry the side effects of either reduced sensation or permanent numbness. I find this particularly troubling when it comes to breast implants and labioplasty, which threaten to diminish parts of the female body that hold a sacred capacity for sensation.
In Greek Mythology, Baubo was the playful, raunchy goddess of sexuality. She had no head. Instead, her nipples were her eyes and her vulva was her mouth. This suggests that the sensory perception of her breasts and vulva was more trustworthy, more knowing than the senses of her head.
Do breast implants blind our second eyes? Does the trimming of labia distort our second mouth?
4. Cosmetic surgery reduces lymphatic circulation
The lymphatic system can be aptly described as the garbage disposal of the body. This system consists of lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes, through which lymphatic fluid flows.
These lymphatic vessels filter and eliminate toxins throughout the body. Lymph nodes also play a critical role in healthy immune function. They house a concentration of white blood cells that increase when the body is fighting off illness or infection.
The filtration and elimination of toxins in the lymphatic system relies on body movement. Unlike the cardiovascular system, which has a pump (the heart), the lymph system relies on the body’s movement for circulation.
Swollen lymph nodes and sinus/eye infections are common side effects of Botox. By paralyzing facial muscles that are responsible for moving lymphatic fluid, Botox can lead to infections and lymph stagnation.
The breast and underarm tissues hold a large concentration of lymphatic vessels. Breast implants frequently cause lymphedema, a buildup of lymphatic fluid by impairing healthy lymph drainage.
The synthetic toxins we absorb from our environment, if not excreted from the body, will accumulate and may increase the risk of cancer. There is a probable correlation between breast implants making woman’s breast tissue even more susceptible to a specific type of cancer (source).
When the risk of cancer is higher than ever, due to environmental toxicity and our diet, why would we willingly make our body more vulnerable to it?
5. Cosmetic surgery treats a symptom and ignores the bigger problem
The cosmetic surgery industry, along with the beauty industry, treats the symptoms of an underlying problem. The pharmaceutical industry operates in a similar way by ensuring the ongoing moderate illness of people in our society, so that we “need” their drugs.
The beauty industry relies on women experiencing perpetual dissatisfaction with their bodies, so we continue to purchase expensive products and surgery. Did you know that American women spend more on beauty than education?
One of the problems underlying the support for cosmetic surgery is what Naomi Wolf calls The Beauty Myth. It goes something like this:
A woman must meet the current beauty standard to be successful and happy and sexual. The beauty standard is impossible to achieve without cosmetic products and procedures. As a result, a woman must spend her money and time to be considered beautiful to our culture.
Consider how our Western culture’s beauty standard is not in alignment with women’s natural bodies:
- Our culture reveres models so emaciated they have ceased to menstruate, and are therefore infertile
- Our culture worships heavy-yet-gravity-defying breasts that do not exist without silicone enhancement
- Our culture sanctifies faces that express limited signs of animation
- Our culture idolizes identical reproductions of women, rather than the variations inherent in nature
Like Big Agriculture and Big Pharma, the beauty industry prioritizes profits over people. This industry intentionally breeds insecurity in women, so that women purchase products and procedures they believe are necessary.
That is the root of the problem. Not the shape of a woman’s breasts, or the size of her labia, or her crows feet, or the fullness of her lips, or her dimpled thighs, her soft belly, or her other natural features.
How to support your health after cosmetic surgery
- Cease Botox injections or have implants removed
- Use chlorella and glutathione (OxiCell from Apex Energetics, or Glutathione from Quicksilver are available from many naturopaths) to support your body’s detox mechanisms
- Use these steps to support healthy lymphatic function
- Selectively detox from the media, Instagram accounts, magazines, and friends that perpetuate the culture’s impossible beauty standard
I would also recommend reading my upcoming book (expected 2018) which focuses on trusting your body to look and act how it was intended by nature, and not by our culture
Resources: I am deeply grateful to Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and the many works of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, materials which heavily influenced point 4 and 5 of this post.