Bigger, smaller, wider, tighter, higher, lower, thinner and brighter. These are a few of the things that can be accomplished with the human form (for the right price) thanks to ever-advancing surgical technology.
Nearly 11.9 million cosmetic procedures were performed last year, which represents a 44 percent increase from 2003 totals. Americans spent just less than $12.5 billion on cosmetic procedures last year alone, according to information gathered by The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
The cosmetic surgery industry is thriving as more patients are walking through the doors of local clinics every day, looking for ways to be more content with what they see in the mirror.
"Business is always good," said Paula Hodge, an esthetician at the Plastic Surgical Associates, 1701 E. Prospect Rd. "I think that (cosmetic surgery) is becoming much more widely accepted and people are becoming more comfortable with trying to improve themselves."
Recent media coverage of plastic surgery has also contributed to the surge of acceptance and demand for cosmetic procedures. Television shows such as "The Swan," "I Want a Famous Face" and "Extreme Makeover" have all portrayed plastic surgery in a way that might encourage people to consider changing their physical appearance.
"Those shows have had positive effect on plastic surgery," said Sherry Lobato, practice administrator for Plastic Surgical Associates. "There's been a lot more men coming in for procedures. They feel like they're showing signs of ageing and that the field is so competitive. They don't want to reflect an old attitude but rather a new and progressive attitude."
With the dangers associated with cosmetic surgery lessening and the procedures themselves becoming more like a work of art than a cut-and-paste task, many people are finding an acceptance, and even a desire, for including plastic surgery in their lives.
"I think it's fine when it makes people feel better about themselves," said Rachel Evans, a senior apparel merchandise major. "We do plenty of things to change ourselves, so why not plastic surgery?"
Since 1997, there has been a 465 percent increase in the total number of cosmetic procedures, according to the plastic surgery society. With so many people seeking plastic surgery, doctors have established a set of criteria that potential patients must meet. Physical and mental stability must be established long before a surgeon takes scalpel to flesh.
"If a client comes in here with a perceived flaw and we don't see it to the same degree, like a slender women who wants liposuction, we probably won't perform the procedure because of the risks associated with operating on someone who just doesn't need it," Lobato said.
While many cosmetic procedures require serious surgery and significant healing time, patients who leave the Plastic Surgical Associates of Fort Collins often don't regret their decisions.
"People would only regret going through with the procedure if they were doing it for the wrong reasons in the first place," Hodge said. "Once the healing process is complete, our patients have been happy with what we can provide for them. It's a positive experience."
The types of cosmetic procedures that are available today may seem endless. Calf implants, butt implants, permanent makeup, nipple enlargements and facelifts are but a few of the options available to patients. Cosmetic surgery was once a life-altering procedure for burn victims and those who had crippling disfigurements, but now it is an option for anyone with the desire to change him- or herself and the funds to support it.
Some people argue that plastic surgery isn't really necessary at all and that its popularity is merely a result of social constructs that have turned vanity into a virtue.
"Confidence should come from within, not from a bulge in your chest or pants," said Brandon Kimbler, a senior sports medicine major. "It might seem good for girls now because they can get better tips from perverted college guys, but 20 years from now, when your boobs occupy the same space as your bellybutton, it might be difficult to explain to the kids that mommy spent more in college working her chest than working her brain."
Most people don't have quite as harsh of an opinion about cosmetic surgery, but there is often still a moral dilemma paired with the procedure. Advocates of appreciating inner beauty tend to see plastic surgery as a form of denying one's true self.
"I think it's a shame when people become convinced that they need to change themselves like that," said Molly Dixon, a freshmen business major. "Too many girls are getting surgery done at such young ages. They don't need to change themselves for others and should be happy with who they are."
Regardless of politics, morals or media standards, getting plastic surgery comes down to the decision of the patient.
"Ultimately, the whole experience is supposed to be fun," Lobato said. "We give people a comfortable environment and they end up feeling so much better about themselves. Plastic surgery is just so rewarding for both the client and the surgeon."