Patients turn to non-surgical treatments as cosmetic surgery rates fall


Cosmetic surgery procedures are falling in popularity in the UK, as patients turn to non-surgical cosmetic alternatives. 

That’s according to the latest statistics from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), which has reported an 8% fall in the number of cosmetic surgery procedures conducted in the UK compared with 2016.

‘Data from the 2017 BAAPS Annual Audit shows that the number of Britons undergoing cosmetic surgery is slightly decreasing – down 7.9% in 2017 from the previous year’, commented consultant plastic surgeon and former BAAPS president Rajiv Grover, who compiles the audit on an annual basis.

‘In particular, traditional liposuction is radically down across both genders (28% decrease), which we usually credit to the “cooling effect” of new non-surgical procedures such as fat freezing.

‘However, abdominoplasties are up – indeed increasing from sixth to fourth most popular procedure – as there are no less invasive options capable of achieving significant results to eliminate excess skin.’

Gender divide

The stats also reveal a strong divergence of procedural trends between male and female patients.

In 2017, men eschewed almost all forms of body treatment, with procedures such as liposuction (down 20%), abdominoplasty, (down 12%) and gynaecomastia, (down 7%) all but abandoned, in favour of a marked predilection for facial procedures instead, such as eyelid and brow lift surgeries (up by 25 and 27%, respectively) and facelifts (up 16%).

Conversely, women’s choices were mainly focused on the body alone, shunning most, if not all, facial treatments – with the number of female facelifts declining by as much as 44% and brow lifts reducing by 31% – yet, still, breast augmentation procedures rose by 7% and remains the most popular procedure.

‘For men, the media’s adoption and celebration of the more natural looking “dad bod” is possibly a driver in this interesting trend, shifting the focus to the face rather than the body, in contrast to recent years – a shift that has lessened the pressure to sport a sculpted figure and instead, accept a bit of roundness or softness’, said Rajiv.

‘The advent of myriad filters in social media platforms allows for the ubiquitous enhancing and facial feminising of “selfies”‘, Rajiv continued.

‘However, there are fewer options to reach online “fitspiration” when it comes to body goals.’

It is possible that fashion may also play a part; for example the growing trend of activewear being worn in everyday life, perhaps demanding a more toned shape.

‘Both of these factors may potentially be the reasons why women’s focus for cosmetic surgery in 2017 shifted from their face to their body in order to address the stubborn areas that neither diet, exercise, nor filters can reach.’

Medical procedures

The slight downturn in cosmetic surgery procedures demonstrates a ‘normalisation’ as the British public are now more aware about the serious impact of surgical procedures, according to BAAPS president and consultant plastic surgeon, Simon Withey.

‘Although there may be some new non-surgical options for cosmetic treatments, it is important to remember that “non-surgical” does not mean “non-medical”, and patients should be wary of anything touted which seems too good, or too cheap, to be true.

‘The climate of lax regulation has yet to be addressed in a satisfactory manner to protect the public.’

2017 cosmetic surgery statistics

Men and women combined
The top surgical procedures for men and women in 2017 (total 28,315, a fall of 7.9% from 2016).In order of popularity:
Breast augmentation:                                             8,251 – up 6% from last 2016
Breast reduction:                                                     4,043– up 6%
Blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery):                          3,276 – down 16%
Abdominoplasty:                                                     2,761 – static
Rhinoplasty:                                                             2,751 – up 2%
Liposuction:                                                             2,309 – down 28%
Face/neck lift:                                                          2,002 – down 42%
Fat transfer:                                                             1,468 – Static
Otoplasty (ear correction):                                   1,009 – up 2%
Brow lift:                                                                   445 – down 27%

Women only
Analysis of BAAPS audit 2016-2017. The top surgical procedures for women in 2017 (25,898 total, a fall of 8.6% from 2016). Women had 91% of all cosmetic procedures in 2017. 2017 figures for women in order of popularity:

Breast augmentation:                                            8,238 – up 7% from 2016
Breast reduction:                                                   3,747– up 5%
Blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery):                         2,873 – down 20%
Abdominoplasty:                                                    2,610 – up 1%
Rhinoplasty:                                                            2,197 – up 1%
Liposuction:                                                            2,039 – down 29%
Face/neck lift:                                                       1,857 – down 44%
Fat transfer:                                                            1,359 – Static
Otoplasty (ear correction):                                   590 – up 4%
Brow lift:                                                                    388 – down 31%

Men only
The top surgical procedures for men in 2017 (2,417 total, a rise of 0.3% from 2016). Men had 9% of all cosmetic procedures in 2017. 2017 figures for men in order of popularity:

Rhinoplasty:                                                             554 – up 5% from 2016
Otoplasty (ear correction):                                    419 – down 0.5%
Blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery):                          403 – up 25%
Breast reduction:                                                    296 – down 7%
Liposuction:                                                              270 – down 20%
Abdominoplasty:                                                      151 – down 12%
Face/neck lift:                                                         145 – up 16%
Fat transfer                                                               109 – up 9%
Brow lifts                                                                    57 – up 27%
Breast augmentation:                                              13 – down 65%


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