The Rise in Cosmetic-Surgery Reversals Isn't What You Think

If you follow celebrity culture, you’ve likely heard about many reversing their cosmetic procedures. In March, Blac Chyna revealed on Instagram that she got the filler in her cheeks, jawline, and lips dissolved. While documenting the experience, she explained that she wanted to look like herself again. “I’m just tired of the look, and it’s just not flattering; it’s not what I look like. It totally changed my face,” she said, adding that she also had the silicone injections in her butt removed and got a breast reduction.

A growing number of celebrities seem to share this sentiment. Courteney Cox recently reflected on her decision to have her facial fillers removed, too, telling the “Gloss Angeles” podcast hosts that dermal fillers remain her biggest beauty regret. “I look at pictures of me from when I thought I looked OK, and I can’t believe it,” she said. In 2020, Chrissy Teigen had her breast implants removed, telling fans she would “like to be able to zip a dress in my size.”

The trend isn’t limited to celebrities, either. Influencers are also sharing cosmetic-surgery reversal stories, with #dissolvingfiller at more than 30 million views on TikTok and #reverseBBL at more than eight million views. In a video posted to YouTube, Molly-Mae Hague told her followers that she was on a journey to reattain her natural appearance by first having her lip fillers dissolved. “I started getting filler so young and it has been one of my biggest regrets. I used to be so insecure about my slightly thinner lips but now I’m older I’ve realized that embracing what you have naturally is so much better,” she later wrote on Instagram alongside photos of the results.

To those chronically online, it sure seems like there’s a real threat of buyer’s remorse when it comes to cosmetic enhancements. But the truth is that the plastic-surgery panic isn’t as widespread as the internet would lead you to believe.

“While there is certainly a conversation around plastic-surgery reversals, it’s not necessarily indicative of a large-scale trend,” says Ira Savetsky, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in New York City. Like other surgeons we spoke to, his practice has seen an uptick in patients looking to reverse procedures, but he notes that this is simply indicative of changing aesthetic tastes.

“Statistics show that the demand for plastic surgery has continued to grow, and certain procedures like breast augmentation remain very popular,” Dr. Savetsky says. “However, there has been a shift toward celebrating more natural beauty standards with a conservative approach rather than abandoning plastic-surgery procedures altogether.” In fact, “most revision work is more of a touch-up or refinement to make a patient’s results even better, rather than a full-blown reversal,” adds New York City-based board-certified plastic surgeon Jeffrey Lisiecki, MD.

So, what’s driving the phenomenon? Ahead, top surgeons share what nobody is telling you about all plastic-surgery reversals.

What’s Driving Cosmetic-Surgery Reversals?

There are many reasons people seek plastic-surgery reversals, from botched results to medical complications and health concerns, but the wave we’re witnessing now is most likely a result of a new aesthetic on the rise. As beauty trends change, it’s not unusual for certain procedures to become less popular, Dr. Savetsky explains. “In recent years, there has been a shift toward embracing more individualized beauty standards, rather than striving for a homogenized ideal.”

In other words, the era of the Instagram face, characterized by pronounced filler and pouty lips as well as exaggerated body features, has come to an end. “I see many people who have had too much filler and want it dissolved, who want shape and structure restored to their nose after rhinoplasty, and who want breast implants and Brazilian butt lifts reduced or removed to bring their bodies to more natural proportions,” Dr. Lisiecki says. “I think patients are generally moving away from the overly fake and filled aesthetic of the past decade.”

What No One Tells You About the Cosmetic-Reversals Spike

The anti-plastic-surgery narrative that’s being shaped online isn’t necessarily indicative of what doctors are seeing IRL. Take fillers, for example: as more and more celebrities claim to dissolve them, the patient demand for dermal fillers continues to surge. In 2022, soft-tissue fillers remained the second most popular minimally invasive treatment performed, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. And the demand for plastic surgery in general is also on the rise — up 10 percent last year, according to a survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

The truth is that cosmetic procedures are centered in the natural beauty trend. While it’s true that for some, natural may actually mean embracing what you were born with by removing everything fake, for many, this means opting for natural-looking enhancements, Dr. Savetsky says. In fact, one study found that the more people aspired to look natural, the more likely they were to “construct an appearance of naturalness.” That’s the appeal of popular treatments like fillers and baby Botox: “When performed in a conservative manner, cosmetic procedures can enhance a patient’s features without drastically altering them,” Dr. Savetsky says. And thanks to advancements in the field, the vast majority of people who’ve had work done now present a natural look.

What Procedures Are Becoming Popular as a Result?

“The procedures that achieve the most natural look are the procedures that have long been the standards in plastic surgery,” Dr. Lisiecki says, adding that a continual refinement of techniques and modern innovation lead to the subtler results people are seeking. Here are some of the procedures top doctors are performing to achieve the results patients are seeking today:

  • Facial fat grafting: An increasingly popular alternative to dermal fillers, fat injections use fatty tissue harvested from a patient’s own body to restore volume and fill creases. According to Mark Albert, MD, a New York City-based board-certified plastic surgeon, these injections acclimate better to surrounding tissue and provide a more natural, longer-lasting result. Average cost: $5,000.
  • Closed rhinoplasty: Also known as endonasal rhinoplasty, this procedure is performed within the nostrils and is ideal for patients who want minor reshaping of the nasal tip. “Closed rhinoplasty is currently the most requested procedure in my practice as the result is subtle and there is no scarring,” Dr. Albert says. Average cost: $7,700.
  • Brow lifts: Becoming increasingly popular, especially with millennial women, a brow lift repositions the tissue in the forehead to raise the brow, smoothing wrinkles, restoring the natural eyebrow arch, and lifting the eye area for a more youthful appearance. Average cost: $3,900.
  • Breast augmentation with fat transfer: As more patients seek to remove silicone implants, doctors are using fat grafting to enlarge breasts and enhance the shape to be more proportional to one’s body, Dr. Lisiecki explains. Average cost: $9,200.
  • Lip lifts: Considered a permanent alternative to lip filler, this surgical procedure shortens the skin between the nose and the upper lift, helping unfurl the redness underneath for a fuller appearance. Average cost: $3,500.
  • Noninvasive “tweakments”: Antiaging treatments like Botox, lasers, radiofrequency, and even filler have continued to grow in popularity in recent years, Dr. Savetsky says, adding that these procedures have minimal downtime and can achieve subtle, natural-looking results when performed conservatively. Average cost varies per treatment.

The Bottom Line on Cosmetic-Surgery Reversals

Ultimately, it’s too soon to say whether the plastic-surgery reversal panic is a sign of what’s to come, but if bookings are any indication, cosmetic procedures will remain popular, with younger generations driving the demand. What’s changing are patient goals. Beauty is a social construct, and at the end of the day, whether we like it or not, we are subject to shifting ideals influenced most by media.

“It’s not unusual for plastic-surgery trends to swing back and forth as beauty standards and trends evolve. What was considered desirable and fashionable in the past may not be as popular in the present,” Dr. Savetsky says. “However, it’s important to remember that plastic surgery should always be approached with careful consideration and respect for a patient’s individual anatomy rather than simply following trends.”

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