The XX Factor

Americans Help Drive Breast Implants to No. 2 Spot on Worldwide Plastic Surgery List. USA!

Who doesn’t love a silicone breast implant?

Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

According to new data released by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, it seems that despite worldwide economic problems, expensive plastic surgery is more popular than ever. And this chart on the most popular invasive plastic surgeries is a dark peek into the hang-ups and aesthetic obsessions that haunt people with mirrors worldwide:

Unsurprisingly, lipoplasty—where fat is sucked out of a targeted spot on a person’s body—topped the list, despite the fact that it’s been heavily criticized for not doing what it’s supposed to do. Concerns about being fat, being soft, and being saggy dominate the list, with tummy tucks and various other “lift” procedures ranking high. Of course, there are the expected attempts to correct perceived flaws like big noses, ears that stick out, and puffy eyes. 

But what really sticks out is the boob stuff. Human beings, at least those interested in plastic surgery, really care a lot about breasts. There are breast lifts, breast reductions, and man boob removals all in the top 10. Those, and of course, that perennial favorite, for which Americans are at the forefront: breast implants, now the second most popular plastic surgery in the world.

Americans love big, fake boobs, and we love them more all the time. According to other data from 2011 from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the rate of breast implant surgeries has exploded in the past decade, growing from 101,176 performed in 1997 to 316,848 in 2011.

Why have breast implants become so popular? In part, what’s changed is that the FDA allowed silicone breast implants back onto the market in 2006, whereas for years only the relatively unpopular saline ones were legal. (The FDA just approved a new silicone-gel implant this week.) But what about cultural norms? For once, the fashion magazines aren’t to blame—if anything, they favor the flat-chested to concave look. Many major movie stars are also kinda small in the chest—even Sasha Grey, one of the most famous porn stars of the past decade, eschews the giant-and-fake look for more petite and natural-looking breasts.

But hey, just because smaller breasts are destigmatized in plenty of circles, especially in white, urban areas, doesn’t mean that everyone has gotten the message that it’s OK to be any size, including small. Statistics do suggest that red states are fonder of breast implants than blue states, at least East Coast blue states. Maybe cup size is becoming just another one of those things, like car size or computer manufacturer preference, where Americans are getting more polarized. I eagerly await the first politician who delivers the line, “We are not A-cup Americans and DD-cup Americans. We are all just Americans, who love breasts.”