By Mikayla Silcox and Liv Barry
Elm Staff Writer and Lifestyle Editor
If you are active on social media, chances are you have heard the words “Brazilian butt lift,” “fox eyes,” “lip injections,” and “buccal fat removal” thrown around in the past five years.
While plastic surgery has been available in America since the early 1900s according to VeryWell Health, its popularity has exploded in the Internet age, with new trends in cosmetic surgery emerging almost every year. This is due in part to celebrities and social media influencers, whose signature looks shape beauty standards, according to Science Translated.
Since their rise to fame in the late 2000s, the Kardashians are often regarded as the American royal family due to their power and fame. This is most evident in their influence on modern beauty standards.
In a 2019 New Yorker article, writer Jia Tolentino dubbed the Kardashian’s look as “Instagram face” — full lips, high eyebrows, and small, carved cheekbones. While the term encapsulates the homogenous, almost glazed appearance of many social media influencers, it does not cover what is arguably the Kardashian’s largest impact on aesthetics: the butt lift.
According to Vox, Brazilian butt lifts, otherwise known as BBLs, experienced a massive boom in popularity in the late 2010s through the early 2020s, with some citing the Kardashians as the reason they went under the knife.
While its omnipresence in popular culture makes the phenomenon feel new, it has been present in mainstream culture for almost a decade.
“There has been an increase in plastic surgery – both face and body – of patients who want to look like the Kardashians,” Dr. Lajijani, CEO of the Beverly Hills Institute of Plastic Surgery, said in a 2015 interview with People.
Despite their prominence, the procedure poses a risk. In 2017, the mortality rate for the procedure performed by board-certified plastic surgeons was every 1 in 3,000. Recent data from the Aesthetic Surgery Journal shows that the mortality rate has shrunk to 1 in every 15,000 patients, but according to Bloomberg, the rate is estimated to be much higher when factoring in procedures performed by unqualified surgeons, as there are no regulations for who can perform BBLs.
While some surgeons provide patients with post-operation kits with tools like compression, foam, and pillows, plastic surgery is expensive, and patients searching for an easy surgery may look for cheap solutions at a high risk.
Despite the Kardashians’ insistence that they have not undergone any cosmetic procedures according to YourTango, some celebrities with similar body types have opened up about their experiences with plastic surgery.
According to Elite Daily, rapper Cardi B is open about the toll her liposuction procedure took on her body.
“I want to explain to people how hard it is to process,” Cardi B said. “I feel like people look at girls on Instagram and go, ‘Oh, they got their lipo done and it was so easy.’ It is just such a long, hard process, almost like the same process as after you give birth to a baby and you see your body change and snapping it back.”
Few people heed the words of warning celebrities give about plastic surgery, as the number of average Americans who undergo cosmetic procedures is increasing.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, almost 20 million people received a cosmetic procedure in 2020, which is up by two million from 2018’s data.
These numbers fail to keep up with trends set by celebrities, however. According to Centennial Beauty, many people are speculating that Kim Kardashian reversed her alleged BBL procedure, as her body has drastically changed in the past year.
Between the alleged removal and the rise in buccal fat removal, a procedure in which the “baby fat” in the cheeks is removed to give the face a thinner look, some suggest the Kardashian chokehold on beauty standards is finally crumbling, or at the very least, taking a different shape.
In a tweet from September 2022, Twitter user @takeyourzoloft posted a side-by-side comparison of Kim Kardashian’s body, with one picture from 2017 and the other from 2022, with Kim looking far more gaunt.
“Every time I see these pics on the timeline I am stunned because thin is in again and it worries me,” @takeyourzoloft said.
While the user received criticism in their replies for implying that people would unquestioningly follow suit, the tweet’s virality suggests that the landscape of plastic surgery is once again shifting.
As we potentially enter a new era of beauty standards, people should question why we treat body types as trends.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo caption: After rising to prominence in the mid-2000s as Paris Hilton’s assistant, Kim Kardashian and her sisters became some of the first social media influencers.