Beauty Redefined Blog

Why Breast Implants Are Not “For You”

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“I did it so I could feel better about my body. I did it so I could feel more like a woman. I did it so my clothes would fit better. I did it for ME.”

billboard1This is the text of a current TV commercial for breast augmentation, spoken by a beautiful, thin, middle-aged woman looking at herself in a mirror. She is telling the lie that nearly every woman that undergoes this expensive, life-threatening, time-consuming surgery is told and soon comes to believe for herself. “I did it for ME.” It’s time to debunk these ever-circulating excuses about the values of this surgery for the 300,000+ U.S. girls and women who undergo it each year. Let’s talk about WHY breast enhancement surgeries are halting female progress and keeping us in the prison of believing we are “to be looked at” above all else. Using the four excuses from the ad above, it’s time spell out why breast implants are not “for you.” 

“I did it so I could feel better about my body.”

Breast augmentation does not improve your self-esteem. We wish we could shout that from the rooftops! Breast augmentation is NOT therapy, either. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women with breast implants are 73 percent more likely to commit suicide and a large number of studies have confirmed this major increase in suicide after breast augmentation. That’s not because of the implants – it’s because getting them doesn’t solve anything going on internally. Are you depressed? A breast augmentation will not make you less depressed. Do you experience body shame or low self esteem because of your looks? You cannot remedy an internal problem with an external quick fix like cosmetic surgery. A breast augmentation will not guarantee you greater self-esteem, and instead might cause you to fixate on your looks as your primary source of self-worth. This will only hurt your self-esteem in the long run, because you will have to constantly fix your “flaws” to live up to your ideas of beauty. (See the section at the end for a more promising path to body positivity.) Do you think bigger breasts will attract a mate or make your partner love you more? If you’re looking for attention based on what your chest looks like, this could work. But if you’re seeking a lasting connection with someone who values more than your chest, breast implants aren’t going to guarantee that. A breast augmentation has nothing to do with the love of a partner. If your partner’s love for you is dependent on the size and shape of your breasts, they do not really love you. It sounds so harsh, but it is true.

girlnobackgroundIf you have undergone or are planning to undergo breast augmentation surgery to “feel better about your body,” research shows us this just won’t work. The two major breast implant companies in the U.S., Allergan and Mentor, both tried to prove to the FDA that breast implants helped women’s self-esteem and both proved how wrong they were. Allergan used 12 different quality of life measures to compare augmentation patients before surgery and 2 years later.  Nine of the 12 (75%) were worse after the women got their breast implants, including self-esteem.  The results were similar for women getting Mentor breast implants.  The women got worse in their self-reported physical health and mental health, with most showing no difference in their self-concept or how they felt about their body.

Plastic surgeons have approached us* to help them make their marketing less misleading and to help provide instruction for women that cosmetic procedures will NOT fix internal problems, like hating your body or not feeling feminine. These plastic surgeons acknowledged that patients were using procedures as therapy, or desperate attempts to feel better about themselves, and have seen firsthand that their work does nothing of the sort — it only changes physical features. 

“I did it so I could feel more like a woman.”

Where did we get our ideas about what normal women’s breasts are supposed to look like? Unfortunately, too many people have learned a very unreal and profit-driven breast ideal from porn. Most people don’t see a ton of nude breasts in person on a regular basis, so the ones we see mediated to us often shape perceptions of what’s ideal and even what’s normal — leaving most girls and women feeling abnormal and pushing many to seek a remedy in the form of implants. What does it really mean when people say they did this to “feel” more like a woman? As you can guess, this phrase generally means they did it to “look” more like a woman. But guess what? Women come in all shapes and sizes. No shape or size is more “woman” than any other. No hips? No breasts? No curves? There are millions of women that fit those categories right alongside you. What about having one breast larger than the other? Join the club. It’s an extremely popular club — the majority of women are members of it. You are a woman – own it for every other woman who looks just like you and is shamed into believing she’s less than a woman for it. 

“I did it so my clothes would fit better.”

Yikes. We need to work on our problem-solving skills. You don’t think you look too great in that blouse? Get it tailored! You don’t fill out that swimsuit top like you’d hoped? Buy a different one! Or better yet, rock it anyway and prove to the world that nothing changes – literally nothing – when you go out wearing a top you don’t “fill out” as well you think you need to.

“I did it for ME.”

Unless the person saying this is into surgery for the fun of it or enjoys the experience of having foreign objects surgically implanted in them, then what this statement really means is: “I did it to look better.” Yes, the current beauty trend includes large, firm breasts. It wasn’t always that way and it won’t always be that way, but right now, fashion and beauty ideals often idealize this look. When women elect to this procedure under the premise that it’s “for me,” they’re almost always speaking from a place of self-objectification, or viewing themselves as an object from an outsider’s perspective. They’re saying they’ll look better when they’re looking at their own reflections, and feel better because they think other people will think they look better too. This is no way to live, but epidemic numbers of girls and women do live in a constant state of body monitoring at the expense of everything else. If we take “look ‘better’” out of the equation, what’s really in it for YOU at the end of the day is: You’ll lose thousands of dollars; lose significant time in surgery, recovery and follow-up exams; possible lost sensation in your breasts; increase your chances of cancer but decrease your chances of finding cancer because you have implants in the way, etc.  

We know what’s in it for plastic surgeons and makers of implants: money. And not just the one-time cost of surgery. The FDA stated in a report that breast implants WILL fail within 10 years and referred to implants as “temporary devices.” “[Women] need to understand they’re going to need many removals and replacements for the rest of their lives,” stated the National Research Center for Women & Families. The FDA says up to 40 percent of patients who get silicone implants will need another operation to modify or remove them within 10 years. For women with implants for breast reconstruction, the number is even higher, at up to 70 percent. The biggest issue was scar tissue hardening around the implant, while pain, infection, ruptures and asymmetry followed close behind.

Click here to check out all our empowering sticky notes!

Click here to check out all our empowering sticky notes!

Did you know the FDA stated that breast augmentation patients must get MRIs every two years to screen for “silent ruptures” of the silicone implants because you don’t know when they’re leaking? They don’t deflate. So that’s an extra $2,000 biannually for women who have elected to breast enhancement. Add it all up and the original $5K-$10K procedure will now cost a 25-year-old woman at least another $35K for re-implantation and $30K for the recommended number of MRIs throughout her life! And that is not including any health complications from all those surgical procedures, anesthesia, potential leaking or disease, time away from work, family, and life, etc.

Further, women with breast implants are also more likely to be diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare form of cancer. Implants can hide the mammography image of a tumor, resulting in a delay in cancer diagnosis. Mammogram machinery can also rupture an implant. So…this isn’t good for your health. Read more info on the latest breast implant studies regarding your health here

To sum it up: cosmetic surgery — especially breast augmentation – is a threat to female health and happiness. This threat directly affects girls and women – not males  at epidemic rates. Cosmetic surgery is up nearly 500% in the last decade and a full 92% of those procedures – mostly breast augmentation and liposuction – were performed on girls and women. It keeps us “in our place” as objects to be looked at, fixed, and ogled. Electing to these procedures hits us hard. It hits our pocketbooks, when we could be spending our hard-earned money on so many more important things. It raises the bar of “normal” and “what it looks like to be a woman” for every girl, woman, boy and man that comes in contact with us. It affects our physical health in seen and unforeseen ways. Besides the health implications like life-threatening ruptures and the likelihood of botched surgeries, breast implants affect our ability to run, dive, jump, golf, etc. These risks reinforce the notion that your breasts are not yours — they are for others to look at.

It’s time to rethink the extremes to which we push ourselves in the name of “beauty.” We are more than bodies to be looked at. Choosing to forego breast augmentation can be more empowering than going under the knife — and better for our health, too. Please know that it is not our place to shame or blame anyone for undergoing this procedure. We know as well as anyone how much pressure and shame women feel in the name of “ideal beauty.” It is immense. But there is a better way – and it starts in our minds, not on our chests.

If you feel like your body image has been negatively affected by profit-driven media or cultural ideals, you can harness your power in these four areas to take back beauty and help others do the same: 

Mental Power:

  • Increasing our media literacy (understanding how and why media is engineered the way it is — see our entire “recognize” category of blog posts)
  • Critical thinking about beauty and health ideals (skin colorbody sizeageBMIfitspiration)
  • Critical self-reflection about our own beliefs and choices
  • Making conscious decisions about the media we consume and cutting out what is harmful (start with a media fast)

Social Power:

Physical Power:

  • Using our bodies as instruments rather than objects (setting and achieving fitness goals)
  • Redefining health for ourselves according to internal indicators and how we feel — not how we look

Spiritual Power:

  • Understanding that you are more than just a body and tapping into that higher-level thinking in whatever way suits you
  • “There exists a positive relationship between spirituality, mental and physical health, life satisfaction, and wellness. It follows that if a woman draws her sense of meaning from a spiritual force that goes beyond herself and that provides coherence and purpose to the universe, she will find less need to focus on her weight, shape, and appearance in an attempt to find happiness or life satisfaction” (Choate, 2007, p. 323).

*We have provided free consultation to plastic surgeons on how to help women use our work to develop their self worth outside of their breasts as an alternative to surgery, but have gone no further.

 

  1. Leigh
    Leigh02-19-2014

    Great article — it’s seems crazy that women undergo serious surgery just for bigger breasts that often don’t look good and can be lots of trouble down the road.

  2. Jamie
    Jamie02-19-2014

    Gosh, I loved this. I would totally share it on FB, but I’m afraid I would offend too many of my friends who have them or who tell me ALL THE TIME about their dreams to get one. How sad.

    • Meina
      Meina05-02-2014

      Same here… I had to sign out to make sure nobody saw this comment! That’s so sad. Not because I am afraid, but because I don’t want to aggravate “what is going on internally.”

  3. Ann
    Ann02-19-2014

    Excellent article. I am really glad you are putting this message out there and I hope it will influence some women to forgo this unnecessary surgery.

    I would guess that while women may get a lot of approval for having larger breasts, they also might end up being viewed by some as less intelligent, less competent, and more sexually available, which may not be what they want. That is the unfortunate downside of matching the cultural ideal of beauty and sex appeal. It’s really a no-win situation, which is yet another reason to question how much we want to participate in it.

    • Paula
      Paula02-22-2014

      …and the disdain from a lot of people for having fake breasts. I love your point about the intelligence. It’s what I realized when I saw a picture of a girl with a duckface, that look is intended to be sexy, but at the same time the girl looked extremely unintelligent. It’s obvious, but it still came as a shock to me that the social standard of having to look sexy results in woman and girls looking sexually available, but unintelligent let alone competent or just looking as the nice and happy human being that you are

  4. Michelle
    Michelle02-19-2014

    This article is fantastic! You are exactly right that surgery will not fix self esteem problems. I am so lucky that I was raised by a wonderfully well grounded mother who taught me from a young age that I am exactly the same person in sweat pants as I am in a $3,000 outfit (and I’ve done some pretty awesome things in both). Similarly, if you aren’t comfortable with yourself in your most basic and natural form, you really aren’t likely to be happy with a surgically “enhanced” body either.

  5. Sandi Pierce
    Sandi Pierce02-20-2014

    I’m sad to say that I had saline breast implants in the early 1980s, but did so because a battering husband had targeted my breasts for violence and I had nothing more than skin flaps with nipples. I thought they would be a good idea for reconstructing destroyed tissue, and I only wanted to recover what I had lost. Now, 20+ years later, one of the implants has turned to rock, and is painful, so I am now considering surgery to remove it. It’s very hard not to feel that the batterer won.

    • Liz
      Liz02-26-2014

      Thats why girls should always get to know the person better before marrying someone. You shouldnt have let yourself be hit either. Shouldve report it to the police, no mater how scared you are if hes going to “get you”. They just say that to scare you. Thankfully i have a bf who would never dream of hitting or raising his voice on me. Im the one who gets out of control with him when im angry & i know that should stop. He even blames himself for everything we fight for.

      • Emmy
        Emmy03-04-2014

        Liz, she didn’t “let” herself get hit. Someone chose to hit her. I can guarantee you that the abuse wasn’t just physical which meant he chose to obliterate her spirit to the point she may not have felt she could leave. Also, abusers don’t just threaten they’ll kill you if you leave- at least 65% of victims are killed after leaving their abuser.
        As for being with a man who puts up with your abusive behavior, that’s not something to be proud of and I hope you can both get help.

      • Evie
        Evie03-15-2014

        ‘He laughs at scars who never felt a wound.’ Liz, blaming a victim, while in the same breath congratulating yourself on your good fortune is never actually helpful. This is just a falsehood we tell ourselves to feel in control; that violence could never reach us. But this only further hurts the victim, is abusive on it’s own, and makes it easier for these circumstances to continue.

      • Kate
        Kate05-02-2014

        “Thats why girls should always get to know the person better before marrying someone. You shouldnt have let yourself be hit either. ”
        Victim blaming. Disgusting attitude. Check yourself.

      • Meina
        Meina05-02-2014

        I just want to yell “shut up!”

        • Meina
          Meina05-02-2014

          To Liz, that is, who obviously think she knows and has it all.

    • Emmy
      Emmy03-04-2014

      Sandi, he didn’t win. You are alive; you won.

  6. Dorota
    Dorota02-20-2014

    You have helped me to challenge the way I perceive my body and make a positive shift. I do hope I will be able to teach my young daughters a healthy body image. We must do what we can in our private lives – and your advice is of great help.

    I also do believe that what we need is a systemic change – individual efforts are unlikely to be enough to “tip it” because of how pervasive and insidious the unhealthy ideals are. That’s why I applaud the work you do. Please, keep it up!

  7. erinmcnll
    erinmcnll03-03-2014

    Also, sadly, women feel pressure from profit-driven media or cultural ideals to get plastic surgery to measure up to expectations, and then get mocked for it.

    http://selfstyledsiren.blogspot.com/2014/03/lets-talk-about-kim-novak.html

  8. Andrea
    Andrea03-03-2014

    Oh, man. I could write a book about all my friends who have had breast augmentation and all the skewed and scary reasons they did it. I thought I was the only one who didn’t agree with it. Seriously. I have felt so alone in my stance that it is wrong for so many reasons. I grew up being taught it is wrong, but like so many things, I now find that many people with the same beliefs as me find nothing wrong with it. It’s confusing. Last year I got so confused, actually, that I seriously (well, as seriously as I could – which probably wasn’t too serious, as I just couldn’t risk my life for my vanity if it came down to it) considered it. It was actually my husband who put it in terms that made me laugh at myself for ever thinking about it. I wish I could remember his exact comments, but he compared it to buying a truck: Anyone can buy a big, new truck – it’s just another ‘thing’ you can get if you have enough money. It doesn’t change anything about you. It might make you feel really cool for a little while, but then the novelty wears off, and you realize that no one else cares or treats you any different. Or even notices. And then you find something new to be dissatisfied with.

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined03-03-2014

      Andrea! So glad to have your support, and to hear of your husband’s AWESOME perspective. Love it! Please follow us on Fbook, Instagram, twitter, etc. and you’ll be surrounded by like-minded amazing people. You’ll never have to feel alone in your beliefs again!

  9. lynn
    lynn03-12-2014

    Just to be devil’s advocate, I have them and I love them. Breast cancer runs in my family, so after kids, I got my real ladies removed and replaced them. I did not have body image issues before, and I don’t have them now. And yes, I did get them “for me.” Technology made it possible for me to keep the figure I was familiar with naturally (I actually got them a size smaller!) and I’m glad I made the decision. I love them and I feel they are just a normal part of me.

    Not all replacement boobies are inherently evil.

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined03-12-2014

      Lynn, this post isn’t trying to combat breast implants as reconstructive surgery. It’s asking people to critically consider their reasons for breast implants and what other alternatives might be. I’m glad you reduced your chances of cancer and feel great about yourself! That’s awesome.

  10. Amy
    Amy04-13-2014

    Great article!! My breasts are really small and I grew up with a father who constantly told me that I needed to get implants. I never did, but I grew up hating my body and I still suffer from low self esteem today.

  11. Zara Atkins
    Zara Atkins07-05-2014

    I know that breast implants is not for me. I’ve grateful with mine now.
    By the way, thanks for posting such a great article.

  12. Kate Rafter
    Kate Rafter07-16-2014

    It’s so crucial to talk about this in all forms of media so women and girls can realise that they don’t have to follow along because it seems that ‘everyone else is doing it’. More understanding of what self-esteem is and how to build & nurture it for yourself is needed. This is an area I specialize in with all my personal coaching clients. A big yes for our own mental power!

  13. Ricki
    Ricki07-19-2014

    While I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I respectfully disagree. As a woman with somewhat of the opposit problem, I am seriously considering a reduction and lift in my future. In the last year I have gone up 3 cup sizes and I’m now at a 34 H , they certainly aren’t small, and the last few times I have had to go bra shopping yet again, my mother has looked at me when I told her and said “well, what are you going to do about it?” And has mentioned to me several times about breast reduction, while on the other side of the fence, all the men I have ever talked to have said “nooooooo!!!!!”. While the specific opinions of the different camps are reversed, the pressure from both sides is the same, one side telling me I should be happy the way I am, and the other telling me I need to change myself to make others more comfortable. It’s hard to deal with, and reduction is even what I would consider much more socially acceptable! I am in the camp of, let people do whatever if they want to, it’s someone else’s body, and I have no right to try and impose my opinion on what they want to do with it, wether that’s augmentation, reduction, tattoos, tubal ligations, hair colour, whatever! It doesn’t affect me, it affects them, they shouldale the decision based on what they know of their situation, not on my limited view. I know that my life and decisions would bench easier if it were just left for me to make the decision without everyone else weighing in, I’m sure that there are a lot of other women out there who would agree.

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