Nichola Rumsey on Advertisements for Cosmetic Surgery and Beauty Practices


Nichola Rumsey
This is the first in a series of posts about whether advertisements for cosmetic surgery and other beauty practices should be banned. In this post, Nichola Rumsey, Professor of Appearance Research and Co-Director of the Centre of Appearance Research, University of the West of England, gives her views on this topic. If you would like to contribute to this discussion please email your response to Jan Kandiyali.

Would you be in favour of banning all advertisements for non-invasive beauty treatments and/or cosmetic surgery?
Rather than a ban (which is difficult to enforce) I am in favour of any advertisements being factual only. This would mean a ban on images that infer the procedures will do anything other than alter the feature in question (e.g., making the recipient more beautiful, happier, improving his/her chances of job success, etc). Many advertisements sell a dream while playing down the risks and shortcomings.

If you are not in favour of banning all advertisements would you be in favour of banning some - for instance for certain types of procedures?
The alarming rise in rates of labiaplasty might warrant this - as well as other procedures that appeal to teenagers (e.g. breast augmentation).

If so can you explain why for some and not all and how you would determine which should be advertised?
As above.

Would you differentiate depending on where adverts were placed; for instance would you accept adverts in women's magazines where the intended audience is adult women, but not in public places where they would be seen by children?
Parents have a strong influence on children up to the age of 11 and above. Adults who are very concerned with their appearance, and who discuss the possibility of surgery etc in front of their children are likely to transmit messages about the desirability of enhancing appearance and an expectation that engaging in surgery is ‘normal’ or even expected to their kids. Magazines will be left lying around the house for younger members to see...

Alternatively do you think that any banning advertisements would be wrong and why?
People will find information about cosmetic surgery from other sources - e.g. the internet. It would need to be a global ban to be effective - as many low income countries are benefitting from cosmetic tourism, this is unlikely to gain traction.

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