Rhinoplasty, commonly referred to as a nose job, is the ultimate act of vanity. At least, that’s how it’s perceived.
Last year, it was the second-most popular cosmetic surgical procedure in the United States among patients in their twenties, behind only breast augmentation, which says everything you need to know, right?
What you see when you begin to look on a case-by-case basis is a far more nuanced narrative. One of the reasons—a big reason—nose jobs are as popular as they are among patients in their twenties is that many of us come to realize all too keenly during our teenage years just how prominent a feature our noses are—and how much attention, both internally and externally, they draw.
For almost all of us, there’s something about our physical appearance we’d like to change. For a sizable majority, that thing is front and center every time we look in the mirror. And for someone who identifies as a minority, constantly measuring their appearance against members of their own family and the world-at-large, a feature like a nose can begin to feel like the reason they believe they don’t truly fit in anywhere.
‘Nobody in my family had my nose’
“My heritage is half-Lebanese and half-English. I got a lot of beautiful features from my dad and the Arabic side that I now embrace, like the color of my skin and my eyes,” writes Elizabeth Lewis, a 28-year-old biomedical engineer, in an essay about why she got a nose job. “Many of my features relate back to my heritage, but looking around, nobody in my family had my nose.”
While Elizabeth became increasingly self-conscious about her nose, getting the surgery was not a decision she entered into lightly. In fact, she struggled with it for years, largely because her family encouraged her, every time it came up, to simply embrace her natural appearance for what it was. “Nothing will ever be as good as what you’re born with,” they’d say.
Ultimately, she moved forward behind the understanding that what she was doing she was doing for herself, and herself alone.
The evolution of the nose job
Once Elizabeth met the surgeon who would perform her rhinoplasty, she realized that her parents’ fears—and her own—about erasing her identity, her heritage, were unfounded. “He listened to all my concerns, and I knew he was going to help me realize who I always envisioned myself to be,” she writes.
Rhinoplasty itself has undergone a pretty dramatic makeover in recent years. For a long time, the procedure was basically one-size-fits-all. Today, however, plastic surgeons are able to employ a number of new techniques, dependent upon the patient’s needs and expectations, that help ensure the resulting nose is natural-looking and that it perfectly balances the patient’s face.
When you meet with a plastic surgeon for the first time, you’ll inevitably be shown before-and-after photos. But make sure to ask to be shown photos for noses that are similar to your own size and shape. They’ll not only speak to the surgeon’s ability, they’ll also help guide your own discussion and set your expectations.
Elizabeth’s surgeon corrected her deviated septum and took away a little bump on her nose and the hook that made it point down.
“I know I technically could have lived with my nose for another 10 years,” she writes, “but if I made myself unhappily live in this shell for 10 more years, would it really be worth it? It never is.”