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The YOU Referendum: Global Uncertainty Elicits Low

London – ‪13 February, 2017 – The number of Britons undergoing cosmetic surgery in 2016 was the lowest in nearly a decade, with a climate of global unrest and ‘bad news overload’ leaving patients prioritising stability and comfort over big life changes.

New data from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (; the only organisation solely dedicated to safety and education in cosmetic surgery, and which represents the vast majority of NHS-trained consultant plastic surgeons in private practice; today reveal that the number of cosmetic ops last year dropped 40% since reaching record-breaking heights in 2015. Anecdotally, it’s non-surgical treatment such as facial injectables which have remained on a steady rise.

For the first time in almost a decade of relatively consistent growth, cosmetic surgical procedure totals for women and men combined dipped below 31,000 – with 2016’s totals 5% less than those in 2007. Male procedure numbers were fewer than in 2005 (2,440 in 2005 > 2,409 in 2016), but while men’s ops were 48% less than the previous year, they still accounted for the same proportion of all patients, roughly 1% of the total number, as they have done historically.

Studies show that; whilst a useful marker; demand for cosmetic surgery doesn’t always reflect economic recovery. The environment of uncertainty, fear (terrorist attacks) and shaky identity (Brexit) encourages some areas of spending, and others less so - such as online purchasing v visiting shopping malls and ‘comfort’ eating in v going out to crowded restaurants. In fact, research showed that whilst the EU referendum loomed, many Britons wouldn’t have considered major changes such buying a house or even switching banks, and both retail and borrowing have slowed. The official Brexit report by Opinium stated;

“…the uncertainty created by the Referendum seems to be affecting British people’s perceived likelihood to engage in nearly any form of economic or social decision in and by itself. On the whole, mentioning the effect of the referendum on virtually anything leads people to answer that they are less likely to engage in activities requiring any level of trust or certainty including life changes, housing decisions, investment, and consumption.”

According to consultant plastic surgeon and former BAAPS President Rajiv Grover, who compiles the audit on an annual basis;

“In a climate of global fragility, the public are less likely to spend on significant alterations and become more fiscally conservative, by and large opting for less costly non-surgical procedures such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion, rather than committing to more permanent changes.

“The background of negative news and economic uncertainty seems to have re-invigorated the famous British ‘stiff upper lip’ –achieved, however, through dermal fillers and wrinkle-relaxing injections, rather than surgery!

“Indeed, some procedures which have no real non-surgical equivalent such as abdominoplasty and otoplasty (pinning back prominent ears) are some of the few which changed little, with demand for tummy tucks actually recording an impressive rise amongst men.

“It’s worth however to remember that the non-surgical sector is rife with lax regulation, maverick behaviour and unethical promotional gimmicks, so the public must remain vigilant. Non-surgical does not, and never has, meant non-medical.”

Abdominoplasty surgery remained popular for both genders, increasing to 6th place in 2016 from 8th place in 2015. Despite nearly 50% fewer men undergoing surgery than in 2015, the Association saw a 47% increase in male abdominoplasty surgery - possibly attributed to the fact that there is no adequate non-surgical option for the removal of excess skin, and with Britons’ shedding weight either through diet, exercise or bariatric surgery, the numbers show that men are still keen to jettison the spare tyre, surgically.

Women's cosmetic surgery dropped 39% from 2015, and while breast augmentation continues to remain the most popular procedure for women, with almost 8,000 (7,732) undergoing surgery, overall numbers sagged by 20%. Many surgeons also report that the oversized styles of the past have made way for smaller sizes, resulting in more natural enhancement.

The Figures in full:

Men & Women Combined

The top surgical procedures for men & women in 2016 (total 30,750. A fall of 39.9% from 2015)

In order of popularity:

  • Breast augmentation: 7,769  - down 20% from last year
  • Blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery): 3,905 – down 38%
  • Breast Reduction: 3,886 – down 38%
  • Face/Neck Lift: 3,453 – down 53%
  • Liposuction: 3,218 – down 42%
  • Abdominoplasty: 2,763 – down   6%
  • Rhinoplasty: 2,703 – down 14%
  • Fat Transfer: 1,459 – down 56%
  • Otoplasty (ear correction): 987 – down   9%
  • Browlift: 607 – down 71%

Women Only

The top surgical procedures for women in 2016 (28,341 total. A fall of 39.1% from 2015)

Women had 92% of all cosmetic procedures in 2015.

2016 figures for women in order of popularity:

  • Breast augmentation: 7,732 – down 20% from last year
  • Blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery): 3,584 – down 55%
  • Breast Reduction: 3,566 – down 38%
  • Face/Neck Lift: 3,328 – down 53%
  • Liposuction: 2,879 – down 42%
  • Abdominoplasty: 2,591 – down 6%
  • Rhinoplasty: 2,174 – down 14%
  • Fat Transfer: 1,359 – down 56%
  • Otoplasty (ear correction): 566 – down 9%
  • Browlift: 562 – down 71%

Men Only

The top surgical procedures for men in 2016 (2,409 total. A fall of 47.8% from 2015)

Men had 8% of all cosmetic procedures in 2016.

2016 figures for men in order of popularity:

  • Rhinoplasty:                                                     529 – down 35% from last year
  • Otoplasty (ear correction):                                 421 – down 19%                   
  • Liposuction:                                                      339 – down 42%                   
  • Blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery):                         321 – down 67%                   
  • Breast Reduction:                                              320 – down 59%           
  • Abdominoplasty:                                               172 – up 47%
  • Face/Neck Lift:                                                 125 – down 66%           
  • Fat Transfer                                                     100 – down 61%           
  • Brow lifts                                                        45 – down 72%
  • Breast augmentation:                                         37 – static

BAAPS President and consultant plastic surgeon Simon Withey believes the downturn can be seen as positive, as clearly the public is being more thoughtful about the serious impact of surgical procedures;

“The 2016 BAAPS audit demonstrates that at the very least, patients seem to be getting the message that cosmetic surgery is not a ‘quick fix’ but a serious commitment and are as a result, carefully evaluating risks as well as benefits surgery may offer. If it means people are taking their time to be truly sure a procedure is the right investment for them, then this can only be a good thing.”


About the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons
The BAAPS ( ), based at the Royal College of Surgeons, is a not-for-profit organisation, established for the advancement of education and practice of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery for public benefit. Members undergo thorough background screening before they can join. Information about specific procedures and surgeons’ contact details can be found on the website, or by contacting their office at 020 7430 1840. Further materials can be posted to members of the public seeking specialised information. BAAPS is also on Twitter: and Facebook:

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