Rethinking the Beauty Standard
Date: June 7, 2013
For decades, Caucasians were the most common patrons of facial plastic surgeons such as Kofi Boahene. That history made this ethnic group the long-standing aesthetic standard for surgery on noses and eyelids and for facial rejuvenation procedures. But today, other ethnic groups are more and more likely to visit plastic surgeons as well. The problem, Boahene says, is that Caucasian features are still thought of as the benchmark, even when those traits don’t look natural on the patient.
“Changing features too drastically from an ethnic group’s typical ones can put patients in an awkward position, even if it’s what they think they want,” Boahene explains. “If a Hispanic patient wants a rhinoplasty, and they get a nose that looks Caucasian, people think they don’t like being Hispanic.”
Many nonwhite patients eventually seek follow-up surgeries, Boahene adds, because they don’t feel like they fit in anymore with their friends and families. “One of the top reasons nonwhite patients seek a revision surgery is because they feel like they’ve lost their ethnic features,” he says.
After years of living and training in diverse locations around the world, Boahene says he saw the need for a new type of “ethnically sensitive” plastic surgery that takes into account the beauty standards of ethnic groups other than Caucasians. Not only has Boahene studied different ethnic beauty standards across races and culture, he says, he’s also trained on how surgery affects people in different ethnic subgroups. Small variations in skin thickness, bone structure, and scarring patterns can lead to huge variances in surgical outcomes.
To make sure patients are happiest with the end result, Boahene focuses on what features patients want to preserve and which ones they feel are out of place aesthetically, using their ethnic group’s beauty standards as a guide. With computer modeling, he shows patients how changing a feature will affect their whole look—a practice that often sways nonwhite patients from requesting typically Caucasian features. “My ultimate aim,” he says, “is a natural-looking result, one that enhances one’s beauty in an ethnically sensitive manner.”