What are the Top 5 Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Procedures?

What are the Top 5 Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Procedures?

What are the Top 5 Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Procedures?

Cosmetic surgery refers to elective surgical procedures done to enhance one’s physical appearance and self-esteem. Unlike reconstructive plastic surgeries which aim to repair function and deformities typically from disease, trauma or birth defects, cosmetic surgeries are by choice. The industry has grown immensely worldwide, fueled by increasing beauty standards across modern culture. In 2019 alone, over $16.7 billion was spent on cosmetic procedures in the United States. But which ones are most popular? Here we review the top 5 cosmetic surgical procedures by demand.

Breast Augmentation

Breast augmentation tops the list as the number one surgical cosmetic procedure according to 2020 statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Over 300,000 breast augmentation surgeries were performed in 2020, marking a steady rise over the past 30 years. The procedure uses breast implants or one's own fat grafting to increase breast size and fullness. Implants come in a variety of sizing options and with either saline or more natural feeling silicone filling. Reasons women opt to undergo breast augmentation include:

  • Desire to have fuller breasts or increase cup size
  • Improve breast contour and projection
  • Restore volume lost after pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Even out asymmetry between breasts
  • Improve self-image and confidence

Modern techniques allow for various incision locations to minimize visible scarring, such as in the armpit, around the areola or underneath the breast. Recovery typically involves some temporary soreness, swelling and changes in nipple sensitivity. While a common and relatively low risk procedure, any surgery carries risks of bleeding, infection and poor healing. Implants may also need replacing every 10-15 years. Overall success and satisfaction is highly contingent upon communicating desired outcomes and expectations to your plastic surgeon.


Coming in second is liposuction, with over 250,000 procedures performed in 2020. Liposuction aims to recontour areas prone to stubborn fat accumulation that are unresponsive to diet and exercise. Common treatment areas include the abdomen, thighs, hips and flanks ("love handles"), buttocks, arms, neck, back and more.

The procedure uses a thin tube called a cannula connected to a vacuum to break up and suction out fat deposits through small incisions in the skin. Available techniques include:

  • Tumescent liposuction: numbing fluid injected into treatment areas
  • Ultrasound-assisted: specialized cannula vibrating ultrasonic energy breaks up fat
  • Laser assisted: laser energy used to rupture fat cell walls
  • Power assisted: specialized cannula mechanically loosens fat cells

Which technique gets utilized depends on the treatment area and goals. Results from liposuction tend to be long lasting provided weight is maintained through proper exercise and nutrition. It allows both men and women to achieve a smoother, more toned appearance they find hard to achieve through non-surgical means.

Combining liposuction with a fat transfer procedure can also augment other areas of the body, like the buttocks or face. As with any procedure, bruising, swelling, numbness and minor post-op discomfort is common. More serious risks include excessive blood loss, infection, embolism and poor wound healing.

Nose Reshaping (Rhinoplasty)

Rhinoplasty earns the #3 spot with over 200,000 procedures in 2020. Also referred to as a “nose job”, it remains one of the most popular facial plastic surgery procedures sought out by both men and women. Rhinoplasty aims to alter the shape, size, angle or proportions of the nose for an improved facial appearance and self confidence.

This procedure is commonly used to:

  • Decrease nose size or alter tip/nostril shape
  • Narrow wide nostrils
  • Correct breathing obstructed by structural abnormalities
  • Reduce dorsal nasal hump
  • Realign collapsed or crooked noses
  • Smooth protruding bumps and points

Rhinoplasty requires intricate changes to the nasal structure. Incisions are made inside the nostrils or underneath to access cartilage and bone which is then augmented, removed or rearranged. In some cases cartilage grafts from the ear or rib may be used to restructure the nose. Bruising and swelling is significant for the first week or two post-op. While initially concealed with a splint, optimal shape may take a year to manifest from the resolving swelling. As a complex procedure altering such a focal facial feature, assessing physician qualifications and experience is paramount to prevent the need for revisionary surgery.

Eyelid Surgery (Blepharoplasty)

Over 200,000 blepharoplasty surgeries were performed in 2020, securing its rank as the 4th most popular cosmetic surgical procedure. This surgery addresses signs of facial aging in and around the eyelids. Typical alterations involve:

  • Removing excess skin for a tighter upper eyelid
  • Reducing under eye bagginess by repositioning or removing fat deposits
  • Tightening lower eyelid muscles
  • Lifting droopy upper eyelids impairing peripheral vision

Incisions follow natural eyelid creases and folds, allowing excision of targeted tissues followed by wound closure. Swelling, bruising and discomfort subsides within 2 weeks to unveil refreshed non-drooping eyes for a more open, youthful appearance. Blepharoplasty cannot fully reverse all facial aging or affects from sun damage. Combining it with other procedures like brow or facelift yields more comprehensive rejuvenating results. Though generally low risk, proper patient screening is vital to prevent postoperative dry eyes or retinal complications.

Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)

Rounding out the top 5 cosmetic surgical procedures is the abdominoplasty with just under 130,000 performed annually. Also known as a “tummy tuck”, this contours the abdomen by:

  • Removing excess skin and fat
  • Tightening separated abdominal muscles
  • Minimizing the appearance of stretch marks

This body contouring surgery essentially restores pre-pregnancy stomach appearance for those unhappy with overhanging abdominal skin and protrusion. Incisions traverse hip to hip just within the bikini line followed by underlying muscle and tissue manipulation to smooth and flatten the region. The navel is then repositioned if necessary.

Recovering from a tummy tuck takes several weeks to months and requires avoiding straining activities during that time. Swelling persists for a few months before optimal results manifest. Scarring fades and settles within the concealed bikini line but will remain to some degree. When performed post child-bearing, abdominoplasty effects can positively restore self-confidence in one’s figure.


Cosmetic plastic surgery encompasses a wide range of facial and body contouring procedures sought out by those unhappy with certain aesthetic features. Among the most popular surgical treatments performed in 2020 were those addressing the breasts, fat pockets, nose, eyes and midsection. Safety continues to improve thanks to innovations in technique. However, realistic expectations based on true motivations and risks is paramount to success from any cosmetic medical intervention. Uncovering one’s ideal procedure involves an honest self-evaluation and assessment relative to individual body goals.

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