Are beauty innovations shrinking the UK's cosmetic surgery market?


The rise and now omnipresence of internet technology has been held liable for an increasingly image-conscious society, penetrating beyond the selfie generation and impacting consumers across a much wider age cohort.

So-called digital narcissism, aided by widely popular social media applications and websites such as Instagram and Facebook has put enormous pressure on people to achieve visual perfection, and has often been blamed for rising rates of cosmetic surgery… but what about its decline?

According to The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, the number of people having cosmetic surgery in the UK in 2016 dropped by 40% compared with 2015.

While consumers remain overtly aware of their appearance, the image conscious are turning their backs on invasive cosmetic enhancement, instead opting for non-invasive surgical procedures, if any at all.

Looking at anti-aging alone, according to GlobalData’s 2016 consumer research, 49% of consumers worldwide believe beauty and grooming products to be effective in making them look younger, while just 26% feel the same about undergoing cosmetic surgery. As traditional (topical) beauty products also require less of a financial commitment, consumers are more likely to opt for non-surgical solutions than risk going under the knife.

This shines the light on increasingly innovative beauty solutions as a driver of this shifting consumer sentiment. The growing social acceptance of diverse beauty also has influenced consumers to accentuate their features with such beauty products rather than to change their image using permanent cosmetic procedures.

Increasingly complex make-up routines including elaborate ‘contour’ and ‘highlighting’ techniques outshine invasive cosmetic procedures as cheaper, non-permanent alternatives. Even more accessible are photo editing software such as Photoshop and beauty applications such as Facetune and AirBrush which serve this exact function, eliminating the need to purchase beauty products at all if the aim is to simply post a flattering photo online.

Tangible beauty innovations are also taking inspiration from photo filters found on social media platforms and applications to allow consumers to achieve flawless finishes in real life.

Cosmetic products which manipulate and refract light to favorably illuminate the face are appealing in particular, which indicates the direction in which the beauty industry is heading.

As natural beauty is increasingly praised, products which enhance such beauty conveniently and economically will prevail over invasive, often expensive cosmetic surgery options.