Can a plastic surgeon just make you attractive?
December 2, 2007 5:03 PM   Subscribe

Can a plastic surgeon just make you attractive?

I know my face is not attractive. But I can't point to any one feature (nose, etc.) that is particularly off. Would a plastic surgeon be able to look at my face and figure out why it is unattractive, and alter it to make it so?
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (40 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I believe that a plastic surgeon might be be able to look at your face, and by studying it, be able to suggest surgical ways of making your features more traditionally attractive. Keep in mind, though, that to go into plastic surgery with the vague expectation of becoming "more attractive" might leave you disappointed. Hopefully after consulting with a plastic surgeon, you will be able to think on his/her suggestions and decide if those specific actions will satisfy you (will a bigger nose, less wrinkes, bigger boobs make me happy?)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:10 PM on December 2, 2007

Nope. Most plastic surgery results in an unnatural look. If you're ugly you will end up weird looking and ugly, perhaps with the odd feature that might conform to some sort of equation or be similar to a celebrity. Beautiful people rarely maintain their beauty through plastic surgery, and they never, ever improve their looks. Beauty is natural. If you find your face unnatractive work on the reasons, improve your confidence and the rest will follow. Surgery is rarely the answer - your new face will arrive and you'll find new reasons to be dissatisfied with it.
posted by fire&wings at 5:17 PM on December 2, 2007

Beautiful people rarely maintain their beauty through plastic surgery, and they never, ever improve their looks. Beauty is natural.

Plenty of people would agree that this is not true.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:19 PM on December 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Have you considered the option of getting a really good haircut and consulting with a make-up expert? If you watch those make-over shows like What Not To Wear, a new cut and some appropriate, natural looking makeup can make a huge difference while respecting your own natural beauty.
posted by metahawk at 5:22 PM on December 2, 2007

You could ask a plastic surgeon, but remember, they are trying to sell you something. Ask your most honest and most critical friends, and try to get them to cut past the polite, "no, you're beautiful," and see what they might say.

Additionally, consider talking to a regular doctor or nutritionist. You may be missing something in your diet that leads to such things as fatigue, bags under eyes, etc. Quit smoking if you do smoke, exercise a bit more: with some people, their face easily shows their body's shape. I know my face tends to look chubby before my body shows it.

Lastly, go into a department store's makeup section or a store like Sephora. Whether you're a guy or a lady, the professionals there see many, many faces and are trained to be very critical. They may be able to describe your face and figure out ways of bringing out your best features or diminishing your less flattering ones. Granted, if you do not like to wear makeup, or are a guy, they'll be of less help, but even their critical eye may be more useful than a plastic surgeon looking to sell a nosejob that you may not need.
posted by explosion at 5:23 PM on December 2, 2007

That was the premise behind the TV show "Extreme Makeover." You could check out their gallery of before and after shots to see if you feel that the participants' fundamental attractiveness has been changed by their surgeries.
posted by xo at 5:25 PM on December 2, 2007

How about trying a non-surgical approach first? Department stores always have cosmetics counters where you can have someone help you try out various products that can change your appearance somewhat. I would think that the people who do this are very attuned to current standards of beauty, so they might be able to help you. It's certainly less invasive and expensive than surgery, and if you don't like the results, just go home and wash your face.

Or, um, on preview, what explosion said.

Disclaimer: I've never actually done this, but I see plenty of women using this service so there must be some merit to it.
posted by Quietgal at 5:25 PM on December 2, 2007

Plenty of people would agree that this is not true

I should clarify - I meant improve on natural beauty. Plastic surgery can of course improve people.

Surgeons cannot make you beautiful. They can correct problems and tidy things up, but you will never make a silk purse from a sow's ear, and to suggest otherwise is an outright lie.
posted by fire&wings at 5:32 PM on December 2, 2007

A plastic surgeon might make a feature better or noticeable, but if a person can't point to a specific "issue" e.g. huge nose, bad acne, then it will be difficult to focus on one area. Perhaps a good one can, but frankly, plastic surgeons might be put off by your complaint because it is so vague. They might be afraid you'll never be satisfied.

Again I don't want to be critical, but the line, I know my face is not attractive. But I can't point to any one feature (nose, etc.) that is particularly off., without actually seeing what you look like, is a red flag to me. How exactly do you know that your face isn't attractive? What is it that you dislike about your face. Plus telling that to yourself with certainly will become a self-fulfilling prophecy since you will carry yourself like you are ugly. Plenty of ordinary people have features that because of who they are and how they carry themselves, become exotic, offbeat,or quirky features that ARE attractive.
posted by xetere at 5:32 PM on December 2, 2007

Attractiveness is not a perfect, universally agreed upon standard. However, symmetry and proportion seem to be some guiding lights. We've all seen the half-mirrored photos that look more attractive than the original, and the "averaged left and right" photos also look good. (There's some debate about the computer-modeled images that create a smooth skin surface being attractive in and of itself). As to proportion, you will often hear people critique looks by using the word "too." His eyes are too close together, her nose is too small for her face, etc. That's proportion.

Like a hair stylist, a good plastic surgeon should be able to see things and qualify particulars that you cannot see on your own. This involves a great deal of trust, however. Certainly they can't just whoosh make you more attractive, but they can point out that there are fixes here and there that could be made.

When you look at the before and after photo galleries, ignore the lighting, the makeup, and the smile. You can still see some improvements, which can be, in the case of a good procedure, dramatic. Mere elimination of flaw will not make you beautiful, but it can certainly push you closer to some of the unconscious standards of acceptance.
posted by adipocere at 5:34 PM on December 2, 2007

I'll second TPS and I'd like to add that you need to learn more about beauty to help with plastic surgery. Knowing specifically what you want will help. I'd study pictures of beautiful faces and figure out why their beautiful, look at their balance, how their groomed, their weight, their proportions. There is a lot you can do besides surgery but once you understand the specific things that makes a face beautiful, you'll be able to judge yourself critically and would be able to go to a surgeon and say "I need this" rather than just say "I want to be beautiful". It'll also keep your expectations in line to actually getting what you want. Plastic surgery can't turn you into a supermodel but, when done correctly, it can help enhance, streamline, and beautify your features. It is an extreme proceedure though. You might find, after studying faces, that better grooming, a different haircut, a facial or a new face cleansing routine will actually make your more beautiful while at the same time being much cheaper and less painful than plastic surgery.

on preview: what other people said.
posted by Stynxno at 5:35 PM on December 2, 2007

honestly, an ethical surgeon would probably not agree to a request as vague as yours and you don't want to go to an unethical surgeon. if you don't have a specific thing that's bothering you, then there's no way to know how it will help you, because there's no concrete goal. if you go in with a strong desire for a smaller or straighter nose, that's an achievable goal. but simply doing whatever, willy-nilly, to make you feel better about yourself isn't.

an ethical surgeon, if you go in asking him/her to simply make you feel more attractive will probably suggest you try counseling first. it might not be a bad idea. if you don't know what part of you makes you feel ugly, then maybe it's not the hardware but the software that needs to be addressed.

i would second the good haircut and a visit to a dermatologist, if you have skin issues. also, go to a department store and meet with a personal shopper. getting some great clothes that fit you really well (and if you are a woman, getting a couple of bras that fit you really well) will do wonders for your appearance.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:03 PM on December 2, 2007

You might be interested in this book. It describes the features that go into what we casually know as attractiveness (symmetry, proportion, high cheek bones, etc.), and looks at the evolutionary and cultural implications of how we look. The first part will probably help you, the second part probably won't.

Another potential resource is this book. It points out features of faces, and teaches you how to make them look a bit better. I'm not trying to dissuade you from having surgery, just suggesting the book as another tool that might help you put your finger on what's not working for you.

I think if you could develop an educated set of preferences as they apply to your own face, you'll be in a much better position to work with anyone (plastic surgeon, makeup artist, etc.) to get you closer to where you want to be.

Good luck.
posted by nadise at 6:12 PM on December 2, 2007

- Can a plastic surgeon just make you attractive?

- Would a plastic surgeon be able to look at my face and figure out why it is unattractive, and alter it to make it so?

These are two very different questions.

A very good plastic surgeon can do just about whatever you want, and that includes making people attractive by the traditional standards of your culture. (Whether "most of it results in an unnatural look" is a very subjective take.)

But "why your face is unattractive" is also very subjective. What your doctor would think about the way you look will come from a different set of data than what you think, and what your family and friends think, and what society would think.

I agree with the commenters who have said that it's best to investigate non-surgical options as well, and to learn more about what you perceive to be beautiful. The doctor isn't a mind reader, and until you are able to ask for the changes you want to see, at least in the abstract, you would be setting him/her up to fail by making a nebulous request.

Talking to a surgeon will help you figure out what changes are reasonable and possible; if you have a delicate bone structure, then big prominent cheekbones might not work very well... if you have a square face and large head, a pert Reese Witherspoon nose might not be a good match. And you might want procedures that aren't medically feasible; sometimes, aggressive recontouring of bone comes with more significant risk or recovery time.

But I expect that if you pursue this research, you're going to get continued reproof of "everyone is beautiful" and "beauty starts on the inside" and "more self-confidence will fix all your problems!" If after careful research and emotional self-examination, you decide that surgery is what you want, don't let other people make you feel shame about that.

A wise therapist once told me that there are actual exceptions to the notion that "money can't buy happiness," that a study had been done among psychologists based on their patients' experiences, and it showed three areas where people could spend money -- and almost without fail, the expense significantly improved their quality of life: reducing one's daily commute; traveling more often to see family and close friends; and reconstructive plastic surgery.

Surgeons cannot make you beautiful. They can correct problems and tidy things up, but you will never make a silk purse from a sow's ear, and to suggest otherwise is an outright lie.

fire&wings, as an observer, my experience has been vastly different. I live in Dallas, where more cosmetic surgeries are performed per capita than any other city in the US (yes, more than Miami and L.A.), and I have seen some remarkable transformations here. It's not my place to judge those people's motivations or what led them to have those procedures, but I can certainly assess the final results. If you are trying to make a meta statement about what it means to be beautiful, that's cool -- but on the facts side, I think you're making generalizations that aren't helpful to the poster.
posted by pineapple at 6:28 PM on December 2, 2007 [7 favorites]

Yes, they can, but only according to what they think is attractive, so you need to think about this much more before doing anything.

If it's a major change, you can end up looking a little abnormal, kinda defeating the point.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:32 PM on December 2, 2007

fire&wings - how may people do you know who have had facial cosmetic surgery?
posted by FlamingBore at 6:34 PM on December 2, 2007

Spend your money on your teeth first. Gleaming, straight pearly whites will make anyone look more attractive. Also they can fatten up the back molars which make your face wider which many people like the look of (according to my dentist)
posted by fshgrl at 7:04 PM on December 2, 2007

Surgeons cannot make you beautiful.

Yeah, you know, there's a whole multi million dollar industry and insatiable culture that completely disagrees with you.
posted by xmutex at 7:12 PM on December 2, 2007

I have no experience personally, but I would think a skilled plastic surgeon can make an improvement.

But I would nth the suggestions to see a makeover artist first. Check out What Not to Wear (full episodes online), Ten Years Younger and other related shows. It's pretty amazing what can be done without surgery. Even small changes can boost your confidence in a way that the confidence itself makes you more attractive. A smiling, open person is inherently more attractive than someone who walks around with their head down.

Good luck!
posted by The Deej at 7:15 PM on December 2, 2007

Plastic surgery is an art and a really really good (expensive) plastic surgeon can determine subtle adjustments that would improve, but not necessarily transform someone. The only "transformations" I've ever really seen are with people with bad skin or teeth and some nose jobs. I would not suggest getting cheek implants or your lips done. Chin implants go wrong fast, as do face lifts.

Also, a good surgeon will be very up front about what they can and cannot achieve and will not suggest dramatic changes. If you have bad skin or teeth, I would try to fix those first, they are the easiest to fix and will get the best results and will do a lot more than you probably expect for your overall appearance.
posted by whoaali at 7:22 PM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Maybe my experience can shed some light on this question.

I had braces and orthognathic jaw surgery about 3 years ago. My upper jaws were both broken and reset. This was not done primarily as a cosmetic procedure; it was done, above all, to fix a bite that was badly off and was causing ongoing problems with my ability to chew, as well as creating chronic pain and beginning to create a bad wear pattern to my teeth that had the potential to cause me to lose my teeth prematurely.

So fixing all that was the primary medical, dental, and orthodonic aim of my surgery -- but there was also a clear and explicit secondary benefit, and that was cosmetic. Because frankly (and despite fire&wings' blanket dismissal of the entire concept), the surgery most certainly improved my looks considerably. And from improved looks has flowed a self-confidence that I honestly just never had before.

No, I'm no supermodel, and my identity doesn't hinge on being pretty. But I am, finally, free of the self-consciousness and self-dislike that plagued me for 30+ years that stemmed, in large part, from being dissatisfied with my looks (which, in turn, had stemmed from having been teased for being "horse-faced" ever since I was a kid. It's astonishing how thoughtless some people can be. And not just other children -- frankly, some of the cruelest comments about my face came from adults.)

The transition, however, was surprisingly difficult. First, I had a particularly rough surgery, stemming from an extreme (and unexpected) amount of bleeding, swelling, and bruising. (I ended up in the ICU for 4 or 5 days -- turns out I'm a hemophiliac! -- and was heavily bruised for about 6 months and swollen for about 2 years after the surgery, which is 2 to 3 times longer than most patients with similar surgery). And I was quite disoriented by my new face for quite some time -- I couldn't find me in the mirror for a long time, which was deeply upsetting. And though I was receiving compliments on my looks after the swelliing started to go down, it took me a few years to trust them. But now, three years on, I can say honestly that I recognize who I see in the mirror... and I like the face that looks back at me. It is a wonderful experience -- one that I wish I could have had much earlier in my life, but am grateful every day to have now.

Having said all that, Anon, I obviously don't know if you need jaw surgery. I can say, though, that it might be worth consulting with an orthodontist first to see if there is an underlying structural issue that could be addessed by fixing your teeth and bite, rather than surface cosmetic procedures like implants, nose job, etc.

And please feel free to email me if you would like to converse more on the topic.
posted by scody at 7:32 PM on December 2, 2007

guh, 2nd paragraph should read "my upper and lower jaws were both broken..." Otherwise it makes me sound like I had more than one upper jaw, which of course would have posed a slightly different problem.
posted by scody at 7:34 PM on December 2, 2007

I know my face is not attractive

Of course it is! Put a smile on there and nobody is more beautiful!

Don't do plastic surgery, it always looks unnatural and riuns the natural form of your face.
posted by MiffyCLB at 7:39 PM on December 2, 2007

Most plastic surgeons do free consultations of some sort. Before you have surgery, visit the best made-up makeup artists at the big department stores. Get a variety of makeup & hair makeovers. Make sure your teeth are in good shape. Exercise, and weigh what you should. Get your best-dressed friend to help you choose a couple of new outfits that flatter you. Visit a speech or job coach, and work on standing up straight and presenting yourself well.

Unless your features are lopsided, you can become 'attractive' with cosmetics and confidence. If you have a flaw, like a small, receding chin, or a bumpy nose, that can easily be fixed surgically. I know a couple people who present as really attractive just because they know how to package themselves.

Confidence, kindness, and a smile go a long way.
posted by theora55 at 7:45 PM on December 2, 2007

Seconding Scody's story; I had maxillofacial surgery to fix a notable overbite and misaligned jaw in 1995. It took 18 months of braces before the surgery, two weeks of wired jaws, and 3 months on a liquid diet (amazing what one can blend). I was back at work within a month, and people still recognized me (obviously) but generally thought I looked "better". The first time I ever bit off a piece of pasta was a revelation. I still notice, sometimes, that my lips are closed when my face is at rest - entirely normal, but not something I ever did as a child.

The specific details of what was done are fairly gross, so I won't go into them here. 12 years later, I have full movement (more than normal, according to my dentist), a normal bite/chew experience (although my jaws do tire more quickly than normal), well-aligned teeth, a slight "crunch" in my jaw joints, very occasional pain, and a significantly more aesthetically pleasing face. Well worth it, in my view.

So yeah, if there's any issue around your jaws and teeth that contributes to your dissatisfying appearance, look into maxillofacial surgery.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:51 PM on December 2, 2007

I still notice, sometimes, that my lips are closed when my face is at rest - entirely normal, but not something I ever did as a child.

yes! I still occasionally catch myself with my lips closed while my face is relaxed, and I realize that I'm not straining to "pull" my mouth/teeth into place, like I did for so long. It feels amazing every time.
posted by scody at 8:20 PM on December 2, 2007

*Note: you can only watch episodes online if you are in the actual country. Outside regions are not allowed access.
posted by gomichild at 8:59 PM on December 2, 2007

Watch some of the shows like Extreme Makeover. Some (most) of the time they take a pretty unattractive person and make them attractive to a certain level. Sometimes it's clearly obvious that the end result is very obviously the result of plastic surgery, but not always. A good plastic surgeon is clearly an artist. An average plastic surgeon is clearly a mechanic, of sorts.

However, from what I can tell of these shows, the people who are close to average end up stunning and the people who have a heck of a lot of problems (bad teeth, broken noses, uneven eyes, bad skin, etc.) end up plastic-y.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:10 PM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I know my face is not attractive. But I can't point to any one feature (nose, etc.) that is particularly off.

Sure, plastic surgery *can* improve someone's looks. Don't take this the wrong way, but if you're unable to point out any one feature you're unhappy with, but are somehow sure that your face is unattractive... there is a strong possibility that you have a distorted view of your features.

Why not post your picture on the forums at Yes They're Fake. It's a bulletin board for people who've had or are considering surgery. People will be glad to give you their honest opinions... and not necessarily pro-surgery opinions either. I was considering tweaking my nose until I posted my photos there.
posted by specialfriend at 10:29 PM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

if i think offhand of three or four people i know who i would describe as having faces that are "not attractive", the common denominator isn't anything wrong with their facial features- it's more their "facial energy".

i know a woman who i find unattractive because she keeps her mouth ajar all the time. her teeth are kind of long and her lips are sort of short, i guess, so when her lips are parted, all her teeth show and her chin recedes. the overall effect is a slack-jawed snaggletoothed idiot sort of look, it's pretty awful and totally overshadows her nice green eyes and creamy skin. in fact, when she closes her mouth, she's quite pretty. if she consciously re-learned to keep her mouth shut when she wasn't using it, she would basically double her attractive points.

i know a man whose face i find hard to look at, but it's because he has a lot of nervous energy and it manifests as werid facial tics and eyebrow raises that make me very uncomfortable. but the first time i saw him was in a photo and i thought he was kinda handsome. when i saw him talk, he killed that quite fast by acting weird and twitchy. if he would just stay still and relax a bit, people would see his good bone structure and nice friendly eyes.

et cetera. in both cases, they are doing unattractive things to their faces, and making themselves unattractive, even though their faces are not inherently flawed. it's the condoleezza rice syndrome. come on, she would totally be pretty if she smiled. but that robot scowl? *shudder*. to further the point, i know lots of empirically odd-looking people who are nonetheless attractive and charismatic because they carry themselves well and have pleasant, lively faces (steve buscemi, whoopi goldberg, david letterman, maggie gyllenhaal.)

also, i will add, in general, be scrupulous about your grooming: clean, non-greasy, non flaky skin- wash, astringent, and moisturize every morning. clean teeth, clean breath, clean fingernails. decent haircut (if it costs under $20 it's probably not good enough). no dandruff. no eye crusties. ladies, wear a little makeup. menfolks, keep your facial hair trimmed (for the love of god, of you have a beard or goatee, keep your mustache shorter than your upper lip so it doesn't overlap). keep your glasses clean and wear a little chapstick so you don't get nasty white flakes on your lips.... you know, all that good stuff that so many people's momma never told them. and most of all, keep a pleasant, serene expression on your face and be nice to people. that's what's really attractive.
posted by twistofrhyme at 10:34 PM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

i know a woman who i find unattractive because she keeps her mouth ajar all the time. her teeth are kind of long and her lips are sort of short, i guess, so when her lips are parted, all her teeth show and her chin recedes. the overall effect is a slack-jawed snaggletoothed idiot sort of look, it's pretty awful and totally overshadows her nice green eyes and creamy skin. in fact, when she closes her mouth, she's quite pretty. if she consciously re-learned to keep her mouth shut when she wasn't using it, she would basically double her attractive points.

Wow. This is exactly the sort of shit I heard/overheard about my own appearance for years (see above for the bit about how adults can be more cruel than children).

But if "her teeth are kind of long and her lips are sort of short," and she's got a receding chin, it's entirely possible that her problem -- similar to mine and aeschenkarnos -- has got nothing to do with some claptrap about bad "facial energy" but rather with an actual underlying malformation with her jaw/bone structure. In which case, if she's anything like me, she's probably already tried to relearn how "to keep her mouth shut" more times than you can possibly appreciate. (Believe me, I spent countless hours in front of the mirror starting around age 14 agonizing over how to accomplish exactly that, precisely because I realized there were people like you judging me as a "slackjawed snaggletoothed idiot," no matter how pleasant the look on my face, and how nice I was to other people.)
posted by scody at 11:01 PM on December 2, 2007

If you look at makeover shows it's not the surgery, clothes or veneers that make them look better. It's the hair and makeup. If any of your features are not symetrical (e.g. broken nose) then yes this would look better if reset, but on the whole surgery makes people look odd. It may look good in a photograph but in real life there aren't many people who look better. Plus, do you want to look attractive to the general public or to a partner? Because those are two different types of attractiveness.
posted by gatchaman at 4:36 AM on December 3, 2007

I'm generally wary of cosmetic surgery and I completely second (most) of the people on the thread who have advised you to consider counseling, as well as less invasive means of playing with your appearance. Even if you are actually unattractive (which I almost never take for granted from people's self-descriptions because there are too many potential issues in the way), there are plenty of happy and in love ugly people. It may be worth exploring how that works for them, and whether you can or want to make it work for you.

If you do decide to for surgery, I would be very chary of free consultations. I think you get what you pay for, and since what you need is the neutral expertise of someone who is not just a skilled surgeon but also skilled in aesthetics (ie, not someone who just assumes that attractive means 'as much like the 'hot' starlets as possible'), that's definitely worth paying for, and preferably paying someone who will not benefit financially from any surgery you may choose to do.

Also, when you're thinking about cosmetic surgery, don't just take into account the short term effects but also the long term effects (potential health risks for sure, but not even that alone). I'm no expert, but I have the impression that almost all forms of cosmetic surgery need updating and more work down the line. If you have a good surgeon that you trust and can easily afford that, it's less of an issue. If even the initial surgery and costs of recovery are a burden, then you should definitely take that into account and, if you decide to have any procedures done, do less rather than more and choose the ones that are least likely to need expensive maintenance.

Good luck with whatever you choose to do!
posted by Salamandrous at 9:00 AM on December 3, 2007

Nope. Most plastic surgery results in an unnatural look.

If you're going to a greedy plastic surgeon, then maybe so. Good plastic surgeons know when to stop.

Don't do plastic surgery, it always looks unnatural and riuns the natural form of your face.

I'm biting my tongue as hard as I can on this one. I've had an endoscopic brow lift and I look fine. I've always had a low brow, and after years of hearing, "Why the sad face?" or "Wow, you must be in a bad mood!", I finally took action. Now I just look like a better rested, happier version of myself. I don't get those comments anymore. I'm not a beauty queen, but I'm fairly attractive. Go look at my website if you want to know what good plastic surgery looks like.

I think there is a danger when people try to significantly alter their appearance with chin implants, cheek implants, etc., but if you're just looking to improve what you already have, plastic surgery can be a godsend.
posted by Evangeline at 10:33 AM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nth-ing all the people above who suggest looking into less-invasive solutions first. I'm particularly struck by how you can't identify any one feature as the source of your dissatisfaction--my experience has been that people who are dissatisfied in a general sense with their appearance have the best luck with changing their hair and makeup. (Plastic surgery is better for people who have one specific feature that bugs them.)

I do have a couple of things to add to the advice above:

(1) Definitely see a very good dentist to investigate the jaw issue that scody mentions. If you have a dentist, I'd make it a point to explicitly ask them about your bite--I had a dentist for a while that never said anything to me about my bite, and during my first visit at my current dentist, one of the first things she mentioned is that I'm starting to get some signs of wear on certain teeth because my bite is being screwed up by the wisdom teeth I've had for years. I'm surprised that my old dentist never said anything, but the takeaway should be that you might have to ask explicitly or find a good dentist to get a solid opinion.

(2) Makeovers are great, but you shouldn't rely on going to a makeup counter. First of all, there's not a whole lot of training required to sell cosmetics in a department store, so you might end up with a great artist who understands exactly what you need--or you might end up with someone who does this as a part time job and has no more clue than you about how to "fix" the flaws that you're upset with. If you're at the point of considering plastic surgery, you definitely shouldn't have a problem dropping $100 to go get professional makeup done by a makeup artist. The type whose entire job is doing makeup for the local news anchors / television personalities or for weddings.

(3) Two things that women don't often think of, but that make a HUGE difference in looking polished and conventionally "pretty" are eyebrow plucking/waxing and teeth whitening. I mean, go to any teen makeover movie you can think of--or watch What Not To Wear--and the eyebrow pluck is almost always a huge part of what makes a difference in the makeover. Well-plucked / threaded / waxed eyebrows open up the entire face and play up bone structure. It's magic. However, if you're not currently doing it yourself, definitely go to a professional the first time--they'll be able to sculpt your eyebrows into a flattering shape, and you'll be able to maintain that afterwards pretty easily. (Over-plucking is a painful experience that takes a while to correct.)

(4) Go to the most expensive salon you can afford, and get someone to cut and color your hair. (In my experience, the further up the expensive scale you go in hair salons, the more likely it is that a stylist can just look at you and know what is flattering, versus just doing what you ask.) Hair color can dramatically change your skin tone and features--a few years ago I went from blond to brunette, and I hated how washed-out it made me look. None of my makeup worked, my eyes looked bloodshot, my face looked really red... I couldn't believe the difference it made. Makeup is another way to deal with this, but if you're not the type who likes spending a lot of time dealing with makeup in the morning, getting a regular color treatment might be way more low-maintenance.

I'm not usually ms. "go spend a ton of money to prettify yourself," but if you're dissatisfied to the point of considering surgery, there's definitely other steps to explore first. Hope it all works out.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:51 AM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Whether plastic surgery can actually make you look better is an interesting question. It may be that beauty is the result of a sort of "genius" that sometimes nature truly has, rather than a skill that we can properly learn, and that therefore only the most inspired of surgeons will ever really be able to create beauty. It may be that eventually plastic surgeons will be able to create beauty, but at this stage the methods are still pretty clumsy and imprecise, so you are setting yourself up to be a bit of a guinea pig if you choose to go for it now.

Or it may be that plastic surgery already results in better looks, but people in general would rather not encourage it, because if it becomes the norm, we'll all be expected to be better looking. Those who are naturally in the top tier already will no longer be special; those who are naturally average will be considered lacking, and will start to feel obliged to fix things surgically - etc. Like using steroids in sports, once it's generally acceptable, it's hard for anyone to get away with not indulging, unless they really don't want to compete.

Which is to say, people may tell you that plastic surgery won't work because they want to dissuade plastic surgery, more than anything. I don't know - I've never known anyone who's had surgery, and my impulse is also to try to dissuade you, but there may be a selfish motive there. I'm not interested in surgery, and I would rather the expectations of society weren't changed. I have always enjoyed the variation and uniqueness of faces, and would be saddened by a world where we each just had a slight differentiation on a barbie model of some sort. A striking face with a strong character is a more beautiful person to me than a perfectly symmetric supermodel. But you are the one who lives with your face every day.

Of course, especially if you are young, it's ridiculous to jump to conclusions about your looks. Even the most beautiful women think they are ugly at a certain period of life. It's the nature of scrutiny, perfectionism, self-doubt, details... So don't do anything silly. Make sure you are happy with yourself and your character and that sort of thing first. If everything is good, but it's just bothering you that you feel the light inside is so poorly conveyed by the mask of your face, then see if you can start to work out exactly what it is that you dislike, and perhaps you and a surgeon can work out a better map. But the majority of faces can be made more appealing just through being expressive and responsive.
(oh yeah, also check out Shrek :))
posted by mdn at 12:13 PM on December 3, 2007

Oh, and one more thing. For all the people who are convinced that plastic surgery can only result in an "unnatural" look, that's because you only notice the bad results. You're don't recognize the ones that look natural - that's the whole point.
posted by Evangeline at 2:10 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

One observation I had re reading your post was the fact that you can't identify any one feature on your face tells me that you probably don't have a very good aesthetic eye. As in, like many many people, you can look at something as say whether its ugly/pretty/weird/off/beautiful, but you can't articulate why. Men in particular are often like this (in my experience).

To me, this would like translate into you not having a very good fashion sense. I'm not in the camp of people that thinks you should get therapy before plastic surgery, it's amazing what a high satisfaction rate plastic surgery has (whether it looks any good or not!), but honestly 5-10k put towards good clothes, hair and makeup can be truly transformative, not to mention a trip to the dermatologist, getting contacts and whitening your teeth. These things will likely be far more effective, cost you less and by and large be reversible and pain free! I suggest spending a long weekend in a big city (if you don't live in one) with the best dressed friend you have and just shopping like crazy and maybe get your hair done at somewhere upscale while you are at it. Be prepared to spend a lot of money on investment pieces. If after all that you still haven't seen a bit change then consider it, but overall your money and time is better spent elsewhere.
posted by whoaali at 2:24 PM on December 3, 2007

Seconding what Evangeline said. My story is almost identical to aeschenkarnos's, plus a chin implant, and man was that ever a major improvement.

There's nothing inherently wrong with plastic surgery. Weigh the risks, and the costs, seriously, and spend some time thinking about it before you make the leap (this book might sort of put you off the idea). If there's not just one single feature that's always bugged you, and you're just looking for an improvement, then less invasive options might be better. Still, it's your face - do what makes you happy!
posted by you're a kitty! at 5:46 PM on December 3, 2007

woah, let me get back on this thread & clarify something. when i said "facial energy", as in,

if i think offhand of three or four people i know who i would describe as having faces that are "not attractive", the common denominator isn't anything wrong with their facial features- it's more their "facial energy".

....i didn't mean some sort of airy fairy aura thing.

i meant, the amount of energy that the people i mentioned allow to manifest in their faces. the woman lets her face look slack and half asleep- essentially, she lets her face "slouch" all day. the man lets his face look like a hamster on speed, essentially, he lets his face "fidget" all day. we all know that no adult should wander around slouching or fidgeting, right?

i said they were both inherently attractive people, and they are. the faces they make all day, though, have the same outcome as if they scowled all day. the condoleeza rice syndrome i mentioned boils down to the fact that unattractive expressions will make you look unattractive, no matter what your actual face looks like.

when i mentioned the woman's teeth, i can see how you'd think i was being mean- i didn't intend to sound mean, so you're right, scody, i shouldn't have used such colourful language. i see how it sounds. *invisible apology to the woman, i didn't mean to shit-talk her.* i meant to point out that although her mouth is probably "imperfect" by lame standards of classical beauty, that's not actually her problem- her problem is letting it hang open all day. she is actually pretty, but she literally looks like a mouthbreather. if she'd stop the facial slouching, she'd look better.

i was trying to point out that the OP could probably just carry him/herself better and make a large difference in net attractiveness. basically, my comment was the same as telling someone that not slouching will make them seem more attractive. i *really* didn't mean to sound mean.

at any rate, no matter how i sounded, please take my word that the post absolutely wasn't written out of mean feelings- i was trying to sound encouraging about the 100% difference a person could consciously bring about in their looks, using only a little self-evaluation and muscle control. i myself have spent my adult life raising my eyebrows and half-smiling to compensate for my squinty little eyes and pouty mouth. if i let my face sit as it naturally does, then no matter how i am feeling, i will look sullen and bitchy. after i noticed that everyone i met said i looked "mean and intimidating", i looked carefully at my face, figured out why they thought that (because my face looks like a judgemental, pouty bitch if i let it), and then consciously trained myself to make a pleasant face, so i would look more pleasant. and it worked. now people tell me that when they met me they found me "cute and friendly". so i'm speaking with some degree of authority on the matter, since i have trained my facial muscles to portray an energy of "pleasant receptivity", and have since seen the results in my own llfe. i know it's possible to do. it takes time & effort, but it's possible, it's free, it's non-invasive, and it works. that's all i was trying to say.

and for the record, scody, i looked at your flickr, and you're totally a babe with a gorgeous smile. your facial energy in those pics is "warm and sunny", and it looks teriffic.
posted by twistofrhyme at 2:25 PM on December 9, 2007

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