Is Being Beautiful a Right?


In cosmetic surgery-embracing Brazil many believe it is.  Brazil is the world’s second largest market for cosmetic surgery but not everyone can afford it.  Brazil’s economy has grown hugely in recent years but there is still widespread poverty and social inequality.  To combat this problem more than 220 clinics are offering cosmetic surgery at discount prices, or even free, to the poor on the grounds that looking better improves self-esteem.

Many Brazilian plastic surgeons believe that poverty should be no barrier to looking good on the outside and feeling good the inside.  “What’s a wrinkle? Something minor, right?” asks Dr. Nelson Rosas. “But when we treat the wrinkle…we’re actually treating something very important: The patient’s self-esteem.”

Breast augmentation and buttock implants are the two most popular surgeries in Brazil, as anyone who has visited Rio’s beaches or Mardi Gras Carnival will confirm.  But many of these surgeries may have happened free or at a discount.  Just one of the clinics providing surgery to the poor has performed more than 14,000 free procedures since 1997.

Dr. Ivo Pitanguy, Brazil’s most famous plastic surgeon, is also firmly behind the idea that the poor should have access to cosmetic surgery.   As he puts it, “The poor have the right to be beautiful, too”.  The theory being that looking good has a positive effect on the patient’s psyche which, in turn, has a healing and beneficial effect.

It may be surprising to hear that Brazil is not the only place offering discounted surgeries.  Teachers in Buffalo, New York are covered for free cosmetic procedures under their employee insurance policies.  The idea that beauty is more than skin deep would seem to be emerging and spreading.  Treating a patient’s perceived imperfections may also be treating their psychological issues, which in turn may improve the quality of their entire lives.


  1. Everyone should have cosmetic surgery available as an option.

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