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Physical appearance and cosmetic medical treatments: physiological and socio-cultural influences


Correspondence: David B. Sarwer, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, The Edwin and Fannie Gray Hall Center for Human Appearance, 10 Penn Tower, 3400 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA., 19104, USA. E-mail:


This paper reviews the physiological and socio-cultural literatures on the role of physical appearance in daily life and its potential influence on the decision to pursue cosmetic medical treatments.

The role of physical appearance in evolutionary theory is discussed. Physiological theories of beauty, drawn from both animal and human research, are reviewed. Socio-cultural influences on physical appearance are considered by tracing changes in ideals of beauty over the last century. The paper then reviews the literature concerning the relationship between a person's physical appearance and how they are treated throughout their lives.

 The growing awareness of this ‘beauty bias’ may influence the decision to alter one's physical appearance through cosmetic procedures.