Michelle Obama’s arms are real; arm-lift cosmetic surgery is just skin deep

Michelle Obama's arms — toned and lithely — are inspiring. Unfortunately, they've inspired 15,000 people to undergo arm-lift cosmetic surgery. The whole notion of beauty, twisted again. 

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Underarm plastic surgery procedures have spiked — toned arms are in, it seems — some 4,000 percent in the past year. Plastic surgery is becoming more commonplace and easier to access. Here, an iPhone app called BuildMyBod lets users view plastic surgery procedures and their costs. 2011.

It’s my first day back to Modern Parenthood after maternity leave. So you can imagine the excitement when I saw this new item from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons: arm lift surgery, the group has announced, increased 4,473 percent in the past decade, making it the fastest rising cosmetic surgery around. 

Yes, that’s upper arm tucks. And why not?  Last year we wrote about chin implants becoming trendy. If you can do chins, might as well throw arms in there, too, right? After all, as the ASPS found in a poll that “women are paying closer attention to the arms of female celebrities.”  

Call it the Michelle Obama effect, plastic surgery style. Toned, muscle-bound arms are in. So start snipping.


This is a parenting blog, so it’s tempting to start ranting now about the message this sends to our little girls. (I have two now. I’m sensitive to this stuff.) Or to write about how it’s so not OK to make me take a second look at my own triceps two months postpartum.

And sure, moms and dads out there certainly don’t need yet another trend that seems designed to make young women feel bad about themselves. Five percent of plastic surgeries are already done on children between the ages of 13 and 19, including more than 8,000 of the country’s 286,274 breast augmentations and 33,673 nose jobs, according to the ASPS. Overall, there were 1.5 million cosmetic surgeries last year, with everything from buttock lifts to cheek implants.

But last year’s 15,000-plus arm lifts seem extra special problematic.

Perhaps this is because it turns a positive for little girls – athleticism, strength, power – into something superficial.

Or maybe because it suggests that the end result of physical work, whether in the gym or on the sports field or in a construction zone, should be attainable to everyone, even if you’re not so into sweating.

These messages, I’d venture, are more troubling than the old “you don’t look like a model so you’re not as worthy” memo that somehow makes it onto the desk of teenage girls everywhere. 

Still, not all is doom and gloom for a new mom who believes her babies should feel beautiful as they are. 

This wasn’t as publicized as the new arm surgery trend, of course, (and did I mention that the online press material had a helpful picture of a woman pinching her underarm skin?) but the numbers of children’s cosmetic surgeries is down. 

There were 8 percent fewer breast augmentations among teens in 2012 than in 2011, 12 percent fewer chin augmentations (how trends fade), and 2 percent fewer liposuctions. (Botox treatments were up 8 percent among the teenage set, but so it goes.)

Maybe it’s the economy. But maybe, just maybe, more teens are learning to be happy with the way they look. 

Or at least content with Photoshop

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