Is Plastic surgery ok or is it vanity and sin?


When is it ok for a Catholic to get Plastic surgery?
Some people seem to believe it’s only OK when it’s reconstructive and the defect interferes with physical function-eg a cleft palate causing someone difficulty breathing.
But according to this rationale,then any form of beautification should also be classed as sin.
For example:shaving legs for looks purposes,wearing makeup,plucking brows for looks purposes,teeth whitening,teeth straightening for looks purposes etc…

Others say motive is what matters,but if we’re honest then a lot of people’s motives probably do at least involve some factors regarding societies greater acceptance of prettier and younger people in the workforce/social settings,personal insecurities,wanting to be more attractive to husband/opposite sex etc…

Is it vanity to want to look like a prettier more healthier version of yourself?

Is it a sin because we are trying to change ourselves instead of societies warped views?
Eg:the person who gets surgery/fillers because they can’t get that hotel front desk job or air hostess job they want because they don’t look polished and presentable enough-are they sinning because they arn’t challenging that these industries only employ women that look a certain way?

Or the person who gets surgery because their face(or body) has sagged due to rapid weight loss or inflammatory factors from stress?
On one hand,they just want to look normal-what they looked like before,but are they being vain because their putting excessive focus on beauty or taking their self worth based off their looks?

Is it wrong to want to be attractive?
Even flowers and babies are born with natural beauty.

On the other hand I don’t like how celebrities are “worshipped” for being beautiful(eg:Angelina Jolie,Catherine Zeta Jones etc…") and how there’s such huge gender double standards with such pressure that women have to be attractive/beautiful to be “someone” and I don’t like how older women often become invisible and unnoticed and find it hard to get employment due to no longer being youthful/fresh/pretty.


I found this advice (link below) helpful from Pope John Paul I (note, not JP2). He writes a fictional letter to the empress Maria Theresa (deceased some 200 years earlier) about her daughter Marie Antoinette and prevailing women’s fashions. Citing to St. Francis de Sales, he strikes a very moderate view/tone, condemning too much rigidity and too much audacity. He pretty clearly indulges vanity to a point.


Plastic surgery would likely only be sinful in extreme situations when it crosses the line into an obsession or a risk to health.


The difficulty is, I think, that in most cases in our society plastic surgery is in most cases considered an extreme step, somewhat akin to spending an hour perfecting your makeup every morning.


It would be vanity if you did it to look better, God made you beautiful, everything God creates is good, artificially reconstructing your body would be telling your creator that He, the King of all beauty, that He didnt do a good job. There is a major difference between putting on makeup and artificially changing your body.


I wonder about the question presented in the time of this thread sometimes myself. Here is my situation…

I just tuned 30 years old. Up until I was about 17 I was extremely overweight (over 300 lbs at 5’10) I lost a lot of weight (I got down into the 180s in about 1 year to a year and a half) However, I still have a lot of excess skin on my upper body because of this. Quite a bit. Enough that I would NEVER EVER be seen in public with my shirt off. I don’t like the beach or swimming pools because I wont be seen with my shirt off. And this is common for a lot of people who lose a lot of weight. Is it vanity to want to have a operation to get rid of all this excess skin? Yes, part of it is of course wanting to look better, but part of it is wanting to be normal. I have a great girlfriend. If I decide I want to ask he to marry me in the future and she says yes, I cannot imagine walking around my own house with my shirt off in front of her because of this problem I have. Even if she were to say she does not care.

What about the problem of men who have breasts? Large ones. Is it a sin for them to have this corrected? It is a problem not a lot of people want to talk about, or probably even think about because unless you yourself are physically deformed in one of the ways I just mentioned, you cannot imagine what life is like knowing that you are deformed in such a way everyday. I wont even be seen without a shirt on in the changing room in my gym. I have to at least have on a undershirt when I change into my gym clothes. And no, It is not “Not as bad as I think it is” can you grab two handfuls of excess skin on your torso and still need a few more hands to grab the rest? It is not something that brings me great distress, as I have learned to live with it to a certain extent but I would love to be able to go swimming in a public pool one day and feel like a normal guy.


Except that some people have deformities which are not God’s design but are due to living in a fallen world–such as birth defects or injuries. Are prosthetic limbs telling God he didn’t do a good job? How about correcting a deviated septum?


That’s what I find hard to understand too.
Things like sagging skin due to large/rapid weightloss, sagging faces due to stress/illness’ that target loss of elastin and collagen,“man boobs”,drooping eyelids etc arn’t how God made the person.
It is a deviation from the persons natural born looks but naturally people want these things fixed because of appearance/beauty sake ( rarely for functional reasons) and some are saying to do so for this reason is vanity.
According to my logic though,then any form of beautification (eg:makeup) would also have to be vanity.
I understand some people have a personal distaste of Cosmetic Surgery due to the permanence of it (or they believe people are trying to be someone else) but personal unease doesn’t equal sin.

Is it sinful for people who are getting procedures just because they want to look like they used to look-their natural self?
In a way,it’s just restorative medicine.
Even when people lose weight there’s usually an element of wanting to look good,apart from the primary health reasons,so if this isn’t vanity then I don’t understand why Cosmetic Surgery would be.



I think it crosses the line into vanity when you do things with the intent to deceive particularly with a disregard for the risks to your own life. Surgically modifying your body to make people think you are younger than you really are (ex. facelift), using surgery as an alternative to natural ways to improve appearance (ex. elective liposuction), etc.


I mostly agree. But at the same time, maybe a person can improve his/her psychological/emotional life if they can be made more physically attractive. People dye hair, wear colored contacts, pierce their ears, wear jewelry, wear contacts instead of eyeglasses, etc.

In some ways, I got lucky with “plastic surgery.” I had really bad teeth–not particularly crooked, but genetically they were a disaster unfolding, despite twice yearly ( and then quarterly) visits to dentist for years.

So my dentist rebuilt my teeth.

Now I have a Hollywood smile. :smiley:


As a suggestion, maybe someone who is questioning their motivation can take the surgery but make a personal pledge to only wear nondescript clothing (limited colors, no patterns, ads) and no jewelry/tattoos except a wedding ring. I’m not saying they have to, but it might help them not to feel shame or scrupulosity over the decision, and they can offer their sacrifice up for others.


Is it still a deception if the procedure makes the person look closer to their age vs. younger? Some people don’t age as well as others. I have friends that went totally grey in their late 20s; is it okay for them to color their hair so they don’t have grey hair? Most people want to look like their children’s parents, not their grandparents. BTW, I’m pushing 50 and have maybe 3 grey hairs and if I take after my parents I won’t grey for at least another decade or so. So until then, my peers should be able to color away the grey until I start to grey as they are not trying to look younger really but look like someone their age.


I disagree. Psychologically, this is likely to encourage their feelings of shame and scrupulosity. One could still putting too much focus on their appearance but in a sackcloth and ashes sort of way. It would be better for them to seek the counsel of their SD or regular confessor about shame and scrupulosity.

There is no sin in wanting to look one’s best and to feel normal and there is no need for someone to flog themselves because they look good naturally or with some help from cosmetics or procedures.

Full disclosure: I’ve done botox (well, a product similar). :eek: :eek::eek:That’s horrible I know. :rolleyes: But it makes me look more approachable, not younger. But if it did make me look younger, why should I try to make myself disappear instead of dressing in flattering, normal clothing. Why shouldn’t I wear stripes or florals, why can’t I wear a signature piece like a cool resin ring or my great aunt’s wedding ring, or get a tattoo that no one can see? I don’t see a lack of virtue with any of this and I don’t want to plant a suggestion in people with a tendency toward scrupulosity to think that way.


I don’t really see your psychology. But any rate, my suggestion is such only if it would be helpful to the subject beforehand. If not, ignore my advice. They might think along the lines of “I want to get beautifying surgery X. I’m not sure if I am being proud or vain or not. In order to protect my soul against any possible excess vanity I might have, I will do Penances X, Y, and Z, all relating to appearance to ensure the impact of my vanity is minimal.” This seems like a perfectly logical thought process for some people if it will give them the confidence to take the surgery and the surgery itself is not immodest (vanity). But if they don’t think that way, no problem, it was just a suggestion; do something else instead or keep moping if preferred.


I agree it could be a logical thought process for some people, but not those who have a tendency toward scrupulosity. Scrupulosity and any accompanying OCD already distorts the thought process and sucks the joy out of living. Just as an example, I can’t imagine telling a woman who can pull off “boho chic” to dress like she’s Amish or a part of the Abnegation faction to counter a sin that isn’t there.


If it’s ok for people to get maintenance on their house to prevent it from becoming rundown then why wouldn’t it be ok on ourself too?


Ultimately,what would be the difference between wanting or look your best ( a healthy version of you) and vanity?

Is vanity like people who check themselves out in the mirror all the time adoringly?


Not necessarily.

That depends on the circumstances. I once had a friend, and the kids picked on him and made fun of him due to his nose. They called him, “hose nose”, and he had trouble making friends. I think he was only able to be befriended by other outcasts and misfits.

Finally, later on, he got surgery, and he said, immediately, he was able to get a whole new circle of friends, all due to this surgery.

Now, in the ideal, people shouldn’t reject due to looks, but do. That’s the reality.

I studied social work, and I took some classes on disabilities. It really surprised me to learn that some of the most damaging disabilities, in a sense, were those which affected the face or the skin. Well, people judge us, immediately, and would not want anything to do with people with a “disability” of the face or skin. Often, these people could work but would be rejected by society to a point it’d adversely affect their ability to work. People would not allow them to work.

If people had a way to correct this to be accepted once again by family and societies, I see nothing wrong with that.

Our appearance has everything to do with whether or not people will accept, like, or love us, what work we are allowed to do and more.

We have these techniques, and I think doctors, medicine, and surgery also come from God.

I think it’s the abuse of these where we seek absolute perfection where it may cross a line into vanity.


I have a Hollywood smile, too.

(King Kong was made in Hollywood, right?)


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