If your goal is higher self-esteem, a facelift isn’t the answer, according to a new study published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery. It’s true that facelifts serve a purpose—they smooth away the lines and take years off your face, which would presumably make you feel that much better about yourself. But researchers say this newfound "youth" won’t change your mindset.

Researchers surveyed 50 facelift patients immediately before their surgery and six months after. The subjects were given tests pre-surgery to measure their sense of self-worth. All the participants in the study were close to age 60 and simply sought out a younger appearance (in other words, the procedure was simply cosmetic and not necessary). Six months later, the patients took the same test. They reported the facelifts had taken off, on average, nine years off their face. Although those with initial low self-esteem did see an improvement, participants with higher self-esteem saw their scores go down, while those with average self-esteem remained unchanged. Statistically, this means there was no significant change.

"The findings of the study are not surprising," lead author Andrew Jacono, MD, a board certified plastic surgeon with the New York Center for Facial Plastic and Laser Surgery in New York City, told HealthDay. He explained that self-confidence is more complex than appearance. "It's rooted in a long developmental process that starts in childhood. So, to assume that what has taken a lifetime of work to develop could be changed by one simple operation is silly."

Jacono might be right. A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests children begin developing a sense of self-esteem similar to that of adults by age 5, and it usually stays about the same throughout one's lifetime. So although a perceived improvement in physical appearance can make you think, "I look better," at the end of the day your face isn't the only factor that defines your self-worth and won't do much to change it.

Au contraire, says a group of Botox researchers who, too, conducted a survey in 2010. Their patients received either Botox or placebo injections in the eyebrow, forehead and crow's feet areas. Increases in overall self-esteem were “significant” regardless of which injection they received. (Participants completed a questionnaire before, two weeks after and three months after injections.) Based on this study, you feel better even if you think you look better. 

So what gives? Why do you think the outcomes of the two studies are so different? Do you think the level of "invasiveness" of the cosmetic procedures, amount of physical change or price plays a role?



  1. HealthDay: Face-lifts Seem to Do Little to Boost Self-Esteem: Study
  2. JAMA: Association of Patient Self-esteem With Perceived Outcome After Face-lift Surgery
  3. UPI: Study: Botox boosts self-esteem
  4. New Survey Released on the Effect of Botox Injections on Quality of Life and Self-Esteem
  5. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology