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Today, there are many options available that can alter one’s physical appearance, such as plastic surgery, Botox, permanent makeup, and weight-loss surgery. Before embarking on any of these procedures, Christians should carefully consider the pros and cons of each — and delve deeply into their own motives for wanting to do any for purely cosmetic reasons.
Does God want girls to be pretty and boys to be handsome? “Physical appearance is important to God in that it reveals the glory of His creative abilities,” says Christian Nancy Baker, managing editor of ChildMode. “We should appreciate the beauty God has given us as His most complex and amazing creation. God created each of us to look exactly as we do, for His own perfect reasons.”
The Bible does have something to say about our outward appearance. For example, Esther underwent beauty treatments (Esther 2:8-12), while David was considered handsome (I Samuel 16:12). “Our very bodies were formed in His image. God places some value on appearances. If He did not, we would all look the same. It is not a wrong thing for us to notice and appreciate physical appearance as well,” Baker said.
However, Scripture does caution against becoming too enamored with our looks (1 Samuel 16:7 and 1 Peter 3:4, for example). “The Bible doesn’t say outward beauty is sinful,” pointed out Dr. Jennifer Greer, a board-certified plastic surgeon who has her own practice, Greer Plastic Surgery, in Cleveland. “The problem is when the desire for beauty becomes an idol. So if your quest for beauty comes before God — because you’re spending money you don’t have, or not spending enough time with your family, or it’s causing friction in your marriage — it’s a problem.”
“Our outward appearance should not be our focus,” agrees Baker said. “If the reason we try to be a perfect weight, wear the best clothes, have facial treatments, etc., is to impress other people, then our physical appearance has become a matter of pride. We should be humbly aware of our appearance rather than acting to conform to the world’s standards.”
When thinking about Botox and other cosmetic surgeries or procedures, Dr. Greer recommends thinking about the following questions:
Keep in mind that “coveting is a sin that begets other sins,” Dr. Greer said. “If wanting Botox or cosmetic surgery causes you to sin, then it has become a problem.”
The number of Americans having cosmetic surgery has been increasing, with many of these procedures medically unnecessary. In 2018, nearly 18 million people underwent the knife in the United States, with the top five plastic surgery procedures in 2018 including:
Botox, the nickname for Botulinum toxin type A, burst on the scene in the mid-1990s as a preventative for wrinkles. Botox works to erase wrinkles in the face and neck by essentially paralyzing the nerve impulses that make muscles contract. Botox injections last three to four months.
“The pros of Botox are a more youthful appearance and fewer wrinkles,” says writer Melanie Musson. “The cons of Botox are the cost, the risk for severe side effects which are not common, and the possibility of letting Botox treatments become an obsession.”
Permanent makeup has also been called cosmetic tattooing, micro-pigmentation and semi-permanent cosmetics. Cosmetic tattooing has been around since ancient times. In fact, archaeologists have found tattooed mummies. Today, there are a growing number of cosmetologists, tattoo artists, nurses, and aestheticians in this industry. People get cosmetic tattoos for a number of reasons, including having conditions that prevent them from easily putting on makeup, such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. The procedure involves placing iron oxide or titanium dioxide pigments below the skin, just like with a tattoo.
“The benefit of permanent makeup is that you have to spend less time each day applying makeup. The negatives are the price and the possibility that your style in makeup may change leaving you stuck with an outdated appearance. There is also a possibility of a major reaction, which is not common, but is still something to consider,” Musson said.
In 1954, Dr. A.J. Kremen performed the first weight-loss surgery, also called gastric bypass surgery. Since then, medical advances in bariatric surgery, along with celebrities like Al Roker and Roseanne Barr undergoing the procedure, have made weight-loss surgery more popular, First Health reported. Today, around 200,000 bariatric surgeries are performed annually, according to the American Society of Bariatric Surgery.
“Weight-loss surgery isn’t usually done to improve appearance, but rather to treat chronic health issues such as diabetes,” Dr. Greer said. For that reason, doctors often recommend the surgery.
If the surgery is elective, Christians should consider that “weight-loss surgery is almost a ‘forced’ moderation because it’s physically impossible to eat the quantity of food that could be ingested before surgery,” Musson said. “Other benefits are weight loss and improved overall health.”
As with any surgery, there are risks involved. With bariatric surgery, “statistics show that the vast majority of individuals that choose weight-loss surgery eventually end up right back where they started—overweight,” Musson said.
There can be positive reasons for having Botox, permanent makeup, cosmetic surgery and weight-loss surgery. But as Christians we should remember that “God judges our hearts, not our physical appearance. It is the inner man that is an even greater creation,” Baker said. “We should not fall into the trap of believing that our looks are to be a source of pride or envy. We must watch out for anything that draws us away from God, including the too-often extreme emphasis the world places on appearances.”
Christians should keep foremost in their minds that God should be our source for self-worth and happiness. “Wanting to be beautiful isn’t sinful, as long as it doesn’t become an idol,” Dr. Greer said.
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