Chasing Beauty: Analyzing the Rise and Fall of Cosmetic Surgery Trends

Uncover the evolving landscape of cosmetic surgery trends with Cultural Currents Institute. Our analysis of two decades of search data on procedures like liposuction, buccal fat removal, and more creates a fascinating map of evolving American beauty preferences.

Kim Kardashian lost sixteen pounds in three weeks to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s dress for the 2022 Met Gala. The message seemed clear: thin was back in. She received massive criticism for contributing to a culture where body shapes are mere trends. Cosmetic procedures often cost tens of thousands of dollars are done, redone, and removed in a seemingly never-ending loop. While “heroin chic” dominated the early 2000s, the 2010s brought an obsession with bodacious curves and the pursuit of a “snatched” waist.

And though Kim K was the target of heavy criticism, she is a participant more than the originator of the body surgery trend. The Cultural Currents Institute analyzed Google Trends data over almost twenty years. This analysis found the massive variability of interest in types of cosmetic surgery over the years. 

Some procedures, like liposuction, appear to be somewhat “timeless.” The interest in this procedure remains consistent through the decades, with higher interest in the summer and lower interest through winter. This search volume suggests Americans have been consistently interested in liposuction for the last twenty years. 


Interest in buccal fat removal skyrocketed after model Bella Hadid and influencer Chrissy Teigen purportedly had the procedure completed. Buccal Fat removal involves removing fat from the cheeks to create a more angular face shape. While search volume for this surgery was nonexistent through 2022, there was a massive increase in interest after these women had the surgery completed.

This graph illustrates the relative interest in popular facial cosmetic surgeries in the last twenty years. Some have a high degree of variability, while others have a much more consistent search interest. 


Trends in body cosmetic surgery are similarly variable. Interest in penis enhancement has significantly decreased over time, suggesting men are viewing size as less and less important (though interestingly CCI uncovered an increasing interest in foreskin restoration). Butt implant interest peaked in 2014 and 2019, and search volume for this term is hitting lows not seen since 2005. Search volume for liposuction and boob jobs has remained more consistent over the last twenty years. Interest in weight loss procedures peaks in the spring as people anticipate “swimsuit season.”


Interest in cosmetic procedures seems largely regional. An interest in penis enlargement and butt implants dominates the South. The East Coast appears much more interested in facial procedures like eye lifts and facelifts. The Intermountain West is primarily interested in breast enhancements. California and New York have the highest search volume for nose jobs. 


Google Trends data was collected for cosmetic search terms for all 50 U.S. states and D.C. from January 2004 to October 2023. Google's proprietary 100 point scoring system was used to represent each term's normalized search volume proportional to all other searches in the region or time period compared. In this system, 100 represents the highest popularity for the term, 50 represents half the popularity, and so on.

Google Trends data is widely regarded as a strong source for measuring American public interest. According to a 2021 paper published in American Behavioral Scientist found that "this method has predicted the real winner in all the elections held since 2004."


CCI is a full service PR, digital marketing, branding, and market research firm headquartered in Austin, TX with a specialty in technology — particularly tech startups. We study trends in public opinion and build multichannel campaigns to suit client objectives. Clients range from pre-seed startups to Fortune 500 enterprises.