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LA Confidential
L.A. Confidential (1997)

Why people are getting their nose jobs reversed

Now regretting their ‘cookie cutter’ nose jobs, an increasing number of people are taking steps to reverse their rhinoplasty and return to the features they were born with

“My new nose gives me a strong Roman nose; it looks like the nose I was meant to have,” laments Adriano, a 32-year-old Latin American man who lives in Los Angeles. Or, rather, it looks like the nose he originally had. You see, this is not Adriano’s second nose – it’s his third. “I had my second nose job to correct the first one which removed my hump,” he explains. The procedure Adriano underwent, reverse rhinoplasty, reinstated the bump he had removed 14 years prior – an attempt to realign himself with his ethnicity. “I didn’t like how I was being portrayed to the world,” he says. “My first nose job left me with a pinched button nose [which] just didn’t go with the rest of my features.” 

Adriano is not the only person undergoing a reverse nose job. In an age where the celebration of a more individualised beauty is proliferating, the procedure is becoming increasingly popular. “Over the last few years I have definitely seen an increase in patients who have had rhinoplasty and are now wanting their natural look back,” says Los Angeles-based cosmetic surgeon Dr Alexander Rivkin. Some feel like they no longer look like they are part of their family, some feel like they don’t look like their ethnicity. They feel like their previous imperfections made their nose and their face look more natural and they want that back.”

To restore the bumps and curves back into his patients’ noses, Dr Rivkin uses an injectable temporary filler to sculpt the nose over the course of two or three sessions. After that, patients can opt to continue with temporary filler (returning every one and a half years) or switch to a more permanent filler, with touch-ups every seven to ten years to account for possible changes in skin, bone and soft tissues. It’s quick, can be performed in the office, and there’s next to no recovery time. But with prices ranging anywhere from $600 to $1,200, cheap it is not. It also carries significant risks as the side effects of fillers can include skin necrosis (breakdown) and blindness.

As early as 1898, German surgeon Jacques Joseph was performing reduction rhinoplasty on people who wanted to look less Jewish, and achieving an Anglo-Eurocentric aesthetic has remained a strong motivation for the procedure since. For many young Persian women, nose jobs are a rite of passage, and Jewish and South American girls are often gifted nose jobs for their bat mitzvahs and quinceañeras, respectively. “The rhinoplasty nose 15 years ago was an over-sculpted, very delicate upturned nose,” says Dr Melissa Doft, a New York-based plastic surgeon, and this look has remained the dominant style since.

“I just want to have the nose I had before back. It reminds me of my grandmother” – Dahlia

“I was only offered Jewish parts – so I got a nose job,” actress Jennifer Grey recently recounted in her memoir, while Dahlia, a 28-year-old woman of Pakistani descent from Florida got a nose job because she just wanted “to look like the pictures of models seen in magazines.” Both came to regret the decision. “I just want to have the nose I had before back,” says Dahlia. “It reminds me of my grandmother.”

Bella Hadid also recently revealed that she regrets her much referenced nose job. In an interview with Vogue earlier this year, the model opened up about her struggles to accept her appearance and identity growing up, leading to a nose job at the tender age of 14. “I wish I had kept the nose of my ancestors,” she said. “I think I would have grown into it.”

This feeling, Dr Rivkin says, is not uncommon for people who had surgery as teenagers when they were insecure and feeling pressured to fit in. “Many patients had rhinoplasty at a young age and didn’t really think it all the way through,” he says. “But since then, they have grown into themselves and are more comfortable with their individuality.”

It’s individuality that has been championed and fought for by the body positivity movement over the last few years, as cultural ideals have gradually shifted towards inclusivity and celebrating self-expression. This online movement, coupled with a more globalised world, has destabilised and undermined the beauty hierarchy that placed a Eurocentric aesthetic at the top. For many, beauty now is more about standing out than fitting in, diversity is celebrated, and perfection is no longer the aspirational goal it once was. “It’s exciting that patients are seeing that there is more than one beauty ideal,” says Dr Doft.

Beauty standards serve no one and can often lead to greater unhappiness. Rhinoplasty has the highest dissatisfaction rate of any cosmetic procedure, and numbers in the UK have been steadily dropping over the last decade, from 4,878 in 2013 to just 1,330 last year. Some of this can undoubtedly be attributed to the rise in popularity of “non-surgical nose jobs” – for example, procedures where filler is used to straighten out bumps temporarily AKA liquid rhinoplasty. 

But we can’t discount the impact of all the work body positivity proponents who preach the radical act of self-love has been doing over recent years. “I think it’s great that people are asking for a more individualised, unique look that is more in harmony with their family identity and are becoming more secure in their unique beauty,” says Dr Rivkin. “Diversity enriches our society and the life experience of the members of our society.”

Ultimately, it’s too soon to tell whether the reverse nose job is just a trend or a sign of things to come. Is it yet another way that we are being pressured to change our bodies to fit contemporary beauty standards or does it show that, as a society, we are finally embracing a much broader definition of what is considered beautiful and rejecting homogeneous ideals? At least one thing is for certain: in the words of Dr Doft, “the cookie-cutter nose is in the past.”