Ethnic Considerations for Rhinoplasty

Close up portrait of woman's face.

Recently, a slide from the American Academy of Facial Plastics conference surfaced in my inbox. The slide was titled, “The Changing Face of America,” and the slide made several points.

  1. The cultural landscape of America is changing.
  2. The amount of non-Caucasian plastic surgery patients is increasing.
  3. The amount of non-Caucasian rhinoplasty patients, in particular, is increasing.
  4. Taking into account the cultural perspectives of the patient, and disregarding stereotypical ethnic “norms” is important.

Changing Our Practice Philosophy for Plastic Surgery

Upon receiving this slide, my patient coordinator immediately said, “Dr. Athré, this slide is saying exactly what you have been telling patients for years.” I thought about this and nodded in agreement. A few days later, I was flying back into Houston through the international airport and I saw a sign proudly declaring that Houston was the most diverse city in the United States.

So what makes culturally and ethnically sensitive plastic surgery so important? Why is it different? Why do we now have a tag on RealSelf for ethnic rhinoplasty? What ethnic background does a patient exhibit, and what helps me come to that conclusion? Is it the patient’s cheekbones, eyelids?

Ethnic Differences Affecting the Plastic Surgery Game Plan

Once a patient’s ethnic background has been determined, and the patient has also stated what they are looking to correct, the best surgical game plan can be created. When we attempt to customize surgery for the ethnic nuances of a patient, we must first assess the patient objectively.

The surgical game plan should account for those nuances that make the person unique, and not aim to destroy those entities. The next thing that the surgical game plan should encompass are the actual anatomical ethnic differences. An example of this happens in Latina rhinoplasty. Rhinoplasty really is a game between the cartilage structure and the skin envelope. Latinas usually have softer cartilage than their Caucasian peers, and thicker skin. Hence, any surgical plan has to account for these tiny differences.

Results of Ethnic Rhinoplasty and Plastic Surgery

All of the above can be summarized in the following: Each one of us has very special characteristics in how we look that help define us. You hear people say things like, “My Italian nose” or “My dad’s chin.” I see myself as a culturally responsible plastic surgeon. I have specialized in ethnic plastic surgery from day one because I truly believe that the world is really getting smaller. We are lucky to be living in Houston with every cultural background from every corner of the earth represented. It is my responsibility to respect and preserve these cultural nuances in my efforts to enhance beauty.

Below is an example of ethnic Latina rhinoplasty. The patient shown still looks like herself and is very happy with the outcome. We removed a small dorsal hump but still maintained her own facial characteristics. Over-scooping her nose would have given her an overly-Caucasian result, which would not have looked right on this patient.