The Most Popular Body Modifications
Body modifications are cosmetic changes that allow individuals to change and modify their physical appearance. In the United States, almost half of all adults have some form of body modification, and this percentage is growing, especially among young people. These can range from very common modifications, such as pierced ears and tattoos, to more extreme versions, including piercings on other parts of the body, face implants, tongue splitting, and more. Body modifications are a way for people to express their individuality, express aspects of their culture, and assume ownership over their appearance.
Body Modification Culture
Body modifications have a long history in various cultures around the world. Historically speaking, body modifications such as wearing corsets and binding feet have been used to uphold traditional notions of feminine beauty and encourage women to meet a certain aesthetic standard in their appearance. Other body modifications in different cultures include neck elongation, henna tattooing, and earlobe stretching. While body modification can sometimes come with health complications, many popular body modifications today are low-risk and minimally invasive. There are a variety of reasons why an individual may choose to modify their physical appearance, including:
- To adhere to cultural ideals about beauty and appearance;
- To express their individuality and take ownership over their body;
- To express membership in a group;
- To adhere to personal conceptions of beauty.
Body modifications can range from small to extreme changes to the appearance. While people often associate body modification with the more extreme end of the spectrum, in reality even getting a haircut or getting your ears pierced can be considered a form of body modification.
Hair Dyeing and Cutting
It’s a cliche that a new haircut can make you feel like a whole different person. Like other forms of body modification, changes to the style and color of your hair can help you to express your individuality and sense of personal style. You can cut, dye, or thicken your hair in order to change its appearance. For men who struggle with balding and hair loss, there are also a variety of options to naturally improve hair health and stimulate hair growth.
Suntanning is another popular way to modify the body. By exposing the skin to sunlight, many people can change their skin tone, resulting in a darker tan. Historically, some cultures have also engaged in an opposite practice, avoiding the sun entirely in order to help achieve a paler skin tone. In general, suntanning is a common and relatively safe practice that lets you reap the benefits of vitamin D exposure and fresh air. Be careful, though: too much exposure to the sun can also result in sunburns, and could eventually lead to skin cancer.
Piercings have been around for a long time, and have a variety of different cultural significances around the world. Common forms of piercings can include piercing the earlobes, cartilage, nose, lip, and bellybutton. In America, studies indicate that about 14% of adults have body piercings (not including ear piercings). There are also a variety of other, less common piercings, including dermal piercings, tongue piercings, and more. In general, piercings are more common in women than in men, with many women having had their ears pierced when they were babies or small children. Individuals can also express their individuality by customizing their piercings with a variety of different earrings and studs, allowing them to frequently modify their appearance.
While many people may not consider bodybuilding to be a form of body modification, bodybuilding and working out can affect tremendous physical changes on the body. Bodybuilding can be used to increase muscle, reduce fat, and change body composition. In extreme cases, bodybuilding can drastically change an individual’s physical appearance.
Plastic surgery is popular, especially in Western cultures, and can be very controversial. In 2018, there were 17.7 million instances of plastic surgery in the United States alone. Common forms of plastic surgery include breast augmentation, liposuction, nose reshaping, eyelid surgery, and tummy tucks. In general, plastic surgery is more common with women than with men, and is often used to help women adhere to standards surrounding beauty and physical appearance.
Once viewed as taboo and a barrier to employment, tattoos are now relatively mainstream. Tattoos are a creative and artistic way to express your individuality and to sport artwork to which you may have a meaningful connection. Many people get tattoos to commemorate loved ones, important occasions, or personally significant images and symbols. Tattoos can range from small and unobtrusive to ones that cover the entire body.
Scarification is a more extreme example of body modification that involves cutting, burning, or etching words or images into the skin. Scarification is similar in some ways to tattoos, in that it allows individuals to permanently modify their appearance with designs that are of personal significance. Scarification has also been used historically to indicate a rite of passage, as well as for aesthetic, social, and religious reasons. While scarification may seem extreme, it’s growing in popularity, and may someday be viewed in a similar way as tattoos.
While body modification may sound extreme, in reality, there are a variety of ways to modify the body, many of which you may already participate in. Ultimately, body modification allows individuals greater control over their physical appearance, and can help them to craft a sense of personal identity and style.