Image Is Everything


When Americans look in the mirror these days, how satisfied are they with what they see? Not very, according to findings from the latest American Demographics exclusive survey, conducted January 15 to 20 by Greenwich, Conn.-based market research firm NFO WorldGroup. When a nationally representative sample of 2,510 adults polled online were asked to rank how happy they are with their physical appearance on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the least happy), nearly half (47 percent) gave themselves a score of 5 or lower.

This lack of self-esteem makes sense considering that only 1 in 4 adults (28 percent) consider themselves "attractive," and even fewer say they are "fit" (14 percent) or "sexy" (11 percent), according to the survey. Many Americans actually feel more comfortable using the adjectives "average" (44 percent) or "heavy" (26 percent) to describe themselves, and a few go so far as to say they think their looks are downright "awkward" (5 percent).

Obviously, many of us could benefit from a few years of therapy working on body image issues. But why bother? In this age of the "extreme makeover," total body metamorphosis is becoming increasingly available - and increasingly appealing. Fully 87 percent of adults say that if they could change any part of their body for cosmetic reasons, they would; of those, half would change multiple body parts.

Most respondents (65 percent) say that given the opportunity, they'd change their stomach or abdomen. Other zones earmarked for upgrade are the derriere (20 percent say they'd like to change it), legs (17 percent) and chest (13 percent). One in three adults would also make some adjustments from the neck up. Almost one-quarter (22 percent) are unhappy with their teeth, 15 percent with their hair and 5 percent with their nose.

Fewer than 1 in 7 Americans (18 percent of men and 10 percent of women) are happy enough with their bodies that they wouldn't change a thing. Interestingly, advanced age actually decreases a person's desire to perk up his or her sagging parts. Of adults age 65 and older, 22 percent say they're happy with their bodies, compared with 14 percent of 45- to 64-year-olds and 10 percent of 18- to 44-year-olds.

Even if you're completely happy with the body you were born with, there's no harm in a little upkeep now and then. According to the American Demographics/NFO WorldGroup survey, almost half of all women (45 percent) say they regularly have their hair colored or highlighted, 1 in 4 (24 percent) has regular manicures or pedicures, 16 percent have some part of their body waxed and 11 percent get a facial on a regular basis.

Relatively few men say they regularly receive such beauty treatments, but there are certainly those who admit they've considered it. In fact, while only 4 percent of men say they have regular manicures or pedicures, 17 percent want one or the other. Further, 16 percent want a facial, 9 percent want to have unwanted body hair removed with a laser or by electrolysis, and 7 percent would like to have their hair colored or highlighted someday. (For more on men's predilection for primping, see "Democritic," page 42.)

Of course, those who can't find satisfaction at the salon may try their luck under the knife. Though only a handful of individuals surveyed by American Demographics and NFO WorldGroup have undergone a cosmetic procedure such as a tummy tuck, many women and even a few men say that someday they'd be interested in turning to such medical intervention.

Topping the most-wanted list of cosmetic procedures is laser eye surgery: About 4 percent of Americans say they have already had it done, and another 34 percent would like to have it done. Also relatively high on respondents' wish lists are tummy tucks (23 percent would like to have one), liposuction (20 percent), chemical peels or skin resurfacing (15 percent), face-lifts (12 percent) and nose jobs (6 percent). Twenty-one percent of women would be interested in breast augmentation, and 10 percent of men say they could use a hair transplant. Despite all the recent coverage in the press, however, very few Americans say they would like to have injections of Botox (6 percent) or collagen (5 percent) to smooth out those wrinkles. Apparently, laugh lines are still in fashion.

For more information, send an e-mail to , or contact Cassandra Harris of NFO WorldGroup by e-mail at or by phone at (212) 309-0650.


It's no surprise that women are more likely than men to have a little work done, but interestingly, Hispanics are more likely than blacks and whites to say they'd like to get beauty treatments and procedures.

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