Cosmetic procedures: ethical issues


Published 22/06/2017

Report cover cosmetic procedures
Surgery tools

The Council is a partner on the Beauty Demands project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The Beauty Demands Network has brought together academics, practitioners and policy-makers to consider the changing requirements of beauty, exploring issues such as whether beauty image is becoming ever more demanding of women and whether cosmetic procedures such as surgery which were once regarded as exceptional are now regarded as normal or even required in some contexts.

Professor Heather Widdows, Council member, and Professor of Global Ethics in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham is the lead investigator on the Beauty Demands project.

Briefing paper Beauty demands briefing paper cover

The Beauty Demands briefing paper was published on 9 June 2016. This paper examines a broad range of beauty practices from daily routines such as the application of make-up to occasional and extreme practices such as cosmetic surgery. It is divided into three parts exploring ethical concerns, psychological issues, and governance, regulatory, and legal issues. Each section includes recommendations for policymakers and those responsible for delivering beauty practices.


The project ran from January 2015 to June 2016, with five main workshops and events as outlined below, alongside virtual debate and sharing of ideas and research.

Workshop 1 (4-5 March 2015) – Changing understandings of body image, at the University of Warwick

On our blog: The demands of beauty, by Catherine Joynson

Workshop 2 (3-4 June 2015) – Professionals, practitioners and beauty norms¸ at the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, London

On our blog:

Workshop 3 (14-15 October 2015) – The globalisation of beauty, at the University of Birmingham

On our blog:

Workshop 4 (23-24 March 2016) – Routine maintenance and exceptional procedures, at Manchester Metropolitan University

Final network event (9 June 2016) – Let’s talk about the Demands of Beauty at the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

Find out more about the Beauty Demands project and join the discussion at:


Twitter: @Beautydemands