“Botax” on Cosmetic Procedures: Bodacious or Bogus?


Christopher Beam makes the case that subjecting cosmetic procedures to the “botax” (a 1% tax), that is currently in the health care reform legislaion because people that get cosmetic surgery may earn more money after surgery.

But surgeons say there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that a larger cup size (or smoother nasal curvature or tighter buttocks) leads to a higher tax bracket.

[…] [Economics Professor Daniel] Hamermesh, who conducted the most-cited study on beauty and income, disagrees. Yes, his survey found that beauty does lead to higher wages. But he also says that attempts to improve one’s attractiveness, whether with clothing, or surgical intervention, make no difference when it comes to income. The reason, he says, is that people can tell the difference between natural beauty and artificial beauty.


If it turns out there’s no connection between surgery and increased productivity, the case for a tax might be slightly stronger.

via The Senate wants to put a “botax” on plastic surgery. That’s a bad idea. – By Christopher Beam – Slate Magazine.

I would not even touch this anecdotal argument against a cosmetic surgery tax. Beam does make an empirical argument against the botax: most people who get cosmetic procedures are buying them with credit. The tax would penalize them.

For one: Hamermesh’s point is right on: an elective cosmetic procedure doesn’t necessarily make one more attractive to others and often tends to warp or damage a person’s appearance. Example? Olympic gold medalist and former Wheaties spokesperson Bruce Jenner.

Bruce Jenner: Cosmetic Surgery increased his income?

Keep your Wheaties, pal.


She's been penalized enough.

The simplest arguments against this tax would be the same for keeping access to abortions safe and affordable: people will take surgery vacations to countries with cheaper options and less guidelines or domestically undergo procedures at discount prices by unlicensed surgeons if the costs of surgery pass a certain threshold. (I would guess that threshold is probably higher than the 1% tax if most people pay for procedures with credit)

Many cosmetic surgeries help correct a variety of physical defects caused by injuries, intensive medical procedures and various natural defects that may truly impede normal physical function. These should be protected from this tax, but creating even more classes of surgery would add to administrative and processing charges for the tax and undercut the bottom line of the “botax” revenue. The real question is (since we don’t know if cosmetic surgery increases income) is there a negative cost to society for these people that elect to have a cosmetic procedure? If so, tax it.