The Many Faces of Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson Plastic Surgery Photo Gallery

Single Cover Art from "Got to Be There"

Michael Jackson in 1972. Photo courtesy Motown Records

Although Michael Jackson admitted publicly during his life only to having had one plastic surgery (on his nose), most experts and onlookers alike agree that he appears to have undergone many stages of physical transformation likely as a result of plastic surgery.

The world watched as Michael Jackson's face evolved over a multi-decade span of time until he was virtually unrecognizable as the same boy who first captured our imaginations in the 1960s and 70s. Whether or not we liked or approved of the changing face of Michael Jackson, it was undeniably fascinating to watch. Now that he's gone, it seems we are even more intrigued by every aspect of his life, his music, and yes, his face.

Of course, only Michael and his doctors know for certain what procedures he may have had. We can only speculate as to what amount and types of plastic surgery may have caused the transformation that happened before our eyes.

This record sleeve (cover) for Michael Jackson's single, "Got to Be There", shows Michael in 1972 at age fourteen with a dark complexion, a wide, rounded nose, flared nostrils, and noticeably un-clefted chin are a far cry from photos taken near his life's end. This photo was taken presumably well before any plastic surgery.

1979 "Off the Wall" Single Jacket

Michael Jackson in 1979, from the cover of his "Off the Wall" single.. Photo Courtesy Epic Records

It's not possible to say for certain whether Michael Jackson's slightly thinner-looking nose is merely a result of the changes of a maturing face, or a sign of his first plastic surgery. However, it doesn't appear that any other cosmetic work had been done at this point.

Michael Jackson on the Red Carpet in 1980

Michael Jackson in 1980. Photo © Dave Hogan / Getty Images

In this 1980 photo, it seems that Michael Jackson's skin has gotten a little lighter, and his eyes have lost their hooded appearance. Though Michael had admitted to no plastic surgery at this point, it is possible that a chemical peel and upper eye lift are responsible for these changes since photos from a year earlier.

Michael Jackson on the Cover of His 1982 "Thriller" Album

Michael Jackson on the Cover of His 1982 "Thriller" Album. Photo courtesy Epic Records

In this photo, Michael Jackson's eyes appear rounder as if they've been pulled downward at the outer corners, suggesting a possible lower eye lift. His nose is also looking slightly thinner once again. Could this have been after nose job number two?

It seems to be a popular opinion that Michael "should have stopped here", as many fans believe he looked his best during his Thriller days.

1984 Photo of Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson in 1984. Photo © Dave Hogan / Getty Images

With a noticeably thinner and pointier nasal tip, Michael Jackson's nose is the most notable feature in this photo. This photo also shows patches of lighter skin on his nasal tip and bridge --- giving us a rare glimpse of Michael's diagnosed skin condition, called vitiligo. (His condition was very rarely noticeable in photos, presumably due to heavy use of makeup.)

1987 Photo of Michael Jackson From His "Bad" Album Cover

1987 Photo of Michael Jackson From His "Bad" Album Cover. Photo courtesy Epic Records

Although Michael Jackson's skin appears considerably lighter than before on this album cover, it is unclear whether it is due to photo retouching, some sort of chemical peel, or simply heavy makeup.

Speaking of makeup, there have been persistent rumors that Mr. Jackson at some point had permanent makeup applied. It's hard to say -- some people just won't appear in public without being fully made up. However, his makeup placement was suspiciously consistent over the last 20-30 years of his life.

1988 Photo of Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson in 1988. Photo © Dave Hogan / Getty Images

This photo shows the appearance of a brand new cleft in Michael Jackson's chin. This is interesting because a cleft chin is usually considered masculine, while his other alterations (i.e., smoother, paler skin, higher brows, and a thinner, more delicate nose) are usually considered to be more feminine traits.

It is interesting to note here that Mr. Jackson's skin appears darker here than on his 1987 "Bad" album cover. This may indicate that his changing skin color (at least at this point) could have been largely due to the use of makeup, perhaps with the intent of concealing his vitiligo?

1990 Photo of Michael Jackson in Concert

1990 Photo of Michael Jackson in Concert. Photo © Dave Hogan / Getty Images

Compared to photos from 1988, Michael Jackson's skin is significantly lighter. While he was in fact diagnosed with a skin condition, vitiligo can't fully explain this change in pigmentation. Most people believe his lighter skin was the result of chemical peels.

There has been a significant amount of controversy over the reason for Mr. Jackson's changing skin color, with some fans speculating that he was trying to change or deny his ethnicity. Others (this writer included) believe that he may have had chemical peels simply to try and even out his skin tone, which had become patchy as a result of his skin condition. Still some fans refuse to believe that he had chemical peels at all, giving vitiligo and makeup all the credit for the "bleaching" effect.

1997 Photo of Michael Jackson

Michael Jackon in 1997. Photo © Dave Hogan / Getty Images

With Michael Jackson's skin getting lighter all the time, and his makeup always exactly in the same place, there is speculation from fans about further skin "bleaching" and permanent makeup (cosmetic tattooing/micropigmentation).

Michael Jackson's Mugshot from 2003

Michael Jackson's 2003 Mugshot. Mugshot - Public Record

Michael Jackson's lower eyelids appear here to be "turned out", which could possibly be a sign of an overly-aggressive lower eye lift. Another sign is the eyes' increasing roundness.

Mr. Jackson's lower lip also appears thinner in this photo. While this could be an indication of surgery to thin the lip, thinning of the lips is also a very common result of natural aging.

The condition of Michael's nose is another story. It appears pinched, dented, and even "caved in". It is widely believed that Michael had multiple rhinoplasty revisions which over time caused the structure of his nose to simply collapse.

2005 Photo of Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson in 2005. Photo © Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

It appears in this photo that Michael Jackson may have had some corrective surgery done on his nose, which in pictures from the late 90s and early 00s appeared to be dented and "caving in." While still almost painfully small, the nose now seems straighter, smoother, and somewhat more substantial than in previous photos.

2009 Photo of Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson in 2009 at a press conference held to announce his planned 50-date tour.. Photo © Dave Hogan / Getty Images

In some past photos, Michael Jackson appears to have possibly had surgery to thin his bottom lip. However, in this photo, taken four months prior to his death, his upper lip appears noticeably more voluminous. Could he have jumped on the lip plumping bandwagon?

In addition, while previous photos (from around 2003 onward) show a gaunt-looking face, Mr. Jackson's face appears fuller here. Since it has been widely reported that Michael was very thin at the time of his death, it is not likely that this fullness was a result of weight gain. Could dermal fillers be responsible?

The Changing Face of Michael Jackson

The Changing Face of Michael Jackson (pictured here in 1979, 1988, and 2005). Photos © (left to right) Epic Records, Dave Hogan, Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

There's no doubt that Michael Jackson went through many changes throughout his life -- both internal and external. While he only publicly admitted to having had one surgery to alter the appearance of his nose, it seems clear his transformation was much more profound than could have possibly been achieved through a simple rhinoplasty.

Here is a list of the numerous cosmetic procedures Michael Jackson was alleged to have had:

Michael Jackson was clearly a great talent. Still he was not perfect. In fact, it seems obvious that he could never see himself as anything but flawed. Michael Jackson's life seemed plagued by both a relentless negative belief about his appearance, coupled with a relentless pursuit of a non-existent perfection.

Could Michael Jackson have been the proverbial poster-child for body dysmorphic disorder? Perhaps. Could his alleged obsession with plastic surgery have contributed to his death? Possibly. Was his transformation a sad source of fascination for his millions of fans and non-fans alike? Most certainly.

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