Many women having cosmetic surgery believe it is other people having work done who are motivated by vanity and not themselves, it has been claimed.
Dr Debra Gimlin, a sociologist at the University of Aberdeen, spoke to 80 women aged from 20 to 70 for the study.
Forty were Britons in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Bristol, and 40 were Americans.
Dr Gimlin said more than half the women had created the notion of a "surgical other" they distanced themselves from.
These were women they saw as going ahead with surgery with little consideration of its risks, had unreasonable expectations of its effects, and were obsessively concerned with their appearance.
More than 50 of the women said this was not them, instead saying they only wanted a natural look from cosmetic surgery.
Dr Gimlin said they defined the surgical other as "narcissistic and shallow", and highlighted their own "greater concern with the more important things in life - jobs, family and health".
She said they created the notion as they could then believe that it was only women in this category who deserved the negative views society had of those undergoing cosmetic surgery, and not them.
Dr Gimlin said that British women tended to see the surgical other as living in America, and the Americans, who lived in Florida, saw her as living in Hollywood.
One 27-year-old American nurse interviewed said: "I'd never want to look like one of those ageing Hollywood starlets who's gone under the knife a few too many times."
A 47-year-old British sales clerk who had liposuction the year before said: "Over here, we're not like those American women who have loads of surgery without a second thought."
A 35-year-old British office manager who had abdominoplasty said: "I'm not obsessed about the way I look like some women who have cosmetic surgery.
"I know that other things matter more - my job, my family, my health. These are much more important to me than my appearance".
Dr Gimlin said: "Respondents from both countries characterised the surgical other as being motivated by vanity rather than need.
"In particular, they suggested that whatever she had altered did not really require changing: her breasts were not actually too small; her nose was not really too big; she was not sufficiently overweight to require liposuction.
"The surgical other is thus presented as being excessively, even obsessively, concerned with minute and inconsequential physical flaws."
Dr Gimlin also said that the women she interviewed saw the surgeons that the surgical other used as being inferior to their own.
A 34-year-old American salesperson who had rhinoplasty said: "I just knew I didn't want one of these seedy guys who advertise themselves on billboards. You know, boob jobs, only $999."
Dr Gimlin was presenting her findings to the British Sociological Association's medical sociology conference in Durham on Thursday.