Was he trying to turn himself into a white man? It certainly seemed so.
His paranoia about his appearance stemmed from childhood. Apparently, one of his father's insults was to call him Big Nose.
Changing face of the King of Pop: Michael Jackson's Afro-American features receded further with every plastic surgery operation
The cover of Thriller, the album that marked his ascension to global superstardom in 1982, was a turning point.
It shows Michael as a sweet-faced young black man with naturally curly hair and a full nose.
Five years later, his Diana Ross lookalike cover photo on the Bad album revealed a face that bore little resemblance to the Jackson everyone had known.
Five years after that, in 1992, even he had to acknowledge what everyone else had been saying and admitted his skin was becoming whiter.
There are two versions of what happened. According to Jackson, he had developed a rare skin-lightening condition called vitiligo.
1986: At the peak of his fame
1992: The surgery starts to show
2002: Shocking signs of damage
2003: Pale shadow of himself
It is not entirely clear what causes vitiligo, but it is believed to be an auto-immune disorder where the body attacks the melanocytes, the specialised skin cells that manufacture the skin pigment melanin.
And in keeping with this diagnosis, Jackson's complexion did become steadily paler. But some critics have never believed the explanation that he was suffering vitiligo, preferring instead to believe that he was trying to turn himself into a white man.
Dr Pamela Lipkin, a New York surgeon, says Michael had been having plastic surgery since his teens, including alterations to his brow, chin and cheeks, as well as skin bleaching.
As a child, he had a classic shaped African-American nose, full and broad. In later years, no one can argue that at the time of his death the nose was thinner, daintier and rather feminine.