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Issue date: Dec 12, 1999

In this article:
Who's getting Cosmetic surgery
Some of the newest trends


The fountain of youth goes mainstream
Taking a proactive approach to their looks, younger, middle-class men and women get an early start on nips and tucks.

By Michele Pullia Turk

The promise of a lengthy reprieve from looking older has hit home with baby boomers and Gen-Xers alike. More than 1 million cosmetic surgery procedures were performed in 1998, a whopping 153% rise since 1992, according to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons.

Fueling the trend: Many people are going under the knife when the first signs of aging appear instead of waiting till their wrinkles get deeper. More than 65% of procedures are now done on people younger than 50, says the ASPRS.

The new goal is to maintain rather than repair sun-damaged, aging skin, so that with a few tweaks in your 30s and 40s, you can look the same from 35 to 50. But many doctors note that these procedures don't work miracles and warn of the general risk of any surgery.

Critics attribute the boom in cosmetic surgery to a youth-obsessed culture. Call it mass consumption from the fountain of youth, but plastic surgery no longer is limited to celebrities and ladies who lunch. People even take out loans to get the work done.

Increasingly, the young want to stay bright-eyed. Eyelid surgeries -- up 102% since 1992 -- are "probably as common under age 40 as over age 40," says Alan Matarasso, a plastic surgeon at Manhattan Eye and Ear Hospital in New York. As with their health, more people are taking a proactive approach to their looks. "The earlier you do it," Matarasso maintains, "the more natural it looks and the longer it lasts."

Unlike traditional face lifts, the latest generation of cosmetic procedures leaves few scars and requires smaller, if any, incisions, reducing risk, cost and recovery time. Injections of the FDA-approved muscle relaxer Botox, from botulism bacterium, increased 142% last year, making it the fastest-growing procedure, according to an industry report.

"There have definitely been tremendous advances, and there's a greater awareness on the part of the public that there are little things they can do as they get older," says Matarasso. Nonetheless, many remain cautious. In an annual "wrinkle report," New York dermatologist Deborah Sarnoff found 70% of people ages 30-50 surveyed this year already believe they look younger than their peers.

Some of the newest trends:

Lunch-time lifts. Chemical peels, using glycolic acid, and microdermabrasion, using aluminum crystals to blast off old skin, are called lunch-time peels because they can be done in an hour. They reduce fine lines and brighten skin.

Men in the mirror. While men make up a mere 9% of patients, cosmetic surgeries performed on men have doubled since 1992, to nearly 100,000 last year.

Surgery-free fixes. Zapping wrinkles with lasers, which vaporize and smooth skin tissue, is most popular among 35- to 50-year-olds, experts say, but lasers are all the rage among younger patients, too, removing everything from acne to tattoos. (Sarnoff, though, says it's "overhyped.")

Despite all the progress, there's no single-dose fountain of youth. Like all cosmetic surgery, many of these procedures are temporary fixes that must be readministered every few months. Still, they're less expensive than the surgical route -- a full face lift starts at about $5,000. And even that's impermanent. Average life of a lift: 10 years.

One growing trend is to combine several procedures. To treat crow's-feet near the eyes, Botox can smooth away cracks, a laser can eliminate fine lines, and collagen injections can fill in deeper wrinkles. "If you have all these done all at once," says Atlanta dermatologist Harold Brody, "we can effectively turn back the clock."

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Who's getting Cosmetic surgery
The breakdown of procedures by age, based on 1998 statistics.

Procedure 34 and under 35-50 51-64 65+
Breast augmentation 61% 35% 3% 1%
Chemical peel 17% 48% 24% 11%
Collagen injection 13% 46% 31% 10%
Eyelid surgery 3% 34% 38% 25%
Face lift 1% 26% 55% 19%
Liposuction 28% 50% 17% 5%
Nose reshaping 60% 28% 9% 3%
Tummy tuck 21% 55% 20% 4%

Most popular procedures by sex
Men Women
Liposuction Liposuction
Eyelid surgery Breast augmentation
Nose reshaping Eyelid surgery
Breast reduction Face lift
Face lift Chemical peel
What it costs (prices approximated)
Full face lift: $5,000+
Collagen: $315 per shot
Chemical peel: $600
Full face laser resurfacing: $3,000
Breast augmentation: $3,000
Eye surgery: $1,700
Liposuction: $1,900

 

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