Plastic surgery moves beyond rich and famous

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By Diane Kockler, Staff writer

A few years ago, Jasmine (who asked not to use her real name) gained about 50 pounds when she struggled with health issues. For the first time in her life, she considered plastic surgery.

"But I didn't want to go under the knife. I'm just not that brave," said the 43-year-old.

Instead of liposuction, Jasmine decided to try a new procedure called Lipo Dissolve, a nonsurgical process of injections that break down fat cells. She said it appealed to her because it had a quick recovery time -- she could get the injections during her lunch break and be back at work within an hour.

With the combination of injections and dieting, Jasmine has lost about 40 pounds.

"I had rolls of body fat on my back, and within four months, they were just about gone," she said.

New Demographics

Jasmine, who is black, is part of a growing trend of minority patients who undergo plastic or cosmetic surgery.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the number of minority patients having plastic surgery increased 65 percent from 2000 to 2005. Hispanics were the largest minority client base, with 921,000 procedures performed in 2005. African-Americans were the second-largest minority, with 769,000 procedures. Asian-Americans received 437,000 nips and tucks in 2005.Dr. Shirley Madhere, a plastic surgeon in New York City, said the trend reflects a global phenomenon among middle-class consumers. She said the cost of various procedures has gone down as acceptance has gone up.

"The taboo traditionally associated with the practice has lessened. No longer is plastic surgery perceived as wanting to change one's ethnicity, but rather a lifestyle enhancement that transcends all definitions of beauty, irrespective of race," Madhere said.

Among blacks, Asian-Americans and Hispanics, the most requested minimally-invasive procedure in 2005 was Botox, an injection that temporarily removes wrinkles by paralyzing muscles. Nose reshaping was the most popular surgical procedure among blacks and Asian-Americans, and breast augmentation was the No. 1 among Hispanics, according to the ASPS.

Not Just For Women

The number of men seeking plastic surgery is also up, increasing 44 percent from 2000 to 2005, according to the ASPS. Botox injections experienced the biggest jump among male clients, with a 233 percent increase between 2004 and 2005.

Dr. Andrew Mark Klapper, a plastic surgeon in Manhattan, said men are feeling the same pressures women feel about their body image and appearance.

"They are less likely to talk about it among their friends, but will in my office, behind closed doors," Klapper said.

Dr. George Lefkovits, a plastic surgeon in New York City, has specific days set aside to see only male clients.

"This is a major draw for my patients because they feel more comfortable and accepting of their procedures when women are not present in the office," he said.

Statistics from the ASPS show that more men are opting for similar work as women, such as microdermabrasion, laser hair removal, chemical peels, liposuction, nose reshaping and eyelid surgery.

Overall, plastic surgeons said clients want procedures that are quick, less invasive and have a short recovery time.

"(Length of) post-op recuperation is usually one of the first questions asked," Lefkovits said.

As Seen On TV

Doctors said one of the main reasons why plastic surgery is becoming more popular is because of its exposure on TV, including shows such as "Extreme Makeover," "The Swan" and "Nip/Tuck."

"I think it is great for business, but there is a dark side to this -- it gives completely unrealistic expectations to the viewing public," Klapper said.

He said the TV shows rarely show medical complications, and the stories make it appear as if everyone's personal problems are solved just by having plastic surgery. Klapper said patients who watch the shows -- especially teenagers -- also become misguided about what surgeries are right for their body type.

"Teenagers are coming in with their parents asking for procedures they rarely asked for a decade ago, (such as) breast augmentations and liposuction," Klapper said. "I will not perform those operations unless the teenager can demonstrate they understand the reality of the complications of surgery."

Despite some of the misleading results on the TV shows, doctors agree that the popularization of plastic surgery will only increase demand in large cities and will extend to smaller communities across the country, said Dr. Gregory Buford, a plastic surgeon in Englewood, Colo.

"More people are realizing they can undergo procedures that will allow them to look as good on the outside as they feel on the inside," he said.

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