Posts Tagged ‘cosmetic surgery’

Is the “Botax” Anti-Beauty?

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Back on November 19, Democrats proposed enacting a five percent tax on elective cosmetic procedures as a way to raise six billion dollars to pay for the nation’s healthcare system overhaul.  Immediately dubbed the “Botax” by pundits, the idea drew instant fire from cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists and women who enjoy free access to the cosmetic procedures that enhance their appearances and often their self-esteem.

One of our areas of greatest interest and academic study is the intersection of beauty and the brain.  A great deal of research has shown that having cosmetic improvements improves one’s mood, self-image and quality of life.  It’s not known yet whether that improvement is purely due to greater confidence and pleasure in seeing oneself looking younger and more attractive, or whether there is a mechanism that affects brain function (akin to reports from women with Botox injections that they have a harder time crying).  What remains clear is that improvements in beauty tend to correlate with improvements in mental state.  So what does lawmakers’ willingness to tax breast implants and tummy tucks say about our attitude toward beauty?

Let’s use other popular taxes as a parallel.  The most common tax on elective “lifestyle” choices is the “sin tax” placed on cigarettes and hard liquor in most states.  These taxes are levied in part because smoking and drinking are perceived as potentially harmful activities that are basically recreational luxuries; the taxes are, in part, a way of the government saying, “If you’re going to do these things and cause potential problems such as drunk driving and lung cancer, we’re going to tax you for the privilege.”  So, by this logic, is Congress saying that cosmetic procedures are equally frivolous and harmful choices made primarily by women (who, by the way, make up only 91 of the 535 seats in the legislative branch)?

That might be overstating, but it’s clear that the message being sent is that Botox and the many other procedures upon which women (86 percent of patients are women) spend billions per year are a somewhat frivolous luxury primarily enjoyed by rich people with too much time on their hands.  This could not be more wrong.  First of all, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 60 percent of women who get work done have household incomes between $30,000 and $90,000 a year.  These are not the idle rich, and a five percent levy would have a real impact on their lives.

More importantly, while a small minority of cosmetic procedures may be playthings for desperate cougars trying to defy time, most women are simply trying to look and feel their best, correct what they see as defects, and enhance the quality of their lives.  Beauty matters; it shapes our self-image, our relationships and our career opportunities.  It is not an idle luxury nor a socially costly habit like smoking two packs a day, and it should not be forced by a tax into the “sin” category.  Beauty, and the doctors and patients who pursue it, should be given their proper respect.

Cosmetic Medicine: Not Recession-Proof

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Well, so much for the idea that doctors are any more “recession-proof” than anyone else.

We’ve heard that statement a lot recently.  Along with morticians, peace officers and firefighters, physicians are supposed to have some sort of “Get Out of Recession Free” card when it comes to an economic downturn, presumably because people still get sick, need therapy and so on.  But we’ve already seen evidence that it’s a false idea, as hospitals are losing money and some are threatened with closure.  So it should come as no surprise that cosmetic surgeons are seeing a downturn in their business.

After all, people are already delaying treatment and skipping medication for serious health problems because they lack health insurance or can’t afford the co-pays, so it’s hardly a shock that more are passing altogether on elective procedures.  That’s what the Chicago-based American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery says is happening.  In a survey of 242 members released on January 14, the Academy revealed that nearly 80% of cosmetic surgery practices had reported a drop in business, with the average being a whopping 50% reduction in the third quarter of 2008.

The Economic Impact Survey also showed that more and more patients are choosing cheaper, less-invasive procedures than when the economy was strong and they felt flush.  In fact, since all cosmetic surgeons have to train in another specialty before going into cosmetic medicine, the survey found that about one-third are going back to former areas of training such as general surgery, ear/nose/throat or obstetrics & gynecology in order to make a living during these tough times. Those who don’t want to go that route are shoring up their practices with cosmetic procedures that are more commonly done by a dermatologist: fillers, Botox, liposuction, chemical peels and microdermabrasion.

In fact, these non-invasive or minimally-invasive options are just about the only cosmetic procedures that are becoming more common, with reports coming in that the rates of Botox injections are actually up around the country.  What does this say about us as a people, especially since just a few posts ago we reported that people are still spending on beauty products such as cosmetics and skin care products?  Well, it’s obvious that there’s an inverse relationship between the cost of the procedure and the willingness to have it done.  A $30 jar of moisturizer is fine, but $2,000 for an eyelid lift…that’s going to have to wait until the stock market goes back up.

Clearly, we still are willing to spend money and invest in our looks.  It remains a priority for the same reason we discussed in that last post: because it gives us control over some aspect of things when it seems like everything else is spinning so out of control.  But we are becoming more luxury-conscious, and there’s a self-imposed “frugality line” that we won’t cross.  Hard economic times cause most of us to “reboot” our priorities and take a hard look at what is worth paying for and what must be put off, and the answer is different for everyone.  For some women, getting a regular microdermabrasion treatment in her dermatologist’s office will remain a priority even if she can’t afford a new pair of shoes; for another, she’ll make her own facial scrub with kitchen ingredients or do without.

Our theory is, the more your outer beauty is a critical aspect of your self-image and the more your self-esteem depends on it, the more willing you will be to spend money you might not have on cosmetic treatments.  The more comfortable you are with yourself on the inside, the more likely you’ll probably be to go back to basics until things turn around.  Inner beauty, thank goodness, tends to be free.  As the economic situation plays out, we’ll see if our theory is correct.

Stay beautiful,

Debi & Eva

The dangers of misleading plastic surgery ads

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

One of the most controversial aspects of healthcare in recent years has been the advent of aggressive, “ask your doctor about…” style advertising.  It’s blamed for the dramatic increase in the rise of prescription drug use, but it’s also played a role in the increasing popularity of plastic surgery (up 59 percent from 2000 to 2007) and the two-year increase in the average age of patients seeking the top 10 cosmetic procedures (according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery).  So many women and men are so eager to look younger than their years that they are apparently willing to believe questionable claims from companies and clinics offering unrealistic plastic surgery results.

If you’ve read our book, The Beauty Prescription, then you know that we’re in favor of plastic surgery—when it’s appropriate.  It isn’t always.  Any surgery comes with hazards, and often women can achieve more satisfying improvements to their inner and outer beauty by making changes in their lifestyle, such as eating a healthy diet, getting in shape and maintaining a smart skin care regimen.  Certainly in some cases plastic surgery can be a blessing, but not when it’s based on misperceptions based on ads that are, frankly, fraudulent.  We’re not talking about the airbrushed photos of models in the newspapers; most readers are savvy enough to take those with a grain of salt.  We’re talking about breast augmentation clinics that promise breasts that are anatomically impossible, and “lunchtime face lifts” that are little more than snake oil.  Such misleading marketing costs patients big money (since many cosmetic procedures are elective and thus not covered by insurance) and puts them at risk.

So bravo to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, which has come out with a strong statement condemning such false advertising at its annual conference.  The group called out such practices as clinics that offer “act now” discounts of up to $500 to women who had breast augmentation surgery quickly.  You don’t have to be psychic to know that such incentives are bound to lead to rash decisions and bad outcomes, especially among young women who are willing to believe that they can look like Pamela Anderson with three easy payments.

We can only hope that we’ll soon hear the same kind of responsible, ethical talk from the billion-dollar U.S. plastic surgery industry—and it would be even better if it had some sort of regulatory teeth behind it.  We’ll keep you posted.

Stay beautiful…

Debi & Eva













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