plastic surgery face lift

Editor’s Note: Dr. Anthony Youn is an assistant professor of surgery at the Oakland University/William Beaumont School of Medicine in Michigan. He is the author of “In Stitches,” a memoir about growing up Asian-American and becoming a doctor.

Story highlights

Breast and buttock enhancements declined in 2012, according to statistics

But lifts, injections and laser treatments for faces are on the rise

Baby boomers are powering the sudden growth in plastic surgeries

For the first time in six years, the number of people enhancing their breasts and plumping their buttocks is declining. The number of people lifting, injecting and lasering their faces is growing.

So who’s powering this sudden growth in facial plastic surgery? Baby boomers.

Every year, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons releases its statistics about the number of plastic surgeries performed the year before. It’s an accurate snapshot of the state of plastic surgery in the United States.

2012 saw a record number of people undergoing cosmetic procedures, with more than 14.6 million procedures performed in total, an increase of 5% over the year before. The number of actual surgeries performed dropped 2%, but this was more than offset by a 6% rise in minimally invasive cosmetic treatments.

Dr. Anthony Youn

Breast augmentation remained the number one cosmetic surgery, a position it’s held since the FDA ended the silicone gel implant moratorium in 2006. However, in 2012, the number of women undergoing this procedure declined 7% from the year before, with just over 286,000 breast enhancements performed.

Buttocks augmentation was one of the fastest-growing procedures of the past decade, due in no small part to public fascination with the ample derrieres of celebs Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce and Kim Kardashian. The number of people undergoing buttock enhancement also declined in 2012, down 36% from the year before, to just under 3,800 procedures.

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Our nation appears to be shifting its emphasis from the inflated busts and rounded behinds of Generation X and Y to the plumped cheeks and lifted necks of baby boomers. In other words, the Real Housewives are not only keeping up with the Kardashians, they’re surpassing them.

Injections of botulinum toxin were by far the number one cosmetic procedure in the country, with over 6.1 million procedures performed, up 8% from the year before. It’s only fitting that the company that produces Botox, the most popular form of botulinum toxin, purchased one of the top breast implant manufacturers back in 2005.

In 2012, the number of people undergoing injection of facial wrinkle-fillers such as Restylane and Juvederm increased 5% to nearly 2 million.

The current buzzword in plastic surgery is “laser.” Last year, nearly 2.2 million laser or IPL (Intense Pulse Light) treatments were performed, up 6%.

This recent popularity can be traced to two main causes.

Technological advances have propelled today’s lasers to achieve benefits previously impossible with older devices. In order to remove your wrinkles, the older generation of lasers would literally have to burn all the skin off your face. Today’s skin-tightening devices, such as the Fractora, eMatrix and Venus Freeze, can give similar results with minimal pain and downtime.

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Secondly, daytime talk shows have become an outlet for millions of viewers to learn about this new technology and request it from their plastic surgeons.

Record numbers of people are also going under the knife to remove the years.

Last year, face lifts were up 6%, eyelid lifts up 4% and cheek implants up 6%. Overall, this could be the beginning of an upcoming surge in facial anti-aging surgeries, as more and more people discover that the temporary benefits of injectables and minimally invasive procedures can hold off the years only so long.

I predict that the number of baby boomers undergoing face lifts and eyelid lifts will rise dramatically in the coming years as they realize that there is no real substitute for well-performed surgery.

Last year’s statistics showed plastic surgery continuing to grow at unprecedented rates. Boomers are not only getting into the act, they’re spearheading it. More and more of them appear to be heeding the words of comedian and plastic surgery enthusiast Joan Rivers: “Looking 50 is great … if you’re 60.”

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