Improved cosmetic procedures let you be you

HealthAmerican Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

Do your friends say you look tired, even when you're not, because your face is sagging in places it never used to? If you catch a glance of yourself in a store window, do you do a double-take when the person looking back at you is — gulp — your mom, dad or even grandparent?

More people over 65 are using plastic surgery and noninvasive cosmetic procedures to refresh their looks, with the goal of bringing back vibrancy, fixing trouble spots and moving into their golden years with confidence. "It's when they have the time and money to do what they've always wanted to do, or sometimes they have a wedding or bar mitzvah coming up, and want to look their best," says Dr. Marc Karlan, associate professor of clinical otolaryngology at Northwestern University.

Karlan has seen an increase in patients in their 60s and 70s. "They're past the time of saying I'm too young to have anything done. And the world has changed so they're not too old," he says.

According to the The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, seniors 65 and older accounted for 7.3 of all cosmetic procedures, up from 5.4 percent in 2002.

Changes

Cosmetic surgery also has changed dramatically during that time, in terms of technology, products, procedures, and affordability, primarily due to popular injections such as Botox, Restylane, Juvederm, Sculptra and others. In fact, in 2010 more than eight out of 10 cosmetic procedures were nonsurgical.

Dr. Laurie Casas, who practices in Glenview and Highland Park, says four times as many of her patients, including senior patients, get injections as they do surgery. Various injections can do things like ease lines in the forehead, plump a wrinkled upper lip, or fill out a sunken cheek.

Another reason to keep up appearances is that seniors are working longer. Arleen,* 66, is still working as a manager. Casas started her with a skin care regimen that included Retin-A, then injections, then a mini (partial) facelift.

"All of this has made a difference and I'm very satisfied with the results," she says. "It took five to seven years off, and when you're working it's important. I have younger people working under me, and I don't want to look too old."

Conversely, men may postpone having "work done" until after their work is done, Casas says. "Women typically immediately embrace small nonsurgical procedures that help to rejuvenate the aging face," she says.

Dan,* a former executive, retired four years ago, and his wife had been one of Casas' patients for years. "I was very busy before," he says, "but I noticed as I aged that my cheeks got a sunken look to them." He got Sculptra injections, which stimulates the growth of collagen. "Your face is anesthetized, you only feel a little pin prick, maybe a slight localized bruising. After a week or so you're back to normal. The only downside is it doesn't last forever."

What to look for

When shopping for a plastic surgeon, look at his/her patients for natural results. "The older my patient is, the more likely they lead with 'I want to look better but I don't want to look done.' "Karlan says. "They don't want to look frozen. In the Midwest, people want to look like themselves."

Both Casas and Karlan place top priority on a senior's overall health profile. "I make sure all my patients have a healthy lifestyle. I always work with their primary doctor to ensure they are appropriate candidates for elective procedures," Casas says.

If you become a patient, your treatment plan may likely include both surgical and nonsurgical procedures, both doctors say. Following post-op instructions is extremely important with plastic surgery, which gives 10-15 years of benefits, Karlan says.

Costs also must be factored in. Arleen spent about $3,000 on the mini-facelift and about $1,500 a year on injections. Dan says he has spent about $9,000 so far.

"A surgical procedure with facility costs will drive it up to $5,000-$10,000. And you easily can pay double that, says Karlan."

*Names have been changed.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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