Women opting for surgery to get Michelle Obama’s arms

More women are getting cosmetic surgery to improve the look of their arms. Some cite First Lady Michelle Obama as their inspiration.
(Ron Edmonds / Associated Press)

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons released its latest cosmetic and resconstructive surgery statistics on Monday.

Many of the trends were familiar. In all, the group reported, Americans underwent 1.6 million cosmetic surgeries, including face-lifts, liposuction and rhinoplasty; 13 million minimally invasive procedures (think Botox injections) and 5.6 million reconstructive procedures (including tumor removal and scar revision). People in the U.S. spent $11 billion on the cosmetic procedures alone.

Once again, for the seventh year in a row, breast augmentation was the most popular form of cosmetic surgery, with 286,000 operations performed. Botox treatments reached an all-time high of 6.1 million injections. People between the ages of 40 and 54 accounted for the largest portion of the cosmetic procedures: 6.8 million, or 48%. Ninety-one percent of cosmetic procedures were in women.


But the society chose to highlight one procedure that is less familiar: the upper arm-lift. In 2012, 15,457 patients, 98% of them women, spent a total of $61 million to have liposuction on their arms, or what’s known as a brachioplasty (a surgery that involves making an incision from the armpit to the elbow, usually along the back of the arm, to remove excess skin). The number of procedures was up 4,378% since 2000, when only about 300 women opted for it, the group reported.

In a statement, the ASPS said that doctors didn’t point to a single reason for the increase, but took note of poll data indicating that women “are paying closer attention to the arms of female celebrities” including Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore and Kelly Ripa. The most-admired arms of all? Those of First Lady Michelle Obama.

Plastic surgeons emphasized that diet and exercise should be a part of a woman’s plan to tone her triceps, but that for many, getting the look they want proves impossible by those methods alone.

“We are genetically programmed to have different accumulations of fat in different areas, and for some women the arms can be a problem area,” said Dr. David Reath, chair of the ASPS Public Education Committee and a surgeon in Knoxville, Tenn.

He cautioned, however, that brachioplasty often leaves a visible scar -- presenting a “trade-off” for women.

Two years ago, the industry group said there had been an increase in the number of men who got face-lifts -- though women still got the most.

Last year, statistics revealed that the “chinplant” was the fastest-growing cosmetic surgery.


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