Is Cosmetic Surgery Recession-Proof? Maryland Plastic Surgeon Says The Answer Is Surprising

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Plastic Surgery One head Donald Kress said this week that recently analyzed 2012 data reflect an uptick in cosmetic surgery that reflects a national trend that is bucking the economic downturn.

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Many people are looking at ways to boost their self-image as they change roles in the family, look to new careers or in some other way move into some new aspect of their life, and that includes enhancing the way they look.

Despite the conventional expectations of the effects of an economic downturn, cosmetic surgery may be proving itself to be a tool for women who are in a position to re-invent themselves, according to March data identified by a Maryland plastic surgeon and the national group collecting data on the industry. Plastic surgery has become a practice Americans undergo even in times of economic stress.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported in February a 5% overall increase in cosmetic plastic surgeries, especially in such procedures as botulium toxin type A (Botox), microdermabrasion and soft tissue fillers. Dr. Kress, medical director of Kress Cosmetic Breast Center and Plastic Surgery One of Maryland, said this week his year-end evaluation has tracked with national increases, even with personal spending down in the past year.

The trend may be disproving the common belief that cosmetic surgery is a luxury that must be delayed for times of financial plenty.

“We have patients who have said that cosmetic procedures give them self-confidence for a boost they have considered for years. Or, it can be a decision that comes about because their family or life circumstances changed and allowed them to “re-invent” themselves,” said Kress, who has watched cosmetic surgery trends come and go for more than three decades as a board-certified surgeon who performs an average of 500 procedures per year. “Many people are looking at ways to boost their self-image as they change roles in the family, look to new careers or in some other way move into some new aspect of their life, and that includes enhancing the way they look.”

Westminster mom of four, Helen Hayes, is typical of those who come to Kress for surgery. Hayes came to Kress near the end of 2011, for cohesive gel breast implants, a breast augmentation procedure that is the fastest-growing sector of breast surgery. Kress’s practice was a study site for Food and Drug Administration approval of the most recently approved cohesive gel product, Sientra. He performed more than one-third of the surgeries in the trials which studied more than 1,700 cases. Hayes was one of the trial cases.

“This was something I had always wanted to do, because it felt right for me,” said Hayes, who took up the challenge of competitive pole dancing as she watched her children grow up and become more independent. And having the look match her expectations was important. “It is a big deal to get it right. I didn’t want to look like someone stuck a couple of balloons under a bra,” she said. “I wanted to look natural, and with the cohesive gel, I did. “

Exterior changes can be an important part of the re-invention process for many women who are launching into a new part of their lives, said life and job coach Lisa DiSciullo, who specializes in coaching women in transition. “The solutions women find are best for themselves when they are in transition are very personal and for some women, focusing on the way they look is a way of uncovering who they are,” she said.

Kress, who stays in touch with many of the women on whom he performs cosmetic surgery, said the choices they have made to change their appearance often are the catalyst for a successful life change. “Some people go back to school for a new career, or take out a loan to begin a new business,” he said. “For women that are in a period of self re-invention, they see cosmetic surgery as a necessary investment in that next stage of who they are.”

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Linda M. Norris Waldt
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