"You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen. But if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your soul's own doing." -- Marie Stopes
A few weeks ago, speculation ran rampant in certain circles that Danny, the Pekingese just crowned supreme champion at the renowned Crufts dog show in England, might have to relinquish his title based on suspicions he'd had a facelift. In the end, the world heaved a collective sigh of relief when it turned out he won the title fair and square, based solely on the strength of his God-given assets. The three-year-old show dog's owner, Albert Easdon, told The New York Times, "The problem was that people couldn't be satisfied just to say 'It's a lovely dog.'" Amen.
We humans aren't faring much better than our canine counterparts, or their perfectionist owners. By the looks of things, many of us aren't satisfied with what God gave us, either. Some want Nicole Kidman's nose (though presumably not as seen on The Hours), more than a few covet Angelina Jolie's pouty lips, and a good portion of the male population would not mind Brad Pitt's splendid six-pack abs. And in plastic surgeons' offices around the country, doctors are more than willing to oblige our fantasies.
Trends and numbers
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), nearly 7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in 2002. In the last six years, the number of cosmetic procedures increased 228%. No word, though, on whether feline look-alike and socialite Jocelyne Wildenstein contributed to that spike. Meanwhile, the number of cosmetic nonsurgical procedures (such as collagen injections and cellulite treatment) rose by a whopping 368% in the same time period.
Surgical cosmetic procedures remained stable with a 1% increase in 2002, with more than 1.6 million people opting for a nip and tuck. American Society of Plastic Surgeons President (ASPS) Dr. James Wells ascribes it to "people [being] willing to make an investment in themselves to achieve the look they want." He adds, "The stability of the surgical numbers illustrates the time and financial investment patients put into a serious procedure."
Non-surgical cosmetic procedures, on the other hand, dropped some 20% last year. But even with this slide, Botox injections continue to rank first among all cosmetic procedures, increasing a modest 4% since 2001 but more than 2,400% since 1997. At about $400 a pop (Botox only lasts for about four months), this "lunchtime procedure" has quickly become the top choice for those who want instant (though, sadly, temporary) gratification.
Top Surgical Procedures in 2002 1. Lipoplasty (liposuction) 372,831
2. Breast augmentation 249,6413. Eyelid surgery 229,092 4. Rhinoplasty (nose reshaping) 156,9735. Breast reduction (women) 125,614 Top Nonsurgical Procedures in 2002 1. Botulinum toxin injection 1,658,667
(Botox, Myobloc) 2. Microdermabrasion 1,032,417
3. Collagen injection 783,1204. Laser hair removal 736,4585. Chemical peel 495,415Source: ASAPS
The cost of remaking yourself
From Wonder Bras to panaceas peddled over the counter, businesses are only too happy to pander to our search for our ideal selves -- and you can shell out the cash to change just about anything you don't like about yourself. But forget about any moral judgments involved in remaking our bodies -- let's talk about the sheer dollar cost of what we do to ourselves.
Top Surgical Procedures in 2002 Nat'l Avg Cost Total Expenditures1. Lipoplasty (liposuction) $2,394 $901,942,1572. Breast augmentation $3,301 $791,491,0563. Eyelid surgery $2,544 $572,476,8664. Rhinoplasty (nose reshaping) $3,751 $578,649,5915. Breast reduction (women) $5,180 $646,786,831Top Nonsurgical Procedures in 2002 1. Botulinum toxin injection $399 $634,512,592 (Botox, Myobloc)2. Microdermabrasion $220 $245,484,8303. Collagen injection $399 $287,004,4324. Laser hair removal $382 $318,380,5535. Chemical peel $825 $390,986,005Source: ASAPS
We spent a total of $5 billion on surgical cosmetic surgery in 2002, with nonsurgical procedures trailing not too far behind at more than $2 billion. That's rapidly approaching the $8 billion Americans spend annually on cosmetics -- including lotions, creams, moisturizers and other products designed to help fight the effects of sunlight and aging on skin.
Cosmetic surgery is no longer just for movie stars and the rich, either. Ordinary people are doing it in droves, even though the cost of having, say, a tummy tuck or a breast augmentation hasn't changed much in the last five years. Perhaps not surprisingly, women represent the majority of patients (88%). However, while only a decade ago men consisted of only about 7% or 8% of the cosmetic surgery clientele, they now make up 12% of those who go under the knife. (You guys ask for liposuction and laser hair removal the most.)
Butt implant or nest egg?
Here at The Motley Fool, where we're constantly striving to set ourselves up for life -- no matter what we look like -- it's hard to miss that the cost of a breast lift is nearly the same as the amount Uncle Sam allowed this year for a tax-saving IRA contribution for your retirement ($3,000). So, before you make any plastic surgery decisions, you have to ask yourself: Butt implant or nest egg? What will serve me better over the course of the rest of my life?
Not to mention the other plastic factor. If you charge your plastic surgery on a credit card, you could end up doubling the cost of the procedure. According to Consumer Credit Counseling Services, paying the $60 minimum on a $3,000 credit card balance would take eight years to pay off and cost you a whopping $2,780 in interest. Is it really worth it?
That $3,000 breast lift could grow to nearly $60,000 if you made 10% off it in an index fund over 30 years. Or if you're the risk-taking type, there's nothing to stop you from investigating those pharmaceutical companies that are making money off the plastic surgery craze. Allergan
Even in a certificate of deposit, the return on your investment could be more gratifying than what you'd get from a cosmetic procedure over time -- with the possible exception of a chemical peel, which my sources tell me makes your face feel as smooth and new as a baby's bottom, at least for a week or two.
A lovely dog is a lovely dog
With women constituting the majority of those who pay up for plastic surgery, it is imperative that I, as a card-carrying member, remind you: Most of us will outlive our husbands, boyfriends, or male co-breadwinner. If you haven't saved enough, or anything, for retirement, now is the best time to start. I don't know about you, but I have a lifestyle to which I've become accustomed, and it does not entail eating tuna and ramen noodles for the rest of my life.
And if the thought of retiring poor isn't scary enough, just think about how you might feel when, in the mirror, you are faced with the frightening realization that your eyes are inching ever closer to your ears? I bet a growing nest egg is sounding better and better, eh?
As Danny the Pekingese's detractors found out, a lovely dog is a lovely dog is a lovely dog. You need not mess with what your Mama gave you. Eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and, for the love of God, don't go outside without applying sunblock to all your exposed areas. You can't escape the vagaries of gravity and time. You can, however, take control of how your financial future will look.
Reggie Santiago performs her own brand of plastic surgery as an editor at The Motley Fool. She likes her assets right where they are, thank you very much. The Fool has a digitally enhanced disclosure policy.