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Health : Plastic Revolution : Cosmetic surgery booming with patients who aren't shy about their 'knifestyles'

May 26, 1987|JEANNINE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

Kathryn Klinger couldn't believe what she was hearing the other day at a luncheon. "Everyone was saying that they had had their eyes done, and who had done them," said the owner of the Georgette Klinger Salon in Beverly Hills. "It was really shocking. These women were very free about it. And they weren't old--I'd say they were in their late 30s."

The number of elective facial cosmetic surgeries has doubled over the last five years, according to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. And cosmetic surgery has come a long way from the days when women smiled serenely and lied that their new face was the result of a week at the health spa.

Glad to Report

This is the age of full disclosure. Men and women proudly jut out their newly reconstructed chins and gladly report where the work was done and who did it. These days it's not uncommon to see men and women on the street wearing a nose splint or sunglasses that barely hide bruised eyes and stitches, the residue of plastic surgery.

Fashion magazines and health publications keep a curious public informed on the latest techniques, while the trendy New York-based Details magazine allows plastic surgery veterans to spill their guts in a regular feature, "Knife-styles of the Rich and Famous."

Meanwhile, the number of procedures performed continues to rise. According to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, there were 477,700 surgeries done in 1984; 590,580 in 1986. The most popular was suction assisted lipectomy (up 78% from 1984), where fat is suctioned out of the body; followed by breast augmentation; eyelid lifts (blepharoplasty); nose jobs (rhinoplasty); face lifts (rhytidectomy) and tummy tucks (abdominoplasty). Men account for 12% of all plastic surgeries, most of them nose jobs.

Also available are cheek implants, chin implants (mentoplasty), forehead lifts, breast lifts (mastopexy), eyebrow lifts and surgery to correct protruding ears (otoplasty). Collagen injections and the newly revised techniques of fat grafting and fat injections (see accompanying story) are also being used to plump up wrinkles and pitted scars.

Patients are also becoming younger; the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons reports that 27% of people who have nose jobs are 21 or younger, and 34% of face-lift patients are 35 to 50.

This increase in elective cosmetic surgeries has led to more awareness and acceptance. It's no longer a sin to be nipped and tucked and then blab about it.

Maryjo Price, a 51-year-old skin-care salon owner, is "very open" about the face lift she had two years ago. She was back at work a week after her surgery, covering up remaining bruises with makeup.

"But sometimes," she said with a sigh, "I think, 'Maryjo, you went and had this face lift, and here you go on telling everybody about this.' But I haven't kept it a secret. A lot of ladies ask me about it, and a lot of them are scared."

Price had the surgery done the same year she became a grandmother (not merely a coincidence, she said), convinced she needed it after looking at family pictures. "I'd see in the pictures that I was looking worse. It's one of the better things I've done for myself. I'd rather have this than a new car."

Why does she think more people are talking about it? "It has to do with self-esteem," she said. "Women have changed a lot since I've been in this business. They're involved in physical fitness, so who wants an old saggy face?"

Dr. Edward Stainbrook, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral science at USC's School of Medicine, sees a link between an increased awareness of our bodies and the push for more plastic surgery. "If you look at the whole social and cultural trend over the last 30, 40 years, it's going toward fitness and wellness. There is much less guilt about altering the body, making it as attractive as we can. To be physically well means to be physically attractive. And this affects people's willingness to use plastic surgery."

'They Try to Get Ready'

He added, "There is also an awareness that one is going to spend more time as an aging person, and that builds up anxiety in a middle-aged person. So they try to get ready for the ravages of age and try to prevent the onset of changes--it's a kind of defensive operation, in the sense that jogging is way of warding off death."

Surgeons applaud the change in attitude among their patients. "Women are no longer chattel property," said Los Angeles plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Ellenbogen. "There is no shame involved, and their husbands are for it, the people around them are for it. Many of my patients are sent in by friends, just like they would turn them on to a good restaurant. I've even heard of face-lift parties."

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