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Plastic surgery does make you look younger, study finds

February 20, 2012|By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
  • In a recent study, raters examining before-and-after photos of facelift patients thought the patients looked more than seven years younger, on average, than they looked before their surgeries.
In a recent study, raters examining before-and-after photos of facelift… (S.Jezerinac/Custom Medical…)

It turns out plastic surgery really does make you look younger, one study has found — on average, in the case of one Canadian doctor’s patients, 7.2 years younger.

Some plastic surgeons “tend to use the terms more youthful and more refreshed, but precise quantification of these attributes has remained elusive,” a team of cosmetic surgeons wrote in a study published Monday in the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery (italics theirs).

Hoping to come up with “an objective measure of surgical success” — and not have to depend solely on patient-reported satisfaction to assess the success of cosmetic surgery procedures — the researchers, from the University of Toronto in Canada and the NorthShore University Health System in Evanston, Ill., asked first-year medical students to view pictures of 60 patients (54 women and six men, age 45 to 72) upon whom one of the physicians, Dr. Peter A. Adamson, had operated.  Of the surgical patients, 22 had facelifts and neck lifts only, 17 also had surgery on their upper and lower eyelids and 21 had the first two procedures as well as forehead lifts.

The 40 medical-student “raters” were divided into four groups of 10.  Each group viewed the same set of randomized patient photos — 30 pictures for each group, including photographs from before and six months after surgery — and provided estimated ages for the patients.  On average, the med students estimated that the patients were 1.7 years younger than their actual chronological age before surgery and 8.9 years younger than their chronological age after surgery.  

Patients who had more procedures generally looked younger, the raters reported.  For patients in the first group, who had facelifts only, perceived age fell 5.7 years; in the facelift and eyelid group, it fell 7.5 years and in the group that also had forehead lifts it fell 8.4 years.  

In other words, at least when it comes to Adamson’s patients, it’s not just surgery recipients who seem to think they look younger — plausibly younger, the surgeons suggested. 

“Our results show a modest but significant reduction in perceived age after aesthetic facial surgery,” the co-authors wrote. “Although motivations for aesthetic surgery may vary, a prevailing concept includes the desire to achieve a more youthful appearance while maintaining one’s unique attributes and identifying characteristics.  Given these expectations, a mean 7.2-year reduction in perceived age is indeed consistent with this goal.”

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