Plastic SurgeryKim Gregson's moment of doubt came two weeks into her recovery. In pain, swollen, and aching with a sensation like a bad sunburn around her liposuction sites, she sat in her doctor's office bawling "What was I thinking? This is awful."

After shedding 70 pounds through weight loss, Kim spent $8,500 on a tummy tuck to remove excess skin. She also wanted to remove the negative self-image that lingered with her. In the end, the 5-foot-1 human resources manager went from a size 16 to a 4 petite.

Despite the pain and the cost -- her husband sold his Harley Davidson to help pay for the procedure -- Gregson, 47, says it has been worth it. Today, she calls herself a "new person" and "emotionally better" and has had significant health benefits from her weight loss, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol.


Reclaiming Selves Through Cosmetic Surgery

Those sentiments are echoed time and again with other women who have had similar procedures.

Sabrina Blasingame, a 26-year-old mother of two who lives in Twentynine Palms, Calif., says her $18,000 breast augmentation and tummy tuck were "worth every penny." Samantha Alvarado of New York City, also a 26-year-old mother of two, was so pleased with her $13,000-plus breast augmentation and lift, and tummy tuck -- aka a "mommy makeover" -- that she returned to school to become a plastic surgery nurse. Alicia Hunter, 43, of Miami, bartered her services as an aesthetician for a pair of silicone implants to add volume to her breasts, after she breast-fed her two children. "I feel like a whole woman now," she says about her 32-D bra size.

More women who have lost significant weight or had several pregnancies are turning to cosmetic surgery to reclaim a positive feeling about their bodies. They join others who seek to turn back or stop the clock, or enhance what they already have, through surgery and/or injections. These various motivations, largely emotional in nature, have driven spending on cosmetic procedures to more than $10 billion in the last year alone. Women made up 91% of those customers for a total of 11.5 million procedures, up by 5% from 2009, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Injectables Fuel Growing Business

'stem-cell' facelift courtesy Amy KleinDespite the recession and its aftermath, the cosmetic procedure industry has continued to grow, and every demographic tracked by the ASPS registered an increase last year. Over the last decade, there has been a shift from surgical operations like full surgical facelifts, to injection-based treatments or injectables, like Botox and Restylane.

Cosmetic surgeons, physicians and even dentists giving injectables like Botox would have consumers gloss over the costs. Botox costs between $400 and $600 per session, and needs to be redone every four months. It doesn't take an advanced accounting degree to see the repetitious nature of such therapies adds up to a lot of money.

"I counter by asking a woman how much they spend on cosmetics every year," says Dr. Phil Haeck, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Cristina Hadzi, 54, who owns her own interior design firm in New York City, has been getting Botox for almost 10 years with Dr. Adam Kolker, a Park Avenue plastic surgeon and an associate clinical professor of surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital. Christina says she budgets for the injections in the same category she budgets for hair and other beauty treatments. Last year, when her business slowed, she stopped treatments. But with her income back up this year, she is back to doing injectables regularly.


Another procedure growing in popularity is a "stem-cell facelift", which also done entirely with injections of a person's own body fat, which can cost between an estimated $5,000 and $10,000. Amy Klein, 41, says the results were worth it for her.

Amy, who is a freelance writer, had the procedure done two years ago on the eve of moving to New York City from Los Angeles, where she had lived for the previous decade. She says the procedure knocked five to 10 years off her age, which made her feel confident returning to her home city of New York.

"When I was coming back to [New York City], it was like returning to a 'den of thieves,'" she says. "But I was looking pretty good next to the women who were five years younger than me on the Upper West Side." A romance that was budding before the procedure, bloomed after her facelift and she's now engaged to get married.

When Does Beauty Pay Off?

Determining whether a cosmetic procedure, surgical or injectable, is worth it is a deeply personal question, and the answer tends to depend on whether one is asking the question in terms of economic outcomes (not really), happiness (yes, perhaps) or health (depends).

Despite marketing campaigns and personal anecdotes that suggest otherwise, there's very little academic data to show cosmetic surgery has any direct economic benefits for those who have it done.

Daniel Hamermesh, an economist at the University of Texas at Austin, has studied the economics of beauty for more than 20 years. There's little concrete economic analysis on the benefits of cosmetic surgery, he says, because those who get it are a self-selecting group. Hamermesh did find, in a study he co-authored which looked at beauty and income, that for every extra dollar spent on appearance, the return on investment was about 15%.

But as so many women attest, it's not money they are after but happiness. And that return on investment equation does have compelling data to back it up. Hamermesh has found that beauty and happiness are correlated: Better-looking people tend to be happier and experience both direct and indirect economic rewards.

"Any kind of market where you interact with a seller and the seller has some discretion [over the price], a better-looking person might do better," says Hamermesh.

Dr. Haeck reports that he is increasingly seeing men getting nips and tucks with the purpose of specifically boosting economic outcomes. "They are competing for a scarcity of jobs," he says. "A man might say 'I am the the oldest guy in my division and the competition is younger.' Before, the motivations were to look more attractive, like it was buying new clothes, but this year, we really heard the job issue."

Cosmetic SurgeryKim Gregson has become a real advocate for women wanting to undergo cosmetic surgery. She emails with hundreds of women in various stages of their own plastic surgery journeys on RealSelf.com, a popular online review and discussion site for cosmetic pro.

"Women are judged because it is vain or it's a lot of money," she says. "But a lot of people spend money on a car, so why can't you spend $15,000 on yourself?"

Still, a number of recent studies have pointed to the downside to cosmetic surgery and procedures. In July, research by scientists at the University of Colorado showed that fatty deposits removed from the belly, hips, and thighs returned within a year of the procedure -- but in new areas, mainly the upper abs, shoulders and upper arms. Another recent study from Duke University on those with Botox showed it may limit their ability to empathize with others because facial mimicry is a key component to perception and relating to people.

Yoga and Almonds: Nature's 'Cosmetic' Procedures?

Mitch McCabe is a documentary filmmaker who lives in Los Angeles. Her 2009 film, Youth Knows No Pain (watch it on Hulu), was part memoir about her experience growing up as the daughter of a plastic surgeon, and part investigation into why people seek out age-defying surgery.

Along the way, she dabbled briefly the world of injectables, getting Radiesse during the film and another injection later which left a lump near her eye. McCabe says her experience made her confront the double-edged allure: She enjoyed the results of the first filler she received, but was less impressed with her second treatment. Ultimately, she had reservations about putting foreign substances into her body, and getting sucked into the ongoing costs of treatments. "Getting my hair colored is insane enough," she says. "You have to pick your battles."

She admits that in the appearance-worshiping culture of Hollywood, where people "have much nicer cars than houses," it's hard to commit to "never again" for cosmetic procedures. Meanwhile, Mitch swears by raw almonds and downward dogs as the antidote to getting older.

"I took up yoga just as I was finishing the film and I have never gotten so many compliments," Mitch says. "Just like exercise is to anti-depressants, so is yoga to anti-aging."

Catherine New is a staff writer with DailyFinance.com. You can reach her at catherine.new@huffingtonpost.com.

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21 Comments

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Bob Strong

It really comes down to the person. If they think that it will help them, than I would recommend it. This is not something that should be done at the spur of the moment though. http://www.pssnj.com

April 28 2014 at 10:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kace Johnson

I think it depends on the reason you are getting surgery. If you were in an accident and really needed cosmetic surgery, then yes it is a good idea. I don't think I agree with getting cosmetic surgery just because you want to.

http://www.breastauglipocenter.com/breast-augmentation/

April 25 2014 at 4:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stacey Beck

I've had a laser done that removes all dark spots and I didn't think it was that bad. I guess that's really small compared to other type of cosmetic surgeries. I think if it;s going to make you feel better about yourself than it's okay.

http://mdmarion.com/procedures/tummy-tuck

January 29 2014 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jamesfloid11@hotmail.com

i m just finding blogs of this type
i enjoyed this blog!
Radiesse Injections in Orange County serve as a longer lasting wrinkle treatment filler, schedule your appointment for Radiesse treatment today by calling 949-363-1788.
http://www.ocdermatology.com/radiesse-orange-county/

January 10 2013 at 4:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jacob Arnold

Hi, my name is Jacob and I am searcher I always try to surf different blog, websites for searching this I have just found that website and I like it. A lot the information is very help full for me and also for other I am very careful about my skin because my skin is very sensitive before this I found very interesting website http://www.ocdermatology.com/pelleve/ which has also a lot of information but this post also interested for me.

December 22 2012 at 5:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Greg

Go for it if that's important to you. I'm thinking of some eye work myself, but only because as much as I workout and sleep and eat right, I look tired around my eyes when I look in the mirror. (I think there are some genetic factors involved.)

But I think that one should do it for one's own self and no one else, cause if someone else values you for the way you look, then that person is going to be out the door when someone better looking comes along... within the next few days.

September 13 2011 at 10:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Greg's comment
Allen Williem

Dear Greg.
I am really feeling bad about. I want to do something for you. I'll suggest a site kindly you will try.
http://www.ocdermatology.com/orange-county-botox/

December 22 2012 at 1:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tdrei53589

I'm not against plastic surgery, I've had plenty, but the before and after photos of Klein are not legitimate. The before pic is without make up, dirty hair and bad lighting, the after pic is with make up, styled hair and flattering lighting. If you are looking at a surgeon's before and after photos you really need to be aware of this kind of deception, before and after photos should be with the exact same conditions, same make up, same hair, same lighting, same angle, same backdrop, only then can you tell what difference the surgery has made.

August 12 2011 at 4:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kposner29

If you are real American Citizens that care about America------- REPORT ANY EMPLOYER OF ILLEGAL ALIENS TO BORDER PATROL, I.N.S , AND I MMIGRATION STAND BEHIND YOUR FALLEN SOLDIERS AND HELP CLEAN UP AMERICA BEFORE ALL THEIR LIVES WERE LOST FOR NOTHING AND AMERICA IS OVERWHELMED BY ILLEGALS FROM SOUTH OF THE BORDER !!!!

August 11 2011 at 11:21 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
sharon

I had weightlos surgery 47 months ago and I ahve done rather well. I have lost about 120 pounds and kept it off with exercise and well good common sense. I look better and feel better too! I have some trouble spots, the lower tummy called Pannie area for I look pretty good on my left side but the right is well large. I am lopsided and it bothers me when wearing my pants and underware for it all shifts to the left leving my lower level hanging out and well it looks bad but it hurts a lot more than it looks. I could use some lipo under my arms and the inner thigh area and well would I like a brazilian butt well yes I would but heck I am 58 years old so I am not stressing it. I have BC/BS Federal health plan and they would cover the cost but I have to drop my pants for a stranger to look at me and take pictures and this I am uncomfortable with. My breast are like gone with the wind lol but so true and I do pull them up and when I do I have such a nice waistline that is hidden away. Some day my boat or lottery ticket will come in and I will pay a good surgeon to fix me up so until then I will suck it in by wearing body shapers.

August 11 2011 at 10:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mprofant60

How sad that people feel the need to mutilate their bodies to "feel better about themselves." How is this any different than people who had metal balls inserted under their skin or multiple body piercings? Alicia Hunter feels "like a whole woman now" because she now has 32D breasts? If she can only feel like a whole woman because of externals, she is pretty shallow person. Nothing like seeing those fake, balloon breast to make one think "wow, there's a whole woman" - NOT. And what are you teaching your kids? That they are not good enough until they meet some artificial beauty standard set for them? And that whole "mommy-makeover" spiel is great to make women feel bad about the natural changes that occur in their bodies after childbirth. Not to mention it's sexist. Where's the "daddy do-0vers?" Who's telling me to get hair plugs, tummy tucks, butt & pec implants because they''re not perfect either? It's keeping plastic surgeons rich and happy anyway??

August 11 2011 at 4:18 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply