Drastic Plastic

I was first exposed to cosmetic surgery at the tender age of seven.  I come from a close-knit family, so when one of my relatives had rhinoplasty, several members of the Jolie clan piled into the car for the two-hour drive to LA, all eager to provide moral support.  We dropped E. off at the clinic, chilled, and returned three hours later.  I expected to see her emerge a vision: glowing, regal, perhaps wearing a tiara, definitely in full makeup.  (What do you want from me? I was only seven!)  So not the case—she was carted out in a wheelchair, bandaged, bleary-eyed and drooling.  At the sight of her, I promptly passed out, and a few minutes later the two of us were wheeled to the car.

Despite that dubious introduction to the world of cosmetic enhancements (not to mention the daily West Hollywood weirdness that stems from seeing women whose age could quite literally be anywhere between thirty and seventy…it’s just too hard to tell!), I recently started working with two facial plastic surgeons, Dr. Jason Litner and Dr. Peyman Solieman, something that initially caused all my friends and family to wrinkle their not-always-God-given noses in perplexion.  “But…but…you hate cosmetic surgery!” went the general refrain.  “You change the channel when Nip/Tuck is on!  Knives and needles make you sick!  You once fainted while reading an article about liposuction!” (Indeed, I did.  Thanks for not letting me live that one down.)  I’m a champion of positive body image, but the fact remains that cosmetic procedures are sharply on the rise, they’re not going away, and if you (or your mom, or her coworker) and going to “get a little work done,” I want everybody to be educated about it.

The more I’ve learned, the more horrified I am.  Not at peoples’ desire to objectively improve themselves—that’s their business, and I try not to be judgmental about others’ choices in their appearance.  (I’ve seen firsthand the wonders that can come from somebody with healthy self-esteem tweaking–and then getting over–a singular aspect of their appearance that always bugged.)  What does make me furious, however, are the proliferation of unethical, money-grubbing, unsafe practices; procedures that are blasted through the airwaves on infomercials and on the radio touting this “lifestyle” nip or that “lunchtime” tuck.  Believe it or not, any doctor can perform cosmetic surgery…which often (and nowadays I do mean often) results in gynecologists performing liposuction, dentists administering botox, and surgeons who have done thousands of breasts deciding to “branch out” into rhinoplasty.  Seduced by the desire to look their best, people forget that cosmetic surgery is still surgery.  There are risks, you’re probably going to be under anesthesia (which can easily result in complications), and if you don’t go to a skilled doctor, your first surgery may not be your last.  In the case of breast implants, your first surgery will definitely not be your last; not only are implants warrantied for about 10 years, but capsular contracture (the hardening of breast tissue around the implant) is essentially the rule, not the exception.

I’ve learned quite a bit recently about cosmetic surgery and enhancements, but I figure you’d all like the insider scoop straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.  Next week, I’ll start posting Q&As with my doctors giving the real dirt on things like Botox, fillers and catchphrase procedures like Injection Rhinoplasty and the Lifestyle Life.  And so when your aunt starts trilling about that infomercial she saw on “This amazing new procedure that only takes fifteen minutes and makes you look ten years younger and doesn’t even hurt and lets you go right back to work afterwards!”, you’ll be able to gently but firmly explain to her why it’s all total crap.

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  1. amy

    Thank you Nadine! I am so sick of seeing these young girls who are not by any means in need of a “touch-up”, or what have you, morphing into all of the same person! Its literally sickening… Why do people want to have a nose look like someone else’s, or boobs that look completely abnormal, or even liposuction? Its the lazy way- its easy to take the plastic surgery route, rather than realize your assets. That having liposuction does not magically keep weight off, only a healthy lifestyle does, or maybe your nose gives you character just the way it is, and your real problem is your flawed self image-which, granted, is not easy to overcome. I just think the whole thing is sad, so I’m glad that you are at least bringing the true version to light.

  2. Hear hear! I may not like my nose, but it’s MY nose and it gives my face character.

    I read this book called Flesh Wounds by Virginia Blum, and when she started talking about how the wives of surgeons are always getting work done – because whenever their husbands look at them, they’re sizing them up and thinking what they could do to rearrange their faces – I was horrified. I feel like we’re getting out of control.

  3. Sara

    I think it’s a bit stupid to go under the knife often, but I do also understand that if your’e not willing to accept, let’s say, your nose as it is, it can be quite a relive to have something done about it. I mean, if it’s a thing that always have been bugging you, I really do belive that your self confidence may rise when it’s fixed.
    What I think is scary is when old people go under the knife to look younger, that’s just absurd, I really think evertbody should have the right to grow old gracefully without any judging. I mean, if you have a lot of wrinkles everybody’s noticing, even if they’re not saying anything they’re judging, and also if you’ve gotten under the knife you’re judged, so what are you supposed to do????

  4. Jenny

    one of my high school teachers went in for a face lift and, due to complications during surgery (anesthesia), she came out with brain damage. it took over a year for her to walk again. she’s still in no shape to return to the classroom.

  5. Angela

    I work for a board certified plastic surgeon and in his practice, capsular contraction is the exception, NOT the rule. We only see it about 1% of the time.

  6. Lisa

    I’m in the middle of writing a paper for my college course about beauty discrimination, and one of my major topics is plastic surgery. Bonnie Berry’s “Beauty Bias: Discrimination and Social Power” covers the topic extensively and really opened up my eyes to the extreme practices!

  7. Lindsay Clark

    One of my college profs had a facelift, and her skin looked like it was on too tight. I doubt she could cry if she wanted to!