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.