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Staring Down Father Time

Boomers try head-to-toe rejuvenation techniques to maintain their bodies, self-image

FRIDAY, Sept. 8, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Call it Extreme Makeover, Baby Boomer Edition.

Turning back the clock by turning to a smorgasbord of cosmetic and surgical procedures continues to be a growing obsession with middle-aged Americans. And experts say there's no indication the trend has peaked.

Very aware that head-to-toe rejuvenation is possible, boomers -- female and male -- are opting for procedures that include liposuction, tummy tucks, breast augmentation, Botox injections, eye lifts, nose reshaping, laser hair removal, and chemical peels.

In 2005, nearly 11.5 million surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures were performed in the United States, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. While non-surgical procedures (such as Botox for wrinkles) dipped by 3.6 percent, the number of surgical procedures (such as facelifts) rose 1 percent.

People between the ages of 35 and 50 had 42 percent of the surgical procedures and 47 percent of the non-surgical treatments. And those 51 to 64 had 20 percent of the surgical and 24 percent of the non-surgical procedures.

While vanity plays a role in many age-defying decisions, it's not always the driving force, said Dr. Richard Fleming, a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, Calif.

"A lot of the motivation is professional," Fleming said. "I hear stories every day -- I have patients who come in who say they did not advance when they were up for promotion, and they thought it was due to their appearance. It's a tough, competitive business world."

Another factor spurring some boomers into doctors' offices is a wish to have their face keep up with the rest of their body, Fleming said. "Boomers who are physically fit are going to continue to be physically fit," he said. "They don't want to look like they have had a bad night."

The trend among many middle-aged adults is toward noninvasive procedures such as Botox, laser hair removal and soft-tissue fillers such as Restylane to smooth out wrinkles and plump up lips and other body parts showing their age. But that might have more to do with time constraints than desires, said Dr. Laurie A. Casas, a spokeswoman for the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and an associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.

"My typical boomer patients, from 40 to 50, often have kids in grade school," she said. "The women don't have the time for major surgical procedures [requiring more recovery time]. They would probably opt for them if they had the time."

Often, she finds, "they aren't opting for surgery but are in my office trying to have their facial aging suppressed."

Subtle is better, she tells them. "My motto is, 'We don't want you to reinvent yourself.' If you are interested, we can tell you the options for turning back time."

To look younger, patients must do their part as well, Casas said. "Our first focus is to make your skin look as youthful as possible," she said. "We address sun damage, with a combination of good skin care products, laser resurfacing, micro-dermabrasion, laser resurfacing, and peels, either chemical or herbal."

"Then we simultaneously do other things, because boomers are very impatient," Casas said with a laugh. "That might include Botox and good fillers to smooth out such problem areas as the nasolabial folds," the lines that form with age from the nose to the mouth.

Patients who follow her skin-care instructions -- and her advice to exercise regularly, drink eight glasses of water a day to keep the skin hydrated, and eat a healthful diet -- can expect to turn back the clock five to 10 years, she said.

"I don't believe cosmetic surgery should be a moment in time," said Casas, who has opened a medical spa called, appropriately enough, Turn Back Time. "It should be tied in with a healthy lifestyle."

While the less-invasive techniques require less down time, "people have to understand exactly what they are getting," Fleming said. "It comes up all the time. Should I get a facelift or a mini-facelift? The mini has less recovery time but achieves less."

Whatever procedure -- or procedures -- are selected, consumers should choose their physician wisely, Fleming and Casas agree. And they should be aware that inadequately trained health professionals often offer cosmetic procedures.

So, check your physician's credentials. Ask if he or she is board-certified; if so, in which specialty (such as plastic surgery, dermatology or otolaryngology). Ask how many times he does the procedure you're having done. If you're interested in an eyelid lift, for instance, choose someone who concentrates much of his or her practice in that area, not someone who only does them occasionally.

More information

To learn more about cosmetic surgery, visit the America Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

SOURCES: Richard Fleming, M.D., plastic surgeon, Beverly Hills, Calif.; Laurie A. Casas, M.D., aesthetic plastic surgeon and associate professor of surgery, Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago; 2005 Cosmestic Surgery National Data Bank, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
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