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I am in Las Vegas at the conference of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS). This is not my first cosmetic surgery conference (I am writing a book on this), but it is the first one I have attended since the economic downturn and I came expecting the death of plastic beauty. I should have know things weren't so bad for cosmetic surgeons when I realized I couldn't afford to stay in the same resort as them. I realize that cosmetic surgeons make a lot more than the likes of me, but I had to stay two resorts down (and a world away) from their posh, calm, clean resort with masses of really really big people drinking really really big alcoholic drinks congregating around slot machines and chain smoking at 7 am!
My suspiscions that plastic beauty is doing just fine were confirmed when I began interviewing. Most of the surgeons I spoke with today told me that their business had been really hurt by the economic downturn. Surgical procedures in many offices are down by 50% (the trend is 11% nationwide for last year). But demand for plastic beauty has not been diminished by these difficult times. Indeed, many women are choosing to have a lot more of the temporary procedures, like Botox and fillers, to get them through.
I even went to a session today about a temporary boob job accomplished by pumping the wrinkle filler Restylane into the breasts to achieve a much fuller and perkier boob for up to 18 months. Women can put down $3000 for this temporary boob job (less than half of what many boob jobs cost) and not miss any work in the process.
The trend for plastic beauty bandaids I'm seeing at the conference is replicated in recent news stories about the industry.
Economy puts new wrinkle in plastic surgery.
When the credit crunch first hit, I figured cosmetic surgery and plastic beauty would go back to being something for the rich and famous. In the past 15 years, because of easy access to high interest medical credit and credit cards, cosmetic procedures have become available to a huge segment of the American population. 1/3 of all cosmetic procedures are performed on people earning less than $30,000 a year and the vast majority of it was performed on people who earn less than $60,000. And believe me, the democratization of plastic beauty is visible at my democratic Vegas resort, where bleached blonds with impossibly large boobs mix in with bleached blonds with impossibly large stomachs. I just figured this democratization of plastic beauty would disappear as resources became tight.
Boy was I wrong. Women are not turning away from plastic beauty because this "new beauty" is in fact now the standard beauty. Cosmetically enhanced beauty has embedded itself in our cultural unconscious as "what we all want." And now, unable to afford the surgery, we'll settle for the temporary nips and tucks, the beauty bandaids, that will allow us to survive this Recession with the knowledge that one day we might be able afford a more permanent sort of real fake beauty.