Maybe you've noticed it too.
Some people you come into daily contact with don't look quite the same anymore. There's a less jowly look, perhaps, a different nose or an altered physique.
Whatever they've done to try to improve their looks, to build a professional image or to seek the fountain of youth becomes a hot conversation topic. Observers wonder exactly what procedure was done and how much it cost.
Whether or not you consider the trend positive, there's been a 25 percent increase in cosmetic surgery in the past decade. Growing numbers of men have joined the ranks, as have young women ages 15 to 17 years of age. These days, 150,000 women a year receive breast implants.
Having her eyelids lifted was the goal of Marlene Wertz, a 57-year-old secretary in Evanston, Ill.
"I looked like heck for a while and wore sunglasses to hide the stitches and bruising, but I came back to work five days after my operation," recalled Wertz. "I was confident, because I'd done my homework to find a board-certified surgeon who'd been recommended to me by his patients . . . "
Plastic surgery is any operation on skin and underlying tissue, such as rebuilding a part of the body injured in an accident or lost to disease. Cosmetic surgery, on the other hand, is purely for aesthetic purposes. It can be expensive and, because it's a real operation, does involve risk. Your insurance probably covers the procedure only in a few instances, such as nose surgery required for breathing problems, eyelid work if lids affect vision or breast reduction in the case of back pain.
"This time of year the most popular procedures are liposuction, breast implants and noses," said Bernard Koire, a cosmetic surgeon, trustee of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery and professor at the University of Southern California Medical School.
"The number of men coming into my practice has grown to 30 percent, asking for everything from face lifts to chins, cheeks and skin care," said Julius Newman, a cosmetic surgeon and chairman of the department of cosmetic surgery at Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia.
Always be cautious. Know the surgeon and the medical and financial aspects of the procedure before even considering it.
"A patient should feel free to ask a surgeon about his credentials and where he performs his surgeries, and also to ask to see photographs of previous results, or, on occasion, talk with prior patients," said Richard Caleel, a Chicago cosmetic surgeon and president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.
The American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, (800) 635-0635, will provide a referral list of 10 surgeons in your area who are board-certified and members of that organization. The Cosmetic Surgery Information Service, (800) 221-9808, will send a brochure about procedures and tell you if a specific doctor has been certified.
Cosmetic surgery is a significant financial outlay, as indicated below:
Rhinoplasty, or nose job, $2,000 to $5,000. Not only pictures but computer-imaging are used to project results.
Rhytidectomy, or face lift, $3,500 to $7,000. The face will continue to age and some people have the operation repeated.
Liposuction, suction-assisted removal of fat, $1,500 to $6,000. There's a limit to how much can be removed in each operation. The individual can gain back weight, though it won't preferentially remain in the area where fat was removed.
Breast augmentation, $2,000 to $4,000. Breast reduction, $3,000 $6,000.
Blepharoplasty, or eye tuck, $2,000 to $4,000, depending on number of lids done. Tummy tuck, $2,000 to $6,000.
Hair transplant, done with plugs of hair costing $15 to $40 each, could cost from a few hundred dollars to $5,000.