Forget stilettos and skinny jeans. The focus for young people is now the process of perfection and looks that are, literally, timeless.
According to annual statistics recently released by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, almost 10 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2009.
Of these 10 million procedures, 20 percent of them were performed on people ages 19 to 34. This becomes a more substantial figure when you consider that 27 percent of the people who received these procedures were ages 51 to 64 — typically, the age group many associate with pursuing cosmetic surgery.
But, also according to the study, the younger surgery recipients left as satisfied customers; the study also suggested men and women ages 18 to 24 had the highest approval rating for cosmetic surgery. But they are also willing to have surgery — 22 percent of this age group said they would consider getting cosmetic surgery.
Young women, even those in their teens, are increasingly demanding cosmetic procedures to prevent looking older, doctors say. Afraid to age, some urge plastic surgeons to treat their bodies as if they’re decades older.
Many experts attribute this trend of cosmetic procedures in younger people to the images they see in the media.
"It’s awareness," said Dr. Michael Tolson, a plastic surgeon in Atlanta . Cosmetic procedures "are in magazines, television, the Internet and constantly promoted, which makes young people aware of what’s easily available."
The most common procedures sought after by younger patients include breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, Botox and other injectables, and facial rejuvenation, according to Tolson.
Another reason for the boom is the fact that Botox and other injectables are becoming cheaper and more popular. Tolson said it’s one of the easiest cosmetic procedures, it’s noninvasive and, most importantly, it’s short-term.
"These treatments are well-tested with low side effects and are also temporary," he said. "It’s not even as bad as kids going out and getting tattoos because at least it’s something that goes away if they don’t like it."
But the rise in young patients is not all bad. Most experts agree that for suitably selected teenage patients, cosmetic procedures can also have a positive effect on emotional development.
"We see a lot of changes in patients’ attitudes with body-contouring procedures such as breast augmentation and liposuction," Tolson said. "Their self confidence is definitely heightened."
While the appropriateness for young women getting plastic surgery remains in question, some people say the benefits are more than enough compensation.
Many 20-somethings say getting Botox or other injections before they really need it will "train" their faces to remain younger, longer. But while many case studies have shown that those who started using injectables at age 25 or younger had smoother and more youthful faces by the time they got older, the evidence still isn’t proven.
Gainesville resident Cecilia Andrews, 25, an office manager in a local doctor’s office, started receiving Botox injections when she was 21.
"I know that I don’t have any wrinkles yet, but the reason I do it is to prevent them from forming and avoid surgery later on," Andrews said. "My plastic surgeon said I really didn’t need it, nor did he see the point in doing it, but he finally agreed. I insisted."
Many plastic surgeons are seeing younger patients requesting Botox to prevent the signs of aging. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery study, more than 370,000 people between ages 19 and 34 received Botox in 2009.
The study also reported that more than 12,000 of the people who received Botox in 2009 were under the age of 18.
According to Dr. Gary Motykie, a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles, the key to keeping youthful skin is prevention and maintenance throughout your 20s and 30s.
Skin care is an essential, and we now have many tools to prevent and reverse the signs of aging, Motykie said. Numerous lasers are now available to remove unwanted hair and smooth, tighten and reverse sun damage of the skin.
In addition, Botox and other injectables are being used to fill early facial lines, while chemical peels and other forms of facial rejuvenation are being used to improve the patient’s skin texture and complexion.
"Getting older is appealing to me in many ways such as gaining experience and knowledge, and I’m happy to mature," Andrews said. "I just don’t want to look older."
Dr. Arden Hothem, a plastic surgeon in Gainesville, said the justification of this idea seems logical.
According to Hothem, Botox is a paralytic — it paralyzes the muscles people contract while experiencing tension, being out in the sun or smiling a lot. The effects of Botox can last about four to six months.
While under the influence of Botox, these facial wrinkles aren’t going to form, thereby postponing the occurrence of static creasing.
Hothem said he often uses Botox along with fillers on his patients. The fillers are used to eradicate the wrinkles and the Botox is used to prevent the return of them.
"If an 18-year-old is so afraid of aging that they start getting Botox and continue to paralyze their face for the rest of their life, they won’t have any wrinkles," Hothem said. "But that would require their dedication to getting continuous treatments for, well, the rest of their life."
Until that fountain of youth is found, both Dr. Tolson and Dr. Hothem stress the fact that these procedures are still only temporary solutions.