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McLean Clinic - Theresa Taylor

FLARE Magazine – May 2010

Addicted to Beauty

Twentysomethings are trading in their shoe fetishes for plastic surgery. Is it time for an intervention?

By Wing Sze Tang


Even by the norms of Hollywood, where celebrity nips and tucks are so common they seem like an occupational necessity, Heidi Montag’s recent “reinvention” was grist for the gossip mill. In January, the 23-year-old reality-TV fixture unveiled her unrecognizable new look on the cover of People, the headline declaring: “Addicted to Plastic Surgery.” The self-described “ugly duckling” had undergone 10 procedures in a single day: a mini brow lift, Botox, a nose-job revision, injections of fat in her cheeks and lips, a chin reduction, lipo on her neck, waist, hips and thighs, pinning of her ears, triple-D breast implants and butt augmentation. “I’m just starting,” she told the magazine. “Nobody ages perfectly, so I plan to keep using surgery to make me as perfect as can be.”

While Montag’s case is extreme, she’s just one of an increasing number of young women – some only in their teens and 20s – who are wiling to go under the knife or needle in pursuit of flawless beauty. In the U.S., patients aged 19-34 accounted for nearly 29 percent of cosmetic surgeries in 2008, reports the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). And many aren’t just retooling their noses (a favoured procedure in the past) – in fact, the number of rhinoplasties done annually has stayed fairly stable since 1997. Instead, these young women are signing up for breast implants (procedures among 19- to 34-year-olds nearly tripled between 1997 and 2008), and Botox use has gone up so much in this age group, it’s now second only to laser hair removal in popularity, according to ASAPS.

Although the hard stats within Canada aren’t known, the overall trend – rising interest in cosmetic surgery among the very young – hold true here, too, says plastic surgeon Dr. Hugh McLean, owner of The McLean Clinic in Mississauga, Ont. In his view, Generation Y has grown up idolizing “prefab” stars, and they buy into the notion of doing everything possible to look good. “With fortysomethings no longer hiding the fact that they are undergoing plastic surgery and cosmetic enhancement, the procedures are no longer taboo,” explains Dr. McLean, who’s been performing surgeries for three decades.

“Combined with the ‘helicopter parents’ in today’s society, who want their children to get every advantage in life and who are themselves inclined toward cosmetic procedures, this creates early adopters,” he adds. These days, the surgeries can be done with relatively little downtime, and as their popularity has gone up, the costs have come down, Dr. McLean says. To some young women, surgery is accessible and easy.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Jessica*, a Toronto-based teacher who had her nose reshaped and her calves liposuctioned in her mid-twenties, despite her family’s initial objections. “I had money, and it’s a quick fix,” she explains. She was happy with the results. “You can go in and come out, and it’s solved.” While she’s not a fan of extreme makeovers like Montag’s, she thinks of cosmetic surgery and injectables in the same way she does other beauty habits. “I compare it to colouring your hair or getting braces. If there’s something you don’t like about your appearance, and if there’s a way and a means for you to change it, why not?”

*Name has been changed.

Addicted to Beauty

If you’re contemplating plastic surgery, finding a doctor who is fully qualified (with the designation FRCSC, or Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada) and works out of an accredited facility, which means the government has checked that it meets hospital-level safety standards. Do your homework and be sure you know all the risks and potential complications associated with the procedure.

NOSE RESHAPING: Generally, Dr. Torgerson says, 16 is the minimum age for rhinoplasty since by that time more than 99 percent of people have stopped seeing growth in their facial structures (the bones and cartilages).

BREAST AUGMETNATION: Dr. McLean’s youngest patient for breast augmentation was 16 but he judges a girl’s readiness level on a case-by-case basis. She must be finished growing and psychologically mature – with realistic expectations of the outcome and an understanding of the risks inherent in any surgery.

INJECTABLES: Whether young women should get anti-aging injectables as a way to prevent wrinkles – when they don’t have them yet – is controversial. The idea is to subdue facial muscles, so they don’t move too much and cause so-called dynamic wrinkles.

Dr. Hugh McLean is certified as a specialist in plastic surgery by the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons in Canada and the American Board of Plastic Surgeons, Inc. Dr. McLean’s areas of special interest and expertise are facelift, breast enhancement and body sculpting with an emphasis on the 3-Day Facelift, breast augmentation and tummy tuck. He has operated his accredited private cosmetic surgery clinic for over 20 years.