Doctors report that an increasing number of patients are requesting cosmetic procedures because they want to remain competitive in the workplace.
Not so long ago, plastic surgery was associated primarily with wealthy women of a certain age, but in recent years that stereotype has died out: men and women as young as their late twenties are now undergoing cosmetic procedures, in many cases to increase their chances for professional advancement.
“As a facial plastic surgery practice in Palo Alto, we have a lot of men that come to us to look younger in the workplace,” says Issabella Shields Grantham, director of marketing at For The Face – Lieberman and Parikh Facial Plastic Surgery. “Because there are so many young executives in Silicon Valley, the pressure [to look young] is very strong.”
Recently a 38-year-old male patient came in seeking a more youthful appearance and, according to Grantham, “landed his dream job” after a lower blepharoplasty and brow lift.
Dr. David M. Lieberman, one of For The Face’s head doctors, notes that the age range of those investing in a younger appearance is fairly wide. “As people age through time, there are different concerns that come up in each decade of life – for example, patients in their twenties and thirties often come in wanting to improve fine lines and wrinkles around their mouth, or to volumize their cheeks to make the face appear more youthful,” he says. “As people age into their forties and fifties, their concerns might be the loose jowls, or the not as sharp jawline, and they want to undergo procedures that can help lift and tighten the neck such as Ultherapy or a facelift.”
Dr. Sachin S. Parikh, who also practices at For The Face, agrees that less invasive procedures like Botox are becoming more popular among a younger demographic: “We have patients in their twenties that are seeking rejuvenation of the face by using neuromodulators or dermal fillers.”
While the achingly hip and ambitious startup crowd for which Silicon Valley is famed is turning to plastic surgery as a means for success among increasingly younger people, it’s not the only industry driving the phenomenon. Entertainment is another field that sees people embracing cosmetic procedures as a means to stay competitive in their careers.
“Because I practice in Beverly Hills, California, aka, Hollywood, a lot of my patients are in the entertainment industry and image is a huge component of their job,” says Dr. Justin Yovino. “They are looking to be fit, youthful, vibrant, and attractive for the camera.”
For these patients, the importance of looks is no secret, and many have blatantly lost work to others based solely on their age and appearance.
“The older patients who come to the office seeking reversal treatments for age-related changes tell me all the time how they are being looked over for promotions, roles in movies, [and] generalized attention,” says Dr. Yovino.
That an actor would get plastic surgery in order to appeal to more roles isn’t exactly surprising, but Dr. Glenn Vallecillos, also located in Beverly Hills, insists that the desire to look young for the job extends far beyond the movie set.
“Certainly, looking good for a lot of our clients is paramount to their success in the workplace, and contrary to popular belief, this isn’t limited to people in the industry (actors, models, television personalities). Professionals in legal, finance, and medical industries, just to name a few, are seeking out the services of aesthetic plastic surgeons to look younger, more refreshed, more perfect,” says Dr. Vallecillos. “Image may not be everything, but first impressions are often instrumental in capturing positions in the ever-increasingly competitive workplace.”
And just as the desire to look young for work can’t be pinned down to a certain profession, nor can it be tied to a particular region.
Dr. James C. Marotta practices in Smithtown, NY, a town in Suffolk County that lies nearly two hours away from NYC. He too consults patients wanting to look younger for work.
“I had a patient who was involved in public speaking all over the world,” says Dr. Marotta. The patient came to have a facelift because the jowls and neck shook and jiggled with speaking and they felt it distracted the audience from the core message.”
In Dr. Marotta’s opinion, more patients have been citing workplace ambitions among their main reasons for seeking plastic surgery since the recession started.
“People are concerned about keeping their jobs and job hopping has increased,” he notes, adding that patients will often take advantage of the transition period between jobs as time to recover from plastic surgery.
Dr. Marotta estimates that about 30 to 40% of his patients express a desire to look young for their careers – predominantly men – and notes that while in the past plastic surgery was generally reserved for the financially well-off, he sees “as many working people as I do wealthy elite.”
As with any other motivation for undergoing plastic surgery, patients seeking procedures to change their appearance for their careers need a serious consultation, and a crystal clear reality check.
“They have to be realistic regarding their goals and understand that there are limitations and certain youthful looks that aren’t achievable without serious risks,” says Dr. Yovino.
Moreover, doctors need to be mindful of patients who may look at plastic surgery solely as a career investment.
“One of my patients underwent a breast augmentation with me, but postoperatively requested significantly larger implants because she had ‘big plans for her titties,’” says Dr. Nina S. Naidu in NYC. “I didn’t comply with her request.”
Extreme requests will always be an issue with which surgeons have to contend, and perhaps the best way to handle them is to encourage a body positive understanding of one’s self. Dr. Vallecillos says that his medical philosophy is founded “on optimizing one’s own natural aesthetic with the goal being to create a natural, refreshed, perfected look of a person’s baseline features.” In other words, surgeons might promote the concept that surgery can help, but what’s there is already wonderful. Don’t discount that.
“Optimize your aesthetic palette by complementing your inherent strengths, while maintaining your God-given individuality that makes you unique,” adds Dr. Vallecillos. After all, who wants to look like everybody else ? I, for one, do not.”