June 15, 2008

Plastic Surgery Augmented By Diverse Clients

The face of plastic surgery patients is changing. And that's even before the bandages come off.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons recently reported that 2.6 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed in 2007 on "ethnic" patients, that is, African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic.

That's almost a quarter of all procedures and a 13 percent increase over the year before. (And since 2000, cosmetic plastic surgery procedures have increased 173 percent among Hispanics, 129 percent among African-Americans, and 246 percent among Asian-Americans.)

There are several reasons for the trend, including the growing economic power of these groups and a willingness to go beyond traditional boundaries. Still, it's not just a case of members of ethnic groups wanting to resemble Brad Pitt or Scarlett Johansson.

"It's not to make somebody look white, but to make them look more ravishing within their cultural preferences," says Dr. Peter Geldner, a plastic surgeon who heads the Geldner Center in Chicago.

"The key thing in most of the operations we do, there aren't that many differences between what we do with an African-American patient versus a Latino patient versus an Asian patient.

The principles are essentially the same, and the standard of beauty we use now is more an international one rather than an ethnic or racial one."

According to the ASPS, the most commonly requested surgical procedures were nose reshaping, liposuction and breast reduction for African-Americans; nose reshaping, breast augmentation and eyelid surgery for Asian-Americans; and breast augmentation, nose reshaping and liposuction for Hispanics.

Geldner says it's important to respect ethnic diversity as well as what the patient wants.

"If two young ladies come in, one is black, one is white," he says. "Very often the black patient will say they want to retain some of that roundness in the behind, that fullness. They'll accept saddlebags if it gives them a more round type of shape. But typically the white girl will want to get rid of that for a lean look.

"You see preferences that are clearly different. And if you don't respect that, you will have a very disappointed patient."