The plastic surgery procedure that saw the biggest uptick between the years 2000 and 2012 was the upper arm lift. Perhaps the First Lady was an influence?
Ever since 1890, when the use of anesthetics and antiseptics made it unlikely for people to die getting a nose job, cosmetic plastic surgery has been part of the global culture. By the 1920s, plastic surgery grew ever more common, and became associated with vanity. New techniques developed during World War II helped further increase demand for -- and types of -- the elective surgeries.
The era of minimally-invasive techniques has marked a new generation of plastic surgery options, with 14.6 million cosmetic procedures performed in the United States in 2012, up 5 percent since 2011. Here are the current most popular cosmetic surgeries, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Initially, cosmetic plastic surgery was not seen as a vanity procedure, said Emory University professor Sander Gilman, author of Making the Body Beautiful: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery.
"Jews in Germany had their noses reduced so they could get jobs," Gilman said. As such, it was equally common for men and women to undergo plastic surgery.
"By the end of the 19th century there's a common understanding in the West that you can transform yourself, you can move classes -- and you can get a new nose," Gilman said.
Ear pinbacks were also popular at the time, to correct "prominent ears."
By the 1920s, the world of cosmetic surgery had shifted. By then, the first textbook about facial cosmetic surgery was in circulation, called "The Correction of Featural Imperfections" by Charles Miller. Women sought face lifts for reasons associated with vanity, not employment.
"It becomes something we associate with the upper middle class," Gilman said.
Everything from ivory to rubber has been used to augment breasts since the beginning of the 20th century. Nothing worked well (one of the first experimental substances, paraffin, had particularly bad results, with breasts that grew hard and lumpy and high rates of infection) until the Dow Corning Corporation developed the first silicone breast implants in 1961. Even though breast augmentation dropped 7 percent from 2011, it's still the No. 1. plastic surgery in the U.S., with 286,000 procedures in the U.S. in 2012. (It's followed by nose reshaping, eyelid surgery, liposuction, and facelifts.)
"People who have had significant weight loss are coming to grips with dealing with [their bodies]," said surgeon David Reath, a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "Whether they've lost weight through weight reduction surgery or diet and exercise, if they were overweight for a long period, the
skin hangs around, and it’s very demoralizing. They're looking for a solution."
One solution appears to be a procedure called an upper arm lift, which involves either liposuction or brachioplasty, a surgery that removes loose skin is removed from the back of the arms.
Plus, "anytime we start talking about arms the image of the buff First Lady comes into mind," Reath said.
"This is up in every age group of men," Reath said. "I think it's because there’s a growing awareness that there is a solution to something that's extra troubling to men of all ages. It can have a tremendous psychological effect on young men going through puberty."
In fact, the number of men having cosmetic procedures in general has increased so dramatically that Gilman thinks it will once again even out to match the rate of women who undergo plastic surgery.
New minimally invasive and cheaper procedures such as Botox and other injectable fillers took off when the economy took a downturn, Reath said.
"You could take less time off from work [to recover]; year after year it has continued to grow," he said.
In fact, the popularity of such procedures is growing so fast that Gilman believes there will come a point in the next 10 years or so where people will wonder why you didn't have a cosmetic procedure if you have sagging skin under your jaw or lines around your eyes.
"It's becoming the standard," he said.
The plastic surgery procedure that saw the biggest uptick between the years 2000 and 2012 was the upper arm lift, according to a new report.
In 2012, more than 15,000 upper arm lifts were performed in the United States, up from 300 in 2000, according to the report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
While the exact reason for the increase is unknown, it may be related to people's increasing success in weight-loss efforts, said Dr. David Reath, a plastic surgeon in Knoxville, Tenn.
"When people are successful with weight loss, either through surgery or with diet and exercise, they can end up with excess skin on their arms," Reath said.
Reath said that among the patients he has treated after major weight loss, the first surgery they typically want is a tummy tuck, to get rid of excess skin on the abdomen. "But then after that, the arms are the next thing."
The well-toned arms of famous people, including the First Lady, may have also helped drive the trend, he said. "Look at Michelle Obama. I can't help but think that she has an influence."
The cost of an arm lift generally runs between $6,000 and $8,000, he said. One downside is the procedure always creates a scar on the upper harm, he said. Going under anesthesia also comes with risks.
The procedure that saw the biggest drop between 2011 and 2012 was butt lifts. Buttock implant procedures dropped 25 percent, while buttock lifts declined 36 percent, according to the report.
"I think the past few years, there was a lot of excitement and interest in those procedures, and now it's settling down," Reath said.
Among men, in every age group there was an increase in chest reduction surgeries, according to the report. While the percentage increase for this procedure was 4 percent, the fact that an increase was seen across all ages was striking, Reath said.
The most common surgical procedure performed in 2012 was breast augmentation, although there was a 7 percent drop in those procedures since 2011. About 286,000 breast augmentations were completed in 2012, according to the report.
Liposuction procedures also saw a drop in 2012.
The data in the report are gathered from a plastic surgeons' database as well as from physician surveys.
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