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Cosmetic surgery: The new tools of the corporate trade

August 25, 2008 |

Your bosses and co-workers can claim diet and exercise all they want. The truth is, that healthy glow might be the result of cosmetic enhancement.

And it might put them at a competitive advantage for the next promotion.

It’s a phenomenon occurring across the country. Plastic surgery, once the dominion of Hollywood starlets, has found a home in the corporate boardroom.

“It’s more of an issue because more younger people are moving up the corporate ladder, which leads others to pay more attention to youthfulness or the idea of making sure you stay young-looking,” image consultant Anna Soo Wildermuth said.

Keeping it easy
Today, doctors offer lunchtime appointments for Botox injections. And recovery time for more minor surgical procedures is often a weekend thing.

Cosmetic procedures, surgical and minimally-invasive, were up about 7 percent in 2007 compared with 2006, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Breast augmentation, eyelid surgery, liposuction, nose reshaping and tummy tucks were the top five procedures on the surgical side. Botox procedures were up 13 percent in 2007, and other top procedures include chemical peels, laser hair removal, microdermabrasion and hyaluronic acid treatments (Restylane and Juvederm).

Patient consultant Harriet Vakls calls it taking care of the house you live in, not vanity.

“We want to be as productive as long as we can,” she said. “Beauty is in the eye of the beheld, and if you can stop being preoccupied with what’s bugging you, it can help us be more productive.”

Look better, feel confident
Dr. William Georgis of Rockford is seeing more people between their late 30s and 60s concerned about looking older than others in their job field.

“I and a number of plastic surgeons are taking a page from sports medicine and doing procedures with the least downtime, using medications around surgery time to get people presentable quickly,” he said.

Because of advanced procedures and technology, it could take a day or two to recover from face-lift surgery, instead of the six weeks of several decades ago.

Vakls, consultant for plastic surgeon Kenneth Stein, said men in the corporate world are requesting hair transplants and work on their lips, chests, neck and eyes. Stein has an office in Rockford and does his surgical work in Chicago.

“We can’t turn the clock back literally, but we can turn the signs back,” Vakls said.

Stein said the competitive nature of business has made plastic surgery more of an option. “People are more confident when they look better. You hold yourself up, and that gives you a better edge.”

Wildermuth, an image consultant with Personal Images in suburban Elmhurst, said many of her clients opt for injectable treatments, but dental work — tooth whitening and capping — has been on the rise.

Ninety percent of Wildermuth’s business involves corporate clients, and a bulk of her presentations revolve around communication. Visually communicating with senior management by what you wear and how you look is a big part of that, she said.

‘Nobody wants to look tired’
Dr. Steven Dayan, a member of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, researched the effects of Botox treatments on first impressions and published a paper on the subject this summer.

Patients said they received more favorable treatment in the workplace after the injections, so the Chicago plastic surgeon studied the role of improved confidence after cosmetic procedures.

“There’s a component in our brains of how we perceive things,” he said. “We’re attracted to certain things like symmetry, averageness of the face. We can’t help it. The injections make people look more friendly and less angry. Less angry makes them look more attractive. My opinion is, it’s more based on the way you feel about yourself. My goal is to make you feel good about yourself.”

Men are opening up to plastic surgery more than ever, doctors agreed. An attorney recently came to Dayan with the complaint that he sweated too much in the courtroom, so he used injectables to help inhibit nerves that control sweating.

Dayan’s rhinoplasty procedures have increased by about 38 percent. Botox use increased 18 percent this year over last year.

Fillers like Botox are “through the roof” in popularity, Dayan said, noting that patients can spend $1,500 to $2,000 on refreshers rather than $10,000 on a face-lift.

Botox has been around for more than 20 years, but its use has skyrocketed in the past five to 10 years. Restylane, Juvederm and other injectables are “just extremely good products” that can last six to 12 months and offer a refreshing look, Georgis said.

And while plastic surgeons are seeing more professionals tweaking their looks, doctors agree that procedures have become appealing across all vocations because of the notoriety from TV and the Internet.

“Nobody wants to look tired,” Georgis said. “So much of what we do refreshes, makes you look good for your age. That’s the key.”

Learning the ropes
Georgis said another key is listening to a patient’s wishes and translating that into the proper surgical or injectable procedure. Minimally invasive procedures and injectables will have noticeable effects, but full procedures still offer less downtime than they used to.

“An informed consumer is going to be a happy one,” Georgis said. “Unfortunately, filler isn’t always the answer for a patient.”

The boomer effect
Stein actively promotes Smart Lipo, which uses laser technology for liposuction and is less invasive, resulting in less bruising and swelling.

Vakls said people no longer feel as selfish doing something — like, say, cosmetic procedures — for themselves. “It’s a desire to look on top of your game. Because we know when you look good, you feel good. Healthy is how you feel and look.”

As baby boomers age, plastic surgeons will see continued business.

“These boomers are not going down without a fight,” Vakls said. “They’re encouraged to work longer, and they’re feeling good. Why shouldn’t the outside match the inside?”

Surgeries also have increased as weight-loss surgeries have become more popular. When people lose the weight, they turn to plastic surgeons to remove extra skin and move body parts closer to their original locations.

Women especially are looking to get their prepregnancy symmetry back.

“It’s unpredictable who will have stretch marks, droopy breasts, a flabby tummy,” Vakls said. “God did not intend to punish you for having children.”

Reach staff writer Melissa Westphal at 815-987-1341 or


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