Non-surgical cosmetic procedures are proving more popular with Canadians than going under the knife
For years, looking in the mirror made her slump. The brown spots on her face really aged her. She saw someone getting old and invisible, especially to the younger workers in her office.
Linda, 58, an executive assistant in Vancouver, didn’t like what she saw, but she would never have considered cosmetic surgery. Then she heard about a non-surgical way to remove the discolouration on her face. She decided to try it. Five sessions later, her face looked great.
That was a year ago.
Since then, she’s opted for Botox and filler injections that have softened and plumped her look. Only four or five people know she does it, but lots of people think she looks healthier than ever.
“I just wanted to be taken seriously,” she says. “Young people, if they see someone who looks really old, they don’t think they know what’s going on.”
The peak of the baby boomers bit 60 this year and if cosmetic enhancement statistics are any indication, they don’t like it.
Some boomers fight aging through the Andrew Weil healthy-living route, taking food supplements, eating carefully and slowing down. But many others have opted for the quick fix, cosmetic enhancements, especially since so much can be done now without surgery. There is even a credit card just for it. Linda says she spends about $2,500 per year now on treatments.
“I think of it as maintenance,” she says. “Just like getting your hair done or your teeth whitened.” (She also dyes her hair.)
According to a Canadian survey, non-surgical procedures are growing exponentially while surgical procedures have leveled off after several years of growth.
The survey was conducted by Medicard Finance Inc, a financing company that offers credit to 180,000 Canadians wanting to fight the ravages of time.
Ann Kaplan, CEO of Medicard, says the dip in surgical procedures doesn’t indicate a drop in interest. She says it relates directly to the rise in non-surgical treatments.
“It’s not that people are getting less procedures, they are getting more non-surgical procedures before they move into the more aggressive procedures that require down time,” she says. She notes physicians report that 62 per cent of clients are new and 25 per cent of those who have had one procedure return in a year for a different treatment.
“Once you are in, you are in,” she says. “Your surgeon is now on your Christmas card list.”
The survey found that 642,828 Canadians had some type of cosmetic procedure in the last year, 135,000 of them in B.C. Almost 80 per cent chose a non-surgical treatment, mostly Botox and fillers.
When it comes to face lifts, twice as many Canadians, 4,185, had the lift done nonsurgically compared to surgically. The method? Treatments such as the thread lift, a procedure in which the doctor stitches dissolvable thread through the cheeks and then pulls it tight, lifting the face. Since 2002, the number of clinics offering this type of service has increased 325 per cent.
British Columbians spent a whopping $168 million and accounted for 21 per cent of the Canadians taking the leap into enhancements, second only to Ontario with 44 per cent. Quebecers account for only 12 per cent of clients. Women still make up 84 per cent of the clients.
Botox remains the most popular attack on aging, with more than 142,000 Canadians injecting in 2005. That’s an increase of l7 per cent over 2004 numbers. People love it because it prevents the wrinkles from forming, says Kaplan.
Injectable fillers and laser hair removal follow closely behind and also show dramatic increases of 21 and 17 per cent respectively.
The top surgical procedure reflects society’s pursuit of instant weight loss. More than 29,000 Canadians had liposuction in 2005, a 40 per cent increase over 2002 figures.
Breast augmentation is the second most common surgical procedure. More than 19,000 sought larger breasts, most using the new silicone gel.
Kaplan says the rise in non-surgical procedures is not just a fear of the knife, though that is a significant issue.
“You wear a bad facelift on your face,” she notes. But people are also drawn to the non-surgicals because they cost less and are more accessible.
You don’t have to see a plastic surgeon to get Botox injections, laser hair removal or a thread lift.
Many dermatologists and general practitioners are performing these types of services now. “You might as well get a menu when you go to the doctor’s office to see what could be done,” Kaplan says.
Besides Botox, there’s Fraxel, a new treatment that gets rid of brown spots like melasma, and Clearlight, which uses light to clear up acne.
Photorejuvenation, which is what Linda did, gets rid of brown age spots; Lipolight claims to melt the fat; and Zoom whitens teeth using high-intensity UV light. Then there are all the laser treatments.
A competitive market has also brought the price down.
Dr. Martin Braun, a Vancouver doctor, has dedicated his entire practice to non-surgical cosmetic enhancements. He claims to inject more Botox than any doctor in North America.
When Braun entered the Botox industry six years ago, he slashed by half the price other physicians charged.
“Now the price people pay in Vancouver is because of me,” he says.
Braun says people seeking enhancements prefer the nonsurgical procedures because of the quick turnaround.
“There is no down time,” he says. “That is the mantra. They don’t have to go into biding any more.”
The non-surgical segment of the market is now so large that surgeons can no longer ignore it, he says. Out-patient procedures can account for up to onethird of a plastic surgeon’s business.
“You can lift a face with just fillers,” he says. “It’s amazing what can be done with a needle these days.”
But like Kaplan, Braun says the clients will eventually submit to the knife. He says nonsurgical procedures are good for people between the ages of 35 and 55. But at 60, they are entering the surgical age.
Hollywood mavericks like Jane Fonda or Robert Redford, with their messages of graceful aging, may get headlines for their statements, but there aren’t many lining up behind them especially since Fonda, 68, recently admitted to “a little surgery,” which is believed to have involved removing the fat under her eyes. She had breast implants removed 16 years ago.
Bottom lifts and Botox are now the norm in celebrity circles – but some stars don’t seem to know when to stop. After getting a major body re-fit, Demi Moore was planning on having a knee lift. Ozzy Osbourne had his face and nose done. His wife Sharon has already invested $250,000 US into her body.
Meanwhile, for supermodel Linda Evangelista, beauty enhancement is just part of the job.
“It’s really important for me to be honest… l don’t look like I do in the pages of Vogue. I ‘think it’s okay to say I’m 41 and it’s work being me, It’s a lot of upkeep! I’m pro-cosmetic procedure. I use Botox, and I’m not afraid to say it… I do Thermage, a treatment to stimulate your collagen. For me, it’s just for enhancement, like hair colour or makeup or any other tricks you can do to make yourself feel better!’
Canadian statistics show that baby boomers, including 16.5 per cent of men, think much like Evangelista. It makes them feel better.