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Plastic Surgery Patients Aren't Who You Might Expect

Plastic Surgery Patients Aren't Who You Might Expect

A few weeks ago, I read Beauty Junkies, the book about cosmetic surgery by New York Times reporter Alex Kuczynski. It's a fascinating read, and one of the most surprising things I learned was that the majority of people who undertake cosmetic procedures have moderate incomes. Then, today's Times reports about a third of people considering plastic surgery reported household incomes of below $30,000; only 13 percent made more than $90,000.

How are people affording pricey procedures that can cost up to a third of their incomes? Loans, of course—some of which boast interest rates of 25%, plus loan-processing fees of around $600. Dr. Robert Kotler, a surgeon in Beverly Hills, puts it this way:

“What does it cost to amortize a nose over the useful life of it?” Dr. Kotler said. “It costs 30 cents a day, cheaper than a can of soda, and unlike a car, you get the benefit of a nose for the rest of your life.”

To find out why people are literally buying into his theory,

Whether it's because of advertising, makeover television shows or insouciant celebrities with nose jobs, many middle-class Americans are buying into the belief that a better life is just a nip, tuck, slice or injection away. “In a bosom-obsessed society where you think you can earn $20,000 more with bigger breasts, is it insane to consider taking out a loan to have surgery?” sociology professor Dr. Laurie L. Essig told the Times. “The demographic is teachers, law enforcement officers and stay-at-home moms.”

A few things about this story make me uneasy. I think it's one thing to decide to have surgery, but it's another thing to do it if you have to take out high-interest loans to afford the procedures. While people might be happy with their new noses and breasts, paying off loans with 25% interest rates (by the way, 25% is above the usury limit in some states) is bound to cause significant stress. And what's really bizarre to me is this: If middle-income people are going into debt to afford surgery so that they can have better (and wealthier) lives, isn't there a weird irony in the relatively small percentage of high-income people considering surgery?


Join The Conversation
janellethechef janellethechef 10 years
I believe it. (But then again, I live in Dallas -- Home of the $30,000 millionaires and more platinum blondes and silicone than Los Angeles...) This type of thing is rampant here!
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 10 years
If people want the surgery than they should be able to get it, without hearing about "the worlds poverty"
jadoremondieu jadoremondieu 10 years
=( and i agree totally with adirgeforher's comment. boohoo. i hate lots of things about myself physically, but when you consider that the majority of the world's population live on less than USD$1 a day, and don't even have access to clean water ...ARGH!!!!!!!!!! I think World Vision estimates that currently there are 30,000 people in the world dying a day from preventable causes. And that's just the ones we know about. and i'm making this comment in the context of subhuman error and lintacious's comments above - i agree that there is a vital distinction between surgery that is therapeutic versus purely cosmetic; and i will go so far as to say that therapeutic also applies to feelings of insecurity and inadequacy that affects a person's confidence dramatically. But isn't part of the problem, as sort of inadvertently pointed out by subhuman, that western society's definition of what's "normal" is now perverted? I mean, most of what we see in the media whether in print or digital, is totally airbrushed, as anybody in the industry would acknowledge. And yet, that's what we as women are told look "normal". Bah =(
lintacious lintacious 10 years
subhuman: that's called reconstructive surgery. not cosmetic. people who get that done are usually quick to point out the difference.
subhuman-error subhuman-error 10 years
Plastic surgery isn't all about friggin' boob jobs, people. What about things like scar revision or trying to get your body back to normal after having children? Cosmetic surgery can do wonders for those of us who just want to be normal.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 10 years
I got my nose done, about 10 years ago. I actually saved up money to do it. Worth every penny
Hellena25 Hellena25 10 years
*kscincotta* You open up another really valid, really interesting part of this story... Note the wording in the survey: The people surveyed were people "considering" surgery and "seeking information" People who make >$90K per annum don't need to "consider" they have the hard cash to jut go do, doesn't "consideration" also encompass "considering how to pay for it?" So people with <$30K would form the bulk of those "considering" "Seeking information" is also different in the upper echelon of society. It may be as simple as asking the surgeon they're friends with whom he/she recommends (or going to their friend, the plastic surgeon for the work) which means they wouldn't be subjected to a survey. A more dependable study would survey the surgeons and ask the incomes of those who ave actually HAD the surgery...I bet we'd see a different result...
c0rkie c0rkie 10 years
interesting data. but it doesnt surprise me.
kscincotta kscincotta 10 years
Unless I'm reading this incorrectly, the interpretation of the data reported here is not correct. This study says absolutely nothing about what percentage of people making $90,000+ have had or are considering plastic surgery, only what percentage of people having plastic surgery make that kind of money. I would be willing to bet that a much greater percent of people with that kind of money are having plastic surgery than people making less money. The underlying factor driving this data is that not that many people make huge amounts of money. Most people are in that in the middle range, so it makes sense that the majority of plastic surgery patients would fall into that category as well. It doesn't mean they are more likely to have plastic surgery.
rubialala rubialala 10 years
I've known many people who have pretty low income get plastic surgery. I was always very surprised when they told me because I really couldn't believe that they could afford it and that if they could that they would spend money on that. They were (and still are) all super beautiful people.
Beauty Beauty 10 years
Oh man, a Marlo Thomas allusion! My day is made.
wallaceo wallaceo 10 years
its a sticky subject... on one hand, people should do whatever they want to make themselves feel better, if that means a boob job, well so be it. (and it could in some circumstances lead to a higher income...not that I think its right, just saying) on the other hand, its a shame that society places beauty over economic stability. i mean, i find it crazy that someone who makes $10 an hour would pay 54 dollars for eyeshadow...but hey, we are all free to be you and me. :) (ah good old marlo)
JustMe21 JustMe21 10 years
A friend of mine got the breast augmentation...she only makes about 35 grand a year.
katlovesclothes katlovesclothes 10 years
I agree with linicious (#4), this can be a contributive factor to the economic situation people are facing. A bad investment if you expect your new nose or new boobs bought on credit to push you to a higher income bracket permanantly. Bad debt doesn't just affect the individual, it has residual effects on the family, friends and community too... just look at the national high-risk mortage crisis that has the entire U.S. reeling!
Stacey-Cakes Stacey-Cakes 10 years
Well when you consider that story Bella posted a couple days ago about how attractive people make more money than average looking people (, maybe it is a good investment. Even if you have pay back some interest.
Masqueraded_Angel Masqueraded_Angel 10 years
Well...I do plan on getting a boob job in the near future (they just aren't the same after baby)...but my rule for that is to have at LEAST half of the surgery money saved up. That way, if you do have to get a loan, it's a smaller amount (less interest in some cases) and you have a better chance of paying off the whole amount.
adirgeforher adirgeforher 10 years
And this is what people would rather do than help out third world countries, tsk.
dmblauren dmblauren 10 years
well i think people can spend money on whatever they want to. for my husband & i, we travel and go to lots of concerts. we don't have a lot of money at all, but we find ways to budget for what we want. however, i don't pay for anything with credit cards, so it's not like i'm charging up large concert ticket bills. i do think it's ridiculous to take out loans and go into debt just to get plastic surgery. but, as long as they can take care of any kids/pets they have and keep food on the table, to each their own. as a side note, my friend got a boob job after having her baby. her parents paid for one boob and she paid for the other. so that's one way to do it, get each family member to buy you a different improvement for birthdays, christmas, etc. ;)
leeluvfashion leeluvfashion 10 years
I feel like in this socity instead of learning to love yourself, people would rather spend money to change themselves. I admit I've thought about a nose job, it's hard to avoid not thinking about it. I only have a small bump however the media makes it seem like only a straight nose is pretty. I watch & read the horror stories of botched surgery; I'm not going to take that risk. If someone I love was to get surgery I would going to make sure they watch those horror stories before making a deal that you can't take back.
lintacious lintacious 10 years
Well these same people are buying a lot of things they can't afford, to help them cover up that they can't afford things. It's honestly no different than renting an apartment (as a family) and owning some extravagant material posession. If people really want something, they'll find the money for it. And unfortunately, a new look is usually more appealing than paying off debt or saving for a house.
vienvien vienvien 10 years
I also agree that it's not advisable to have palstic surgery if it costs more than your monthly income or even half of the year 's income. Plus , appearances may seem to give you more career advancement and social acceptance but it doesn't ensure "happiness" and "joy" throughout your life. We all grow old no matter what nip and tuck we do.
Lissiebug Lissiebug 10 years
I don't think it's a good idea to have plastic surgery if you can't afford it.
theboyslover theboyslover 10 years
Surgery is okay for people who want just a tweek here and there but obsessive surgery is insane.
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