News & Features

Plastic Surgery for Xmas?

Giving the Gift of Lift

Giving the Gift of Lift Staff Report

Every year during the holidays, thoughtful men and women hit on the idea of giving a gift of plastic surgery to a loved one. But giving a cosmetic surgery present can be tricky, say the experts, and might even backfire completely. Meanwhile, more medispas get into the spirit with gift certificates.

When Albuquerque plastic surgeon Patrick Hudson, M.D., ran into an old pal ten years ago, the friend asked Dr. Hudson if he could buy a gift certificate for his wife who had never been happy about the size and shape of her breasts.

Dr. Hudson immediately typed a certificate for a breast augmentation on his letterhead and gave it to his pal who placed the note inside a nicely wrapped box and put it under the Christmas tree. Later, the wife opened he pricey gift, carefully read the letter….. and burst into tears.

Aw, You Shouldn’t Have

“She was totally insulted,” Dr. Hudson told “That gift eventually caused the couple to break up. Since, I have learned that while women may dislike one of their body parts, it doesn’t mean they want plastic surgery; usually, they only want their husbands to listen, not take action.”

Increasingly, holiday seasons see more people buying gifts from plastic surgeons, dermatologists and medispas for a loved one. Gift buyers are requesting just about everything, from Botox to breast augmentations. Partly due to gift giving, the American Association of Facial and Plastic Reconstructive Surgeons (A.A.F.P.R.S.) reports that December is the busiest month for plastic surgeons. About 24 percent of A.A.F.P.R.S. members say Botox injections and rhinoplasties are the most common gifts with eyelid surgery and forehead lifts closely following. In 2004, 49 percent of the organization’s members reported performing a procedure as a gift, an increase of 35 percent over 2003.

Beautiful “As Is”

Giving the Gift of Lift For instance, Carla Lundblade, 40, of Central Point, Oregon, received a plastic surgery gift for Christmas, 2004. It is, she says, a gift that keeps on giving.

“I’ve kept in the back of my mind cosmetic surgery to repair the serious sun damage I have,” Carla says.

Using the Internet, Carla researched high profile plastic surgeons and found the doctor she wanted in Beverly Hills.

“My husband, Rick, told me I looked beautiful ‘as is’ but added ‘If surgery is important to you, it’s important to me’.”

In two separate sessions, both of which required a five day recovery period in Beverly Hills, Carla had a brow lift, rhinoplasty, chin augmentation, cheek bone implants, blepharoplasty and laser resurfacing. Results? “I’m asked to show my I.D. in bars,” Carla says. “Some say I look ‘ageless,’ because I could be anywhere from the mid-20s to mid-30s.”

Additional motivation: Carla will soon start a new career as a psychologist and knows she must compete against 20 and 30-somethings in the work place.

“What better present can you give than helping someone feel better about herself?” says Richard Fleming, M.D., Carla’s plastic surgeon at the Beverly Hills Institute of Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery.

However, the picture is not always sweetness and light. Some surgeons frown on the practice because giving the gift of rejuvenation surgery can change the doctor-patient dynamics; the physician then acts on behalf the gift giver, not the patient.

“Plastic surgeons are not supposed to give surgery as gifts, prizes or awards because the recipient may not be an appropriate candidate for the procedure or may not even be medically cleared for any operation,” says Louis DeLuca, M.D., a plastic surgeon in Boca Raton, Florida.

Another drawback: the surgeon may feel obligated to fulfill the certificate or the recipient may feel pressured to go under the knife even when hesitant.

“The way to handle gifting is to spring for an initial consultation before jumping into a lengthy, expensive procedure a person may not really want,” says Dr. Hudson.

You can still maintain the surprise if you do it carefully, says Brent Moelleken, M.D., a plastic surgeon with offices in Beverly Hills and Santa Barbara, California.

“One former patient dragged in her husband who always hated the loose skin on his neck but never had the nerve to go see a surgeon,” says Dr. Moelleken. “The couple interviewed two surgeons, one of whom the husband liked. But the husband developed cold feet about the fees. Later, when his wife gave him a gift certificate covering the procedure, he was relieved and went ahead with the operation.”

Best Present Ever

The man now wonders why he did not have the surgery years ago. He was not only surprised but grateful to his wife for her thoughtfulness, saying it was the best present he ever received.

But in some cases, a gift of plastic surgery can do more than cause embarrassment – it might tap you out financially as well. One-well meaning boyfriend bought a gift certificate for a breast enhancement for his lady love. Actually, the girlfriend had only mentioned the possibility in the past and had never seriously considered having a breast augmentation. She was initially hurt that the man in her life thought her charms were so inadequate she required surgical augmentation. But she went to see the surgeon for a consultation anyhow. The doctor found that breast implants alone would not be enough because she required a more complex procedure with an implant and a breast lift to achieve her goals. The boyfriend found himself supplementing his gift certificate and still wrestles with the financing.

“The basic lesson is that gift certificates are fine, but only after the patient consults with a board-certified plastic surgeon of his or her choice,” says Dr. Moelleken. “It is the patient who chooses the doctor, not the giver of the certificate.”

In many cases, the thought is really what counts.

“Wives who are more into grooming than their husbands are much more receptive to a gift of plastic surgery,” says Francis Palmer III, M.D., a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. “Wives are equally touched because the husband made the effort to find a top surgeon and then talk to him about procedures that could enhance his wife’s appearance.”

Carolyn Jacob, M.D., a Chicago dermasurgeon, says she helps her patients get in the holiday mood by sending out a December newsletter that offers gifts for less invasive procedures like massage, facials, microdermabrasion or injectable fillers like Restylane or Botox.

“Our typical gift giver has had a procedure like Botox and then buys a certificate for a friend,” says Dr. Jacob. “Usually, the patient liked it so much she wants others to try it, too.”

Adds Stephen T. Greenberg, M.D., a New York City plastic surgeon: “The current holiday season will see many gifts of tummy tucks, liposuction and nose jobs.”

His current forecast includes Santa springing for more minimally invasive procedures like thread lifts, Thermage and Botox.

“Husbands are getting their wives tummy tucks and other cosmetic procedures in numbers that would be incomprehensible a few years ago,” says Dr. Greenberg, the medical director of New York’s Premier Center for Plastic Surgery. “Plus, a few wives are starting to spring for their husband’s procedures.”

Veneers for Loved Ones

Cosmetic dentists also hear from patients who want to give somebody a better smile.

“The past two years have seen more cosmetic dental gift giving than ever,” says Sherri Worth, D.D.S., in Newport Beach, California. “Veneers for loved ones and teeth bleaching for friends and associates are very popular gifts.”

Doctors (and brothers) Julian and Michael Omidi, founders of the Pacific Surgical and Laser Institute in Beverly Hills, offer a plastic surgery debit card as a holiday gift. The giver merely charges the card with whatever amount he or she deems appropriate. That allows recipients to use the funds however they wish.

Popular gifts at BodyLase in Raleigh, North Carolina, include laser hair removal, Botox and Collagen injection and skin peels.

“Due to holiday stress, the most appreciated service we see is facials,” says Karen Albright, BodyLase owner.

Dermatologist Kenneth Beer, M.D., founder of the Palm Beach Esthetic Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, says the most popular holiday gifts for the past few years include gift certificates – ranging in price from $400 to $4000 -- for Botox and other injectable fillers like Radiesse, Sculptra and Restylane.

Advanced Aesthetics Institute, also in West Palm Beach, offers a “Spirit Lift” gift card whose dollar amount can range between $50 and $50,000. The lucky recipient may spend it on typical salon offerings, in the spa or on cosmetic medical or dental services.

But whatever the service or procedure, surgical rejuvenation gifts are highly personal and rarely come in one-size-fits-all packages Plus, surgery can’t be taken back or exchanged.

However, one of the nicest things about the holiday season is you can always make people forget the past with a thoughtful present next year.

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