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Plastic Surgery Gifts? Proceed with Caution Staff Report

During the holiday season, somebody, somewhere, hits on the idea of surprising a loved one with some form of plastic or cosmetic surgery. But the thought can backfire. There's a right and a wrong way to make a present of plastic or cosmetic surgery.

A plastic surgeon in New Mexico, Patrick Hudson, M.D., had a friend who was wracking his brain for a present for his wife a few years ago. Finally, the husband approached Dr. Hudson and asked if he could buy a gift certificate for a breast augmentation.

"My friend told me his wife was always moping about her breasts," Dr. Hudson told "So he paid me in advance and wrapped the certificate in a box which he lovingly gave to his wife. He was very eager to see her reaction."

No Plastic Surgery, Please

Care to take a guess what happened next? His wife opened the present on Christmas morning, read the note, and started crying like a baby. She could not have been more hurt.

"My friend's gift caused the couple to eventually go their separate ways," says Dr. Hudson, who has since noticed that many women may bemoan some part of their appearance but they don't necessarily want to have plastic surgery. They only want the people in their lives to just listen, not fix it."

In England, EVOLENCE, a dermal filler firm, surveyed their customers and found that 15 percent of their 45 to 55-year-old patients think their partner could use a nip here and tuck there. But among the younger and older groups, the figure rose to 30 percent. The last piece of research revealed 25 percent of their study group thought it would be neat to make a Christmas gift of some plastic surgery for their mate.

"…the gift, a breast augmentation, caused the couple to go their separate ways."

"But our research showed that about half of the people getting plastic surgery as a surprise gift for any occasion would be offended," says a spokesman for EVOLENCE.

Costs of Plastic Surgery

Perhaps many would agree with author P.J. O'Rourke, who once observed that Christmas begins about the first of December with office parties and ends when you realize what you've spent, usually around April fifteenth of the next year.

Despite the costs, Botox, collagen injections, breast enlargement, or rhinoplasty lead the holiday wish list, at least in England. In the United States, face lifts, liposuction, nose jobs, and skin care procedures are often given during the holiday season.

"..plastic surgery should never be given as a 'surprise' gift."

If you are seriously interested in making a gift of plastic surgery, there is a better way to do it than the way Dr. Hudson's friend went about it.

"Aesthetic plastic surgery should never be given as a 'surprise gift,'" says Julius Few, M.D., F.A.C.S. a Chicago plastic surgeon.

Gift Pitfalls

The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) has taken a careful look at the pitfalls of plastic surgery gift giving and has made some suggestions. They are:

  • The desire for plastic or cosmetic surgery should come from the person who will be operated on, not from a mate, family member or friend. The patient's desires and decisions about surgery are final.
  • If he or she is open to the idea, go together to a surgeon for a consultation. If you really want to give a thoughtful gift, provide a gift of time to help care for the person after the surgery.
  • Also provide some thinking help and use your computer to check on the surgeon's background and training before the initial consultation.
  • During the consultation, ask the surgeon to also talk about possible risks, benefits, expectations, and what type of changes can realistically be expected from the surgical rejuvenation.
  • Be aware that any plastic surgeon can turn away any patient because he or she may not be an appropriate candidate for surgery.

Breast Augmentation Gift

In another case of a plastic surgery gift giving, a man took his girlfriend to see Dr. Peter Fodor, an L.A. plastic surgeon, to discuss the girlfriend having breast augmentation. But the couple was turned away because the doctor could tell the boyfriend was pressuring the woman whose basic concern was that implants might cause her breasts to sag.

"I think the best way to approach plastic surgery as a gift is to buy only an initial consultation and then take it from there," says Dr. Hudson.

While many plastic surgery procedures will not show final results for anywhere from two to six months, a gift also may take a while to get off the ground.

Brent Moelleken, M.D., a plastic surgeon with offices in Beverly Hills and Santa Barbara, California, once had a patient whose husband hated the lose, hanging skin on his neck. But, after visiting two surgeons to discuss corrective surgery, the husband was completely put off by the cost of plastic surgery and put the rejuvenation out of his mind.

Neck Surgery Gift

But when the next Christmas rolled around, the thoughtful wife asked all the relatives to pony up for the procedure and gave her husband a letter covering the fees. He then gladly went ahead with the procedure.

"He now wonders why he did not have the rejuvenation years ago," Dr. Moelleken says. "He was surprised and very thankful for the gift and said it was the best gift he ever got for any occasion."

Nonetheless, some surgeons and professional groups don't like the idea of giving plastic surgery as a gift because it changes the relationship between the doctor and the patient, because the surgeon may be responding to the giver of the gift and not the patient.

Lowered Liposuction Cost

Despite all that, December is always a busy time for plastic surgeons because many patients use holiday time off from work to recover from smaller procedures. Additionally, plastic and cosmetic surgeons often send out certificates for both invasive and non-invasive procedures.

For instance, Alex Denes, M.D. in Hemet, California, sends out early postcards offering ten percent off on any liposuction done during the season. Thomas Powers, M.D. in Westminster, California, offers holiday specials like 20 percent off for Thermage or 30 percent off for laser hair removal. And, yes, gift cards are available from Dr. Powers, as well as from many Beverly Hills plastic surgeons and others in rejuvenation surgery hot spots like Miami, New York City, Orange County, Dallas, and Houston.

Cosmetic dentists also get in on the exchange of gifts. Sheri Worth, D.D.S. in Newport Beach, California, says she has seen increases in new smiles as a gift -- via cosmetic dentistry -- during the last several holiday seasons.

If you do allow yourself to be gifted with cosmetic plastic surgery, you know it's one of those presents that just keeps on giving year round, especially when you're anywhere near a mirror.

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