by Virginia Chamlee
Examining the country’s most popular cosmetic surgery procedures
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), plastic surgery procedures are on the rise. And thanks to the holiday season (and the time off that comes with it), December tends to be a busy month for cosmetic surgeons. Though new techniques and technologies emerge fairly often, the tried-and-true procedures remain the most popular.
Each year, the ASPS releases statistics outlining the top procedures performed in the United States. The 2013 report will be released at the beginning of 2014 but for now, a quick look at last year’s figures can be useful if you’re in the market to get some work done next year (or perhaps add to your holiday wish list).
According to the most recent numbers, 14.6 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2012 (that’s a 5% increase from procedures performed in 2011). Though the amount of people undergoing the operations decreased 7% from 2011, the top procedure of 2012 was, perhaps unsurprisingly, breast augmentation, which has been the top cosmetic surgical procedure since 2006. Though the operation hasn’t changed that much in recent years, the implants themselves have. “Breast augmentation remains mostly the same, although gel implants have changed and there is now a wider choice of shapes and profiles than there used to be,” says Dr. Sofia Kirk, of Posh Plastic Surgery. The popularity of silicone implants (which tend to last longer and are less likely to have ripping) has increased in recent years. Silicone implants were used in 62% of all breast augmentations in 2012, while saline implants were used in 38% of all such surgeries.
Nose reshaping came in a close second amongst popular cosmetic procedures, with 286,000 people in the country undergoing the procedure last year. Eyelid surgery was the third most popular procedure. Despite their continued popularity, those procedures haven’t changed much. But liposuction, the fourth most popular cosmetic procedure in the nation, is an entirely different procedure than when it was first introduced.
Nearly 202,000 Americans underwent liposuction in 2012. Kirk says it is one of the most popular procedures at her office. “Liposuction has changed dramatically,” she says. “Now, lasers are used to melt fat before it is suctioned from the body and tighten the tissue that remains. This not only makes things more effective and easier for the surgeon, but means a less aggressive procedure for the patient and a quicker recovery. The laser also cauterizes the surrounding tissue, so there’s less bruising and bleeding.”
Kirk’s patients seem to be in line with the average American undergoing plastic surgery (her practice’s most popular procedures were lipo, breast augmentations, tummy tucks and facelifts—in that order) but she notes that there are a few new procedures that are becoming more and more in demand. “Procedures like Cellulaze and CoolSculpting are gaining in popularity as people are moving towards less invasive procedures,” she says.
Cellulaze is the first procedure using a machine that allows physicians to treat cellulite by severing the constricting tissue from beneath the skin that causes dimples. CoolSculpting is a procedure in which fat is chilled in order to be removed. Kirk says the procedure offers similar results to liposuction with none of the downsides.
The fifth most popular procedure—the facelift—grew in popularity 6% since 2011, and, like lipo, is becoming less invasive. “There’s more emphasis on fillers and laser procedures to assist with skin tightening. We make the incisions as small as possible and hide them in the creases and folds that already exist,” says Kirk. “The older methods involved a lot more removal of skin, which gave a good result initially but left the patient looking ‘worked on’ over time. With the invention of new laser technology, there are many more ways to treat the skin than just the surgeon’s knife.”
Nowadays, the use of dermal fillers, such as Sculptra and Juvederm, and fat transfers, combined with less invasive skin treatments like IPL and Pixel fractional resurfacing, are sometimes taking the place of a traditional facelift. “There is a definite trend towards utilizing technology to enhance the surgeon’s creative talent and a whole new array of tools that allow us to take things to a new level,” says Kirk.