A Buyer’s Guide to Cosmetic Surgeries

Beauty/Skincare, Featured Article
on October 1, 2013
cosmetic procedures

After years of griping about fine lines and wrinkles, you’re finally considering taking the plunge and getting a facelift. But what if we told you that same facelift could pay for a semester of your child’s college education—would you think twice? In honor of anti-aging month in October, we investigated five popular cosmetic surgeries and gathered the need-to-know details to consider before you go under the knife. We’ve included the surgery’s average price tag as well as the risks and possible non-surgical and needle-free alternatives.

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Procedure: Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)
Cost: $5,278
That’s equivalent to: Almost nine years of a $50-per-month gym membership
Risks: Some of the potential complications include bleeding, infection and reactions to anesthesia as well as tissue loss along the horizontal incision. Following surgery, there’s a chance that fluid can accumulate under the skin. Removal of the fluid is a painless process but may require repeat visits to the plastic surgeon’s office.
Possible alternatives: Before committing to a full-on tummy tuck and shelling out the hefty cost, try diet and exercise tactics. Consider working with a nutritionist to advise on healthier eating choices, and add cardio workouts combined with strength training, such as Pilates, to tighten up your midsection.

Procedure: Breast implants
Cost: $3,308 (saline); $3,694 (silicone)
That’s equivalent to: Working with a top personal trainer for approximately nine months
Risks: There are various risks associated with breast implants, including the potential for rupture. Since they do not last forever, surgery will likely be required to replace the implants at some point. Additionally, there’s a chance of nipple or breast sensation changes, implant visibility or rippling, and the potential to hinder the early detection of breast cancer (which is why it’s important to select a radiology technician experienced in X-rays of augmented breasts).
Possible alternatives: Certain exercises, such as pectoral flys, lateral shoulder raises, chest presses and push-ups can help perk up your breast area. There’s also, of course, the push-up bra for a visible boob boost.

Procedure: Facelift
Cost: $6,408
That’s equivalent to: One semester of in-state tuition at a top state college, according to CNNMoney
Risks: You may experience numbness to the face and swelling after the surgery, which usually resolves between several weeks to several months. Certain activities, such as straining, bending and lifting, may cause you to bleed post-operatively.
Possible alternatives: First things first—if you haven’t already, start with your regular facial routine. Work with your dermatologist to figure out what’s best for your skin, such as a daily application of Retin-A, daily sunscreen with SPF 30 and a serum with vitamin C. Next, before going under the knife for the full facelift, look for nonsurgical alternatives that might get you the results you’re looking for in a gentler way, such as Thermage® or laser skin-tightening procedures that use heat or light technologies to lift and firm your face.

Procedure: Vaginal rejuvenation (or vaginoplasty)
Cost: $2,342
That’s equivalent to: Approximately a five-night stay at the Four Seasons Resort in Costa Rica
Risks: A procedure that cosmetically tightens the walls of the vagina with the primary goal of enhancing sexual gratification, vaginal rejuvenation may cause a loss of sensitivity or numbness around the vagina since many nerves are cut during this operation. This effect can last for years or even be permanent.
Possible alternatives: Start with Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. To do these, tighten the muscles of your vaginal wall, hold the contraction for about 10 seconds, then relax for five seconds. For positive results, repeat about 10 times per day. There are also tightening creams that claim they can tighten the walls of your vagina—before trying this out, though, definitely talk with your doctor to make sure it’s a good alternative for you.

Procedure: Botox
Cost: $328 (per session)
That’s equivalent to: 219 regular tall coffees at Starbucks
Risks: The most common side effects from Botox include swelling or bruising at the injection site and headaches. Additionally, if the Botox is not applied correctly, it may cause your skin to droop or look crooked.
Possible alternatives: While Botox has an almost-immediate effect by paralyzing your facial muscles, some anti-wrinkle creams can smooth out skin over time. Ask your dermatologist for a recommendation for a topical cream that contains the ingredient Argireline, which has been touted as a great alternative to Botox. Additionally, alpha hydroxyl acids, including glycolic and lactic, which are found in both med-spa chemical peels as well as in over-the-counter facial serums, help slough off old skin cells and reduce the look of wrinkles.

*Cost is based on the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery’s  2011 national average for physician/surgeon fees per procedure: http://www.surgery.org/consumers/consumer-resources/frequently-asked-questions/cost-surgeon-fees-per-procedure

**Figures are for physician/surgeon fees only and do not include fees for the surgical facility, anesthesia, medical tests, prescriptions, surgical garments, or other miscellaneous costs related to surgery. Figures for procedures often performed on more than one site in the same session reflect typical fees for one site.