Laid Off? Some Decide to Go Under the Knife

(A list of average prices for the procedures appears at the end of this story.)

Then acknowledges the pressure to look good in the workplace. The Los Angeles psychologist, who opposes plastic surgery, said one of her colleagues elected to have a face-lift so she wouldn't look so much older than her young co-workers.

But Then also said that many just feel it "sounds more acceptable" to say they're having work done for career reasons rather than concede that they're concerned about their own vanity.

That's especially true for baby boomers, she said.

"I think a lot of them are realizing that they've lived half of their life already and it's like the alarm clocks are going off: Wow, I've got to do as much as I can now with the time I have left and boy, am I going to look good," she said.

Stigma or Saving Grace?

Then argues that those who undergo surgery in hopes of getting ahead could see their efforts backfire.

"I think if you're going to stay at the same company where everybody knows you and everybody sees you and you come back after three weeks with a new face, I don't think it's going to get you promoted," she said.

While Then conceded that more people are getting plastic surgery overall, she said there's still a stigma associated with having work done that can stir gossip among co-workers. Some, she said, might assume that low self-esteem was what prompted the surgery.

"It might actually undermine you because people are thinking 'Oh, gosh, she doesn't have confidence in herself. I don't want somebody in this high-level leadership position who really doesn't have confidence in their skills alone,'" she said.

Vito Quatela, the president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, disagrees.

A survey by the academy found that two-thirds of surgeons said they'd treated patients seeking to remain competitive in the workplace last year. Quatela said he has heard from patients who initially experienced negative reactions from their co-workers but later -– especially after the patients had fully healed from surgery -– found acceptance. Some, he said, even had co-workers come to them seeking advice about getting some work done themselves.

Quatela and other plastic surgeons argue that the self-esteem boost that stems from improving your appearance means that surgery and other cosmetic procedures can result in more professional success.

"With increased self-esteem comes increased self confidence and we know that's a good thing in the workplace," he said.

But Then warns that people with self-esteem problems who look to surgery for help will find themselves disappointed.

"Unless you address an underlying self-confidence issue, you could be made over to look like Barbie, but you're still going to carry around negative thoughts about yourself," she said.

Peters, the Pittsburgh investment adviser, said her surgery has improved her self-confidence. Still, her surgeon, Dr. Leo McCafferty, a board member at the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, stressed that nips and tucks won't cure all of a patient's ills, career or otherwise.

"I think if someone comes in specifically with that desire -- that it's going to change their life in a dramatic way -- that would tend to be a little bit of a red flag," he said. "I think it's important for people to realize that beauty comes from within and plastic surgery can't change that inner self."

Average cosmetic procedure prices in 2007:

Blepharoplasty: $3,093 Chin Augmentation: $2,196 Botox: $463 Face-lift: $6,696

Source: American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

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