Economy, Boob Jobs Grow

VIDEO: How the economic recovery has helped increase demand.
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The number of Americans voluntarily going under the knife for a nip and a tuck has grown along with the economy. It begs the question: could plastic surgery be a sign of better economic times?

According to statistics released today by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 13.1 million minimally-invasive and surgical cosmetic surgeries were performed in the United States in 2010, up 5 percent from 2009. Along with many other industries, plastic surgery suffered in the economic downturn that began in 2008. The uptick in cosmetic procedures is the first since the recession began.

"People are reassured and more confident that we're not going to have a double dip recession," said Dr. Phil Haeck, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "This is just one more tiny sign that the economy is moving forward. It's slow, but it may be that we'll slowly pull out of this recession."

"It's reassuring we're not going to have a year like 2008, and I guess we're one more indicator of that," said Haeck. "People have taken care of their family, so now they feel they can do a little something for themselves."

Surgical procedures increased by 2 percent, totaling almost 1.6 million procedures in 2010. The top surgical procedure performed continues to be breast augmentation; 296,000 Americans underwent the procedure last year. Other top procedures included nose reshaping, eyelid surgery, liposuction and tummy tucks.

"The market has recovered, so people are feeling a little more comfortable to spend money," said Dr. Malcolm Z. Roth, director of plastic surgery at Maimonides Medical Center in New York.

Facelifts had not seen growth since 2007, but they rose 9 percent in 2010, with nearly 113,000 surgeries performed across the country.

All body-shaping procedures, including breast lifts, body lifts, upper arm and thigh lifts, saw an increase in 2010 as well.

"People have worked their way out of debt, so we're not only seeing normal activity, but also the pent up demand from the past few years," said Haeck.

Time Off for Surgery

But along with the actual cost of procedures, Roth said that the necessary time taken off from work -- even a single day of rest after an operation -- also deterred people from going under the knife in recent years.

"Those who are still employed have weathered the storm," said Roth. "They have assurances so there's a good comfort level that they'll continue to be employed by that job. A lot of people were afraid to miss a few days, but now they're willing to do that."

Botox and Fillers Popular Even During Recession

Minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures did not see as much of a dip with the bad economy, but the procedures still increased by 5 percent in 2010. Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) was the most in-demand of the group with 5. 4 million procedures performed in one year, followed by soft tissue fillers, chemical peels, laser hair removal and microdermabrasion.

"I haven't seen anyone back off financially from fillers and Botox," said Haeck. "I would think there must be a price point that is too expensive, but $500 for a Botox shot wasn't something that most people cut back on."

Minimally-invasive procedures require little or no recovery time, and Roth said plastic surgeons have become so well-versed in the procedures that some people can leave work on their lunch break for a filler and return that afternoon.

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