March 29, 2007 -- What would make most women older than 40 shake their heads in disbelief? Perhaps a 20-something woman getting Botox.
Young women, even those in their teens, are increasingly demanding cosmetic procedures to prevent looking older. Afraid to age, they urge plastic surgeons to treat them like they treat their decades-older counterparts.
Ashley Lavanty, 22, started getting Botox injections at 21.
"I don't have any wrinkles but the reason I want to do it is to prevent them from forming to avoid later surgery," she said. "My plastic surgeon said I really didn't need it. He didn't see the point in doing it, but … he did it because I insisted."
Lavanty is not alone. Many doctors say there has been a rise in the number of women younger than 35 rushing in for nonsurgical treatments.
"There are aspects of getting older that are appealing to me. You gain in experience and knowledge, and I want to get older," Lavanty said. "I just don't want to look older."
Preserving Youthful Good Looks
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, last year people age 19 to 34 accounted for nearly 20 percent of nonsurgical procedures such as Botox and chemical peels, and 28 percent of women age 18 to 24 said they would seriously consider getting cosmetic surgery now or in the future.
"There's more pressure than ever to, to look young, to look perfect," said Evelyn Crowley, assistant editor of W magazine, which recently covered the issue of younger women getting plastic surgery.
"The accessibility of treatments like Botox and Restylane. … You can go to a day spa and get it. It's like going into a Starbucks or something. … It's just everywhere," Crowley said.
Lavanty said she wanted to hold onto the youthful looks of her 20s.
"I so often hear from women in their 40s and 50s saying, 'Oh, to be 20 again!,'" she said. "You know, that kind of made me realize I want to preserve it."
While the appropriateness for young women getting plastic surgery remains in question, some believe the benefits are real.
"If you ask anyone in the cosmetic industry, they compare it to the metaphor of a house," Crowley said. "It's preventative, and if you do little repairs along the way, then you won't have to get this big overhaul of a face-lift in 15 or 20 years."
Ethics Before Beauty
John Joseph, a facial plastic surgeon from Beverly Hills, Calif., the mecca of cosmetic procedures, doesn't agree with the house metaphor and thinks that for young people, plastic surgery is a waste of money.
"It would prevent [aging] from occurring, but it's a waste of time and money. You should wait until the lines are there -- until there are lines to fill. If you can't see them, why are you treating them?" he said. "When I hear the house comparison, all I can think is that these girls don't own houses and they must have an awful lot of money to throw away."
Joseph gets plastic surgery requests from patients younger than 30 on a daily basis. He refuses them.
"It's the righteous thing. I am a doctor. I'm not supposed to do things that harm my patients," he said. "I would feel like a thief if I did some of these procedures."
Lavanty said she knew that some doctors and women shook their heads at her quest to stay young, but she believes that given the opportunity to preserve youthful good looks, any woman would do the same.
"If I tell a 40-year-old woman that I'm getting Botox and all this stuff, they just roll their eyes at me," she said. "But you know, I think if it had been available to them when they were in their 20s, to prevent aging, I think a lot of them would've done it as well."