April 16, 2012 -- Driving a car, taking a photo, even standing at the altar on her wedding day made Cary Houghton Anderson worry about something most people don't consider: her chin.
When Anderson was a teenager, doctors told the now 33-year-old mom of two that she had a recessive chin, which can cause a "weak-looking" lower third of the face.
Ever since then, Anderson has been overly aware of her facial profile, and at times, she said, "looking at myself from the side made my stomach turn."
"I never thought I was an ugly person," Anderson of Washington state said. "I thought I was an attractive person from the front, but not from the side. My profile was so weak, and I just felt like it wasn't me."
Seventeen years after doctors discussed her recessive chin, Anderson decided to get herself a new one. While she was a little nervous prior to surgery and had at least one "Jay Leno chin dream," the surgery went off without a hitch and Anderson is one satisfied cosmetic surgery customer.
Now, new research concludes that Anderson is among a large number of people who desire a chin upgrade. Indeed, chin augmentations are the fastest growing plastic surgery procedures in the United States, according to new statistics released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Numbers showed that there were 20,680 chin implants performed in 2011. That's a 71 percent jump from the year before, more than breast implants, Botox and liposuction combined. The demand for the procedure was evenly split between men and women, and experts say the digital age has contributed to the added demand.
"A chin is a very important part of a person's profile," said Dr. Darrick Antell, a New York-based plastic surgeon and member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
An attractive chin on both men and women exudes "confidence, athleticism and trustworthiness," he said.
Plastic surgeons said they are seeing fewer patients who want extreme makeovers and more who are seeking more subtle changes, and facial rejuvenation -- which can include nips and tucks to the eyelids, skin aging, wrinkles, nose and hairline -- is also becoming a growing trend.
It might be the digital age that has brought on the added chin attention.
"The digital world has made a huge difference in how people see themselves," Antell added. "It used to be that you'd get in front of a camera and take a straight shot, but now it's different on these devices."
Video chatting has added a new dimension to the way people see themselves because people can no longer hide behind the phone or email, experts noted. The technology has caused people to see themselves at completely different angles than before, said Dr. Anita Sethna, assistant professor of otolaryngology at the Emory Facial Center in Atlanta.
"Constantly seeing your own image staring back at you certainly does give one pause to assess all aspects of your image," Sethna said. "The jawline and neckline are intimately associated with the chin, as this is the point of suspension of the rest of the neck."
Dr. John Grossman, a Denver-based plastic surgeon, agreed that social networking encourages "more than just the casual or formal photo and promote on-going updates of what you are doing and where you are going."
Grossman noted that there should be a comparable jump in the number of rhinoplasties and neck liposuctions, as well, because these are "equally, if not more, prominent in those photos."
But Anderson said she has no interest in undergoing the other procedures.
"If it's something that really bothers you, I highly encourage people to have it done," she said. "A lot of people think one procedure is a gateway drug to other procedures, but it doesn't have to be."
Surgeon Antell said it's hard to explain the explosive interest in chin augmentations, but as video chatting becomes more mainstream, people might just be more aware of the appearance of the lower half of the face.
Or, he said, "Perhaps it's the Mitt Romney effect. He has a great chin."