A Message from your T.V.: Go Plastic, or Go Home

Sue Chung Health Guide
  • There are so many shows that feature plastic surgery these days. Do you think they encourage people to get more plastic surgery?


    While I can't say - and I doubt that anyone can say - that shows revolving around plastic surgery directly spur people toward cosmetic alterations, there are some interesting studies that may highlight society's growing plastic surgery consumption both on and off the small screen.


    A study at Yale University's plastic surgery clinic asked a group of potential patients to take a survey regarding their exposure to television reality shows that feature plastic surgery. These included Dr. 90210, Extreme Makeover, The Swan, and I Want a Famous Face. Most of the respondents were female and in their mid-thirties.

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    The results showed that four out of five patients felt that television did influence their decision to pursue plastic surgery and over half of the respondents watched the above or similar shows. In addition, those who watched these shows frequently said they felt more confident about the level of their plastic surgery knowledge.


    While this study does not prove that these plastic surgery reality shows promote real plastic surgery procedures, it's indicative of the growing number of people who are willing to go under the knife or, at the very least, the needle.


    Other studies show that you may have to wait longer to see a dermatologist regarding potentially dangerous moles than you would if you wanted a Botox treatment. Recently, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published research which found that dermatology patients in 12 different cities waited for an average of eight days before obtaining a cosmetic Botox injection as opposed to 26 days for evaluation for changing moles.


    As an example, the median wait for a Botox appointment in Boston was 13 days, while the median wait time for a mole examination was 68 days. Other cities demonstrated comparable discrepancies in waiting periods.

    However, before jumping to conclusions and demanding sweeping change, some dermatologists point out that the problem may be a simple one of supply and demand.


    Botox is now offered by a range of doctors, including plastic surgeons and even some general internists. Therefore, there may currently be more doctors available to provide Botox injections than patients who seek the procedure. At the same time, more and more people are aware of the dangers of skin cancer and the demand for skin examinations may be exceeding the supply of qualified dermatologists.


    Still other doctors explain that the matter may be financial: Insurance does not cover Botox, so patients pay upfront for the injections (around $500 for a single treatment) while dermatologists who perform mole examinations need to wait for health insurance to reimburse them (which averages between $50 and $75).


    Clearly, there's a link between the prevalence of plastic surgery reality shows and society's demand for cosmetic procedures. But at this point, there's no evidence that these shows influence society as opposed to the other way around.


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    Even if you're a fan of reality plastic surgery shows, don't rely on the information you see on television. If you're considering a treatment or procedure yourself, the best way to approach plastic surgery is still the old-fashioned way: Ask your doctor.

Published On: November 09, 2007