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The Edge of reason

By Shandley McMurray

If cosmetic enhancements make you feel better about yourself with each nip, tuck or peel, can you really go too far?

Danielle Green* rhymes off her surgeries as though she’s reading a grocery list. From an eye lift to chin work, the 50-year-old from Weston, Ont., has had eight procedures in the past five years. That total doesn’t even include the permanent makeup, Botox and Restylane procedures. Her cosmetic surgery list includes liposuction to her thighs, chin, abdomen and back, a brow lift, chin implant, blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery) and face lift. “I sound like I’m a freak and I’m doing everything, but I’m not,” Green says. In fact, she refuses to have any surgery that she doesn’t feel is necessary. “I went to the big [surgeons] in the city and they scared me away because they wanted to fix things that I didn’t want to fix,” she says. “If somebody said to me, ‘I can tighten up your boobs,’ I would say, ‘No thank you, I’m quite happy with my boobs.’”
Reality shows such as Extreme Makeover and The Swan make having numerous surgeries look easy. But are patients like Green, who have more than a handful of procedures, risking their health for the sake of looking younger? We asked experts in the cosmetic enhancement field to weigh in on the debate.

How much is too much?
According to many doctors, even one surgery can be too many, depending on the patient. “It’s all about their reasons for having the surgery and whether they are prepared to accept the risks … limitations … and financial burden of the surgery,” says Dr. Matthew C. Mosher, a plastic surgeon in Langley, B.C. If the patient has unrealistic expectations for any of these, she’s likely not ready for one surgery, let alone multiple procedures, he adds.
As with most things in life, there are always extreme cases. Take Michael Jackson, for example. “Not to pick on him, as he really is a sad case,” says Dr. Ravi Dahiya, a facial plastic surgeon at Potomac Facial Plastic Surgery in Chevy Chase, Md., “but Jackson is the most public case of someone who has gone too far.” Both he and his surgeons are to blame for his frightening appearance. The same goes for regular people who have a “plastic” look, says Dr. Michael Kreidstein, a Toronto-based plastic surgeon. “An unnatural appearance after surgery is usually the result of one bad operation rather than from multiple operations.” So it’s important to choose your surgeon wisely.
Kreidstein’s advice: “If you’ve seen one or two plastic surgeons and they say you shouldn’t have that surgery done, don’t keep shopping until you find someone who will do the operation for you.” Eventually, he says, you’ll find a surgeon hungry enough to do the operation, and the results could jeopardize your health and your appearance.

Who’s doing it?
Although we see it all the time on reality television, “having one plastic surgical procedure after another is unusual, except for the very wealthy,” says Dr. Mosher. Considering a face lift can cost $10,000 or more, that’s not surprising.
But what about a patient’s mental status: are multiple-surgery patients depressed, insecure or on a never-ending quest for self-confidence? Not so, say Sandra Andrews, a 58-year-old Torontonian, and Pamela G. Omelaniec, a 62-year-old woman in Langley, B.C. Combined, the two have undergone about 12 procedures.
Andrews describes herself as an outgoing, affectionate, enthusiastic and overall happy person who spends most of her money on cosmetic procedures. Once she noticed the positive results from her eye lift 23 years ago, Andrews was hooked. Since then, she has undergone a face lift and has regular Botox and Restylane injections. She says she plans to have a blepharoplasty, to get the area under her chin tightened and possibly have a breast lift in the future. Why all the surgery? “I like the way I look,” she says. “I think I look good,” and she says she wants to continue to look just as good.

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