March 9th, 2010
04:41 PM ET

Recession no barrier to cosmetic procedures

By Madison Park
CNNHealth.com Writer-Producer

A bad economy only slightly deterred Americans from flocking to cosmetic procedures last year.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery released figures Tuesday: Almost 10 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2009. Despite the recession, Americans shelled out almost $10.5 billion to get pretty.

Compared with the previous year, there was a 2 percent decrease in the total number of procedures.

Dr. Richard Fleming, a facial plastic surgeon and co-director of The Beverly Hills Institute in California said a fresher look enhances job prospects.

“From executives to everyday working people in the corporate world particularly, they look at improving their appearances as an investment in their future, because appearance does count,” he said.  “If they don’t look as good as the person with similar qualifications, my bet is on the person who looks more rested and looks better than the one who looks tired.”

Fleming said even the unemployed shell out the bucks to get cosmetic procedures.

“While people are out of work, they’re not doing it for personal reasons because they want to look better," he said.  "They’re doing it because it’s more competitive than it was before the recession.  That’s their stimulus - spending money trying to get in the workforce.”

About 85 percent of the total procedures were nonsurgical ones, according to American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.  These types of procedures, such as Botox and chemical fillers to reduce wrinkling,  cost less than major surgeries.

“People might not have money for more involved procedures which last longer,” Fleming said.  “But they do have money for fillers, Botox, that kind of thing.”

The top three nonsurgical cosmetic procedures  of 2009

1. Botox injection (2.5 million)
2. hyaluronic acid (fillers such at Juvederm and Restylane) (1.3 million )
3. laser hair removal (1.3 million)

The top three cosmetic surgical procedures of 2009

1. breast augmentation (300,000)
2. liposuction (280,000)
3. eyelid surgery (150,000)

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soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Sue

    People complain about the recession yet spend money on elective cosmetic surgery? No wonder our country is in this economic mess. No common sense.

    March 9, 2010 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      I agree 100% all these people are going to get a wake up call when the economy collapes. All these cosmetic doctors getting rich from all these fools.

      March 15, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse |
  2. cnnjunkie12

    Yes, Sue, I believe you are right. This country is in an economic mess because of Botox. Or because people want to spend money to look younger (hmm....but aren't they still spending money? And isn't that good for the economy? Oh never mind, that's just silly....) Damned those self-centered people with no common sense! 🙂

    March 9, 2010 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jeff

    This actually makes sense. Since most of the job losses were suffered by men and not women, women still keep spending because they still have jobs. Makes perfect sense.

    March 9, 2010 at 22:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. alan boyd, m.d.

    I think the reasons for this stable spending on lavish cosmetic procedures can clearly be placed at the feet of the previous administration.

    March 10, 2010 at 07:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. George

    What's wrong with that? Not only does spending stimulate the economy, but it also helps people look better – and, come on, who likes to be surrounded by unattractive people? 🙂

    March 10, 2010 at 07:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Gemma

    Botox to better compete in the job market? please, find another excuse.

    as a woman I think it is very sad that breast augmentation is so popular. With this mentality I'm surprised women are taking seriously at all. So idiotic.

    March 10, 2010 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. erin- mn

    Wow...it never ceases to amaze me how the priorities of people are so out of whack! Although I shouldn't be surprised. At a time when foreclosures and unemployment are at an all time high, it's sad to see people spend money on frivolous things. But I have to remember, these are the same people that follow the "Real housewives of Orange County" etc.....

    March 10, 2010 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. zephyrwinds

    So did people quit buying makeup, getting their hair styled or colored, did they stop buying push up bras, quit going to NASCAR, stop buying cellphones and big screen tvs ???????

    March 10, 2010 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Kim

    You have to look pretty to get a job? It's definitely not for skilled workers. Fake boobs or faces can only diminish professionalism.

    March 10, 2010 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. kyle

    If you think a few wrinkles is the difference between having a job and not having a job then you are looking for the wrong jobs.

    March 10, 2010 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Wendy

    I have been out of work for 7 months now and can completely understand why people are spending money on botox and other cosmetic procedures that would make them appear to have more vitality. Lets face it, today's work force is brutal. Employers are looking to work you to death. They want people who look like they can take the burden on. I don't blame those who get these procedures one bit.

    March 10, 2010 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Pete

    WHAT!! How can they afford it with so many without insurance?

    March 10, 2010 at 08:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. DGR4

    People are feeling bad in so many ways, I guess they are jumping on anything that cheers them up. For some, that will be cosmetic procedures and surgery. If they can afford it, good on them.

    March 10, 2010 at 08:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. me

    Its because rich people are still rich.

    March 10, 2010 at 08:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. ZotQuix

    Well, the wealthy still have money for what most of us would deem wasteful extravagance. On the other hand this is preferable to the alternative, which is, they just sit on the wealth and it doesn't get back into the economy. It makes you wonder what they did to warrant their wealth. In a world where businesses frequently engage in a 'race to the bottom' (a race to see who can make more money by becoming less and less moral) or people come by wealth by inheriting or marrying into it, progressive taxation is well justified.

    March 10, 2010 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Mattison Brooks

    Of course. American vanity is the only thing that is recession proof.

    March 10, 2010 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Mike

    The affluent will spend money on vanity no matter what the economic climate. My economic situation has improved dramatically because this. If you see a car with the bumper sticker "paid for by your boobs," that will be me driving.

    March 10, 2010 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Karen

    I have to admit, this came as a surprise. I had thought that cosmetic surgeons might have been the one of the most negatively affected professions by the economic downturn. It seems counter-intuitive that they aren't. Fascinating.

    March 10, 2010 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Bwoods

    Sure, there's no 'excuse'. People can do whatever they want with their money. Maybe they have money saved. You don't know these people. I know if i wasn't seventeen years old, i'd be getting breast implants too. Live your own lives, how you wanna. Don't be concerned with how others spend their money.

    March 10, 2010 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Lo

    Botox and other treatments may seem like a luxury, but ask the 50+ crowd whether their resumes count against a fresh faced competitor's. It becomes obvious that youth is prized over experience and integrity, and that the treatments, though expensive, are simply good strategy.

    March 10, 2010 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Debbie Cottrell

    I'm certainly not rich, but I got Botox and Juvederm last year . Are some of you are insinuating that I should instead have donated that money to people who lost their houses? Did you donate all your disposable income, or did you do something non-essential with it? Besides, I'll bet I donate more time and services than most people, even though I work full-time. Don't be a hypocrite.

    March 10, 2010 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. dana

    Cosmetic procedures are to appearance like a BMW is to transportation. IF people can afford it, fine. It's just like having a nicer house instead of a modest one or designer clothes instead of American Eagle. The fact is that many, many jobs are unaffected by the recession and it's those people who will bring us out of it. This plastic surgeon probably employs a minimum of five other people. ANd of course, so does the BMW dealership, the construction company, the clothing store.

    I may not agree with what people spend their money on, but I'd rather they blow their money on something that makes jobs than get it nabbed by the government through higher taxes- to do God only knows what with it.

    March 10, 2010 at 10:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. ER nurse

    So. . . why ispaying for Botox injections any worse than the $ spent on tobacco and alcohol? People are going to spend their "mad money" on what's important to them. If it makes you look better and you can afford it, why not? By the way, I haven't seen any trashed lungs or critical trauma as a result of Botox!

    March 10, 2010 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. janis

    If people would spend money on Botox or Laser treatments they are actually saving money on skin care!! They are getting the most effective skin treatments out there, with the best results!! Silly, uneducated people that spend hundreds of dollars a year on creams that don't work, that can never work and the FDA doesn't have the dollars to regulate so these companies can claim whatever they want, these people are the ones who are throwing their money away!! These are the mindless people that all of you guys are talking about!!

    March 10, 2010 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. DS

    The problem with this country is it's priorities. If you think Botox will help you get a job, then you've got problems. Whatever happened to being aggressive and just being damn good at your job? While there are plenty of people who will still have problems finding jobs, there are a lot people who get jobs and don't end up proving themselves in that position. My parents always taught me that you have to be "the best" at what you do (no matter your profession) so that people won't have an excuse to turn you down for a job (i.e. you're not pretty enough, thin enough, etc).

    As a physician/surgeon, I see people who can't pay $500 for their copay for a live-saving surgery but will pay $2000 cash to get cosmetic procedures such as varicose veins for the legs done (which is NOT covered by insurance). What I've also realized is that while there are definitely rich people who get cosmetic procedures done, they are not the majority (well, maybe in Beverly Hills). In most of the US, the people who get these procedures done are middle-income people. Now if you want to get things like this done to make you feel better/younger and you can afford it, I have no problem with that. BUT...if you are buried in credit card debt and can't pay your mortgage, you better be dealing with those things first. Perhaps we should be taking lessons from the rich since most of them became rich from hard work, guts, taking risks, and saving (very few inherited the money). What you will find is that many rich people are not as extravagent as we think. Yes, maybe they have a big house/nice car but they know how to manage money. Perhaps we as a country can learn from the rich.

    Just so tired of people not taking responsibility for their actions. We are a country of spend now and pay later and this recession will only scare people into saving...for a short time. Once the economy gets back on track, people will go back to their overspending ways. The USA is no longer on top of the hill and I think we will see that the next decade is really going to be a turning point for this country. There will no longer be a significant advantage to living here compared to a westernized European nation.

    March 10, 2010 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. HandsomeElvis

    Let's wait a few decades and see what happens to all you morons who are putting this junk into your body, all in the name of youth and beauty. You have no idea what health problems you're going to face.

    Botox while unemployed? That's paid for out of unemployment insurance, thanks to the largesse of the American taxpayer.

    March 10, 2010 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Michele

    We might choose to stop judging each other and take an inside look at the myriad ways in which our behavior belies our vaunted values. Is it really
    "better" to use the $500 toward a sea cruise, a vacation home, another
    gas guzzler, private school tuition for high school, and/or 52 weekly lottery tickets? I, for one, spent over $400 on bubble gum (I'm a collector, not
    a chewer or an investor) last year. Call me stupid or fun-loving and I'll answer. How about you?

    March 10, 2010 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Judy

    For an opinion on cosmetic surgery trends they ask a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon -home of the filthy rich and famous? Of course this group hasn't had to give up their vanity habits, as very few, if any in that region have been affected by the recession. It's unlikely a plastic surgeon from, say Michigan or Iowa would share Dr. Fleming's views.

    March 10, 2010 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. white Picket Fence

    Hey George, and the rest of you bashing on unattractive people... Although I am not ugly by any means, I have noticed that the more "symmetrical" a person is, the more shallow the character. And no matter what you do, there is no fountain of youth, and no amount of botox will stop you from getting old, and the older you get the more miserable you will be about your appearance. On the other hand, the less attractive will enjoy long, unencumbered lives without the stress of vanity.

    March 10, 2010 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. drben

    Nonsense I am a plastic surgeon in WI and I am busier than ever

    March 10, 2010 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Attia De Los Julios

    What's wrong spending my hard-earned money on what matters the most?: YES, ME. I've already spent YEARS studying, getting a degree working my butt off... So what if I want to spend my CASH on whatever elective surgery I want?

    Gorgeous house in wonderful location: check
    Luxury car: check
    Solid Bank accounts and ZERO debt: check
    Healthy, beautiful doggies who eat organic food and get routine vet and dental care: BIG CHECK
    International vacations at least once a year: BIG CHECK
    Designer purses, clothes and shoes: check!
    Stimulating the US and international economy: CHECK

    And of course, the problem I have is that no one believes all of the above because I look like I'm in my 20's! They think everything belongs to my parents! ha,ha,ha!

    BTW, Dr. Fleming in Bev Hills is the best artist in the world!
    Believe me... I travel... I know!

    March 25, 2010 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Jen Kon

    In this economy the best bang my buck was with Botox to reduce my wrinkles and look younger. I did it in New York City with Dr. William Greenberg at Skin Thera P Medical Spa on the upper eastside. I was scared to d othe botox but it didnt hurt ,and dr greenberg was great and i am very happy. I would recomend botox to anyone who wants to look younger with out going under the knife.. I will definitley go back and get more botox in 3 or 4 months and i will definitely get the botox at skin therap med spa.!!

    April 19, 2010 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Dr Bill Toth

    There is a less expensive, safer solution that addresses aging wrinkling skin at the genetic level. It was just released this year, Feb 2010. People don't mind getting old...they do mind getting ugly.
    Live with Intention.

    April 19, 2010 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. melissa

    I love botox and everyone in new york does too! We have to look great to compete for jobs, love, and the battle to stay young looking. I was also concern about price.. I got 25% off botox at Skin therap spa with Dr william Greenberg. I saved over 150.00 less than other places. I will pay the price of beauty and Botox in new york if I look this great.. just do botox and always look relaxed and happy.

    April 22, 2010 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Niamh Carter

    Our home business was really affected by the Economic recession, we have to cut jobs just to cover up our losses. fortunately, we have already recovered. |

    April 28, 2010 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 21, 2010 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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