Heidi Montag Addicted to Plastic Surgery: How much is too much?

The tabloids have been ablaze about a 23 year old B list reality show star who had 10 simultaneous cosmetic surgery procedures.  How could a 23 year old have any cosmetic surgery, let alone 10 procedures on the same day?  Ms. Montag responded that she is in the entertainment business and she needs these assets to ply her trade.  I have to give her credit in that she actually responds quite intelligibly to the sharp pointed questions from her interviewers.  She seems to see the situation no less different that an athlete who comprehensively trains in all aspects of physical demands to become and remain competitive in their sport.  The difference here after all is that thousands of athletes train and that is normal, but few 23 year olds have 10 cosmetic surgery procedures in a day.  Heidi, this is unusual! 

Heidi certainly got more than her proverbial 15 minutes in the spotlight so from a media aspect, her decision paid off.  Does she look better?  Well, she looked pretty darn good before her surgery so the improvement was minimal by my eye, but for Heidi, it was night and day.  What really looms here is the bigger question; why does our society place so much emphasis on physical attributes that young people feel a need for major body alteration to pursue perfection?  Being a cosmetic surgeon this trend is in my best interest, but it is nonetheless disturbing and I witness it first hand on a weekly basis.  Over the past decade, the Internet has thrust my business from a local to a global platform.  Where in the past, I rarely saw patients from out of town, I know see many from out of state and out of the country.  Although I consider this an honor, it also brings many young patients to my doorstep with extremely unrealistic expectations and accompanying psychological problems.  I have young men and women (in their 20’s and 30’s) that have had 5 and 6 cosmetic facial procedures and are bent on a quest to emulate a celebrity or starlet.  I recently saw a 19 year old who wanted a browlift, a mini facelift and cheek and chin implants!  I obviously refused this surgery but I really felt bad for this guy because he has severe body dysmorphic syndrome and is headed for a lifetime of unhappiness.  With my big old bald head, I am no double for Brad Pitt, nor aspire to be, but I continually see male and female patients that bring in celebrity photos and want Arnold’s jaw, or Johnny Depp’s cheeks or Brittany’s eyes.  They bring in pictures and have also taken the time to Photoshop their own face into an anticipated outcome.  Some surgeons may relish this opportunity, but I cannot in good conscious or ethics get sucked or trapped into this situation for several reasons.  One, they usually don’t need the surgery.  Granted I have performed facial implants or ear pinning on younger patients, but these were procedures that could be reversed or that truly had merit.  Another reason not to operate on this young age group is that they aren’t happy now and won’t be happy in the future.  They will be unhappy with themselves and I will by default become the next “bad” surgeon and get assassinated on the cosmetic surgery chat sites.  I have seen numerous healthy younger patients that have been disfigured by Dr. Givemeadollar and they look extremely unnatural. Don’t get me wrong, some young patients will benefit aesthetically and gain self esteem by having a nasal hump reduced or enhancing a weak chin, but these young patients are not the problem.  It is the patient who is seeking aesthetic enhancement for the wrong reasons.  Some people think they are ugly and are not.  Others see it as a way to gain attention and yet others have a serious issue with other aspect of their life and are attempting to compensate.

It is difficult for a surgeon to say no, but good ones do it weekly.  Unfortunately there are many cosmetic surgeons with open schedules and when a patient is standing in front of them waving money, they can’t say no.  Most younger surgeons will make this mistake once or twice until they see comprehensive picture of this unfortunate cycle.  I have patients get mad at me because I refused to operate and have seen others who I turned down return several years later begging for correction of disfigurement from the surgeons that said yes.  With experience, a surgeon can “feel” the legitimacy or lack thereof associated with patients.  Like good detectives who can tell if a suspect is lying by body language or appropriateness,  experienced surgeons can tell if a prospective case is a good fit or not.  Again this may be more difficult for the novice surgeon but after several unfavorable experiences they become savvy.  I love cosmetic surgery and I love the energy and exuberance of young patients and for years performed a lot of reconstructive surgery on this population.  I feel a responsibility for what I do and I don’t want to bear the burden of pointing a young patient down a path that I would not want my own family to follow.

Back to Heidi.  I frequently see patients that have their hair colored, wear colored contact lenses, have fake eyelashes, dental veneers, tanning bed tans, breast implants and artificial nails.  Now they are seeking cosmetic surgery at an age too young.  We all like to look good and believe me if I could get hair as easy as some patients get surgery, I would be combing it now!  There just needs to be a basis of acceptance of one’s real self, we all need to be somewhat grounded and here is where the biggest problem lies.  Heidi may look hot now, but someday, she is going to be saggy and wrinkled.  We can’t avoid it.  It is all a result of having birthdays.  When a person puts their entire self esteem in physical attributes, it is a losing game because they are not always going to be attractive.  They are going to age and there will be other beauties out there stealing the limelight.  When all you have is artificial beauty, there is nothing to fall back on because, your happiness will be temporary.  Look at yesterday’s icons.  We are harsh on our celebrities and idols because we expect them to be eternally youthful and when they age, the same media that put them on a pedestal crushes them for being wrinkled, grey or overweight.  They have been cast from one end of the beauty scale to the other, very often with severe psychological determent.  Beauty is youth and youth is temporary.  This is not to say that we cannot be attractive seniors, we all know men and women in their 60’s and 70’s that are truly beautiful people.  That beauty however is usually well coupled with non physical attributes such as self confidence, personality and simply staying fit.  High school reunions can be brutal testament to prom queens and quarterbacks that bear no resemblance to the popularity that embraced them year ago.

My message to younger patients that are wondering too far in cosmetic land is to find peace within.  Sure, it is OK to improve minor distinct deficiencies, even at a younger age, we all want to feel good about ourselves.  But remember, beauty is only skin deep and 20 cosmetic surgeries won’t make up for psychosocial deficiencies.  It is hard to undo bad or unnecessary cosmetic facial surgery and I have seen too many people that were unhappy with their appearance regret their actions and wish they could revert back to their natural look.  It wasn’t really that bad.  For younger surgeons that may be struggling to keep a full schedule, always remember that the best way to become busy is to make the best decisions for your patients.  Be ethical, treat them better than anybody else and say no to those who seek cosmetic surgery for the incorrect reasons.  That reputation will catch up to you and you will become busy the right way…….by serving your patients in their best interest.

To find out more about Dr. Joe Niamtu and cosmetic facial plastic surgery in Richmond, Virginia visit www.lovethatface.com

Joe Niamtu, III DMD

Cosmetic Facial Surgery

Richmond, Virginia

www.lovethtface.com