Sweet Blade of Youth: Canadian cosmetic surgeons are slicing inches off Baby Boomers. But doctors in Costa Rica and Poland will slash a lot more off the price

by Amber Nasrulla

source: Financial Post DataGroup

November 18, 2000

Claudio de Lorenzi is a plastic surgeon whose business just keeps getting better. A bulge of Baby Boomers, men and women, with wallets about as bulky as their waistlines, come through his doors, willing to pluck down wads of cash to wipe out wrinkles, plump up lips and lift droopy eyelids.

Dr. de Lorenzi, 43, knows how many -- if not all -- of his patients feel. Every three or four months, he, too, has facial touch ups involving botox injections -- shots of botulinum toxin A -- in order to smooth out the fine lines around his mouth. 'When I don't [get botox injections], it looks like I'm frowning all the time,' laughs the Kitchener, Ont., plastic surgeon. 'I look really mean.'

And, evidence suggests, more people like Dr. de Lorenzi are willing to get in line with models, actors and actresses, such as Canada's own Pamela Anderson, and pay to look good (or less mean) -- whether it costs $300 for a botox injection or as much as $7,000 for a complete facelift.

Although neither Statistics Canada nor the Canadian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (CSAPS) log numbers, it's widely accepted that Canadian trends mimic those south of the border, says Dr. de Lorenzi, who happens to be the plastic surgery society's current president.

And what's been happening in cosmetic surgery circles in the United States? Statistics indicate that demand more than doubled between 1997 and 1999 (about 4.6 million surgical and non-surgical procedures were undertaken last year).

'It's like renovating. You like yourself but not the packaging,' explains Dr. Elizabeth Hall-Findlay, a plastic surgeon in Banff, Alta., on the popularity of cosmetic procedures. 'And technology has allowed us to offer more solutions.'

In fact, plastic surgeons around the planet are able to do more, for less, thanks to advances in technology. For example, skin resurfacing has blossomed because of laser technology, Dr. Hall-Findlay says. In that procedure, which costs roughly $4,000, a light beam vaporizes the top layers of the skin to reduce, or eliminate, wrinkles, scars and birthmarks. Procedures like this are less painful than previously used methods and patients recover faster.

Moreover, cosmetic surgery has never been safer or easier, Dr. de Lorenzi says, and there's no need to go into solitary confinement to recover. Clients drop in to their surgeon's offices over lunch for botox or collagen injections and are back at the office in time for that crucial afternoon meeting.

Foreigners are coming to Canada for quick treatments. Robert Stubbs, a renowned plastic surgeon in Toronto who is recognized for his revolutionary cosmetic sexual surgery, such as lengthening penises and reshaping female genitalia, says that foreigners account for roughly 10% of his practice.

People from the United States, Hong Kong, Bermuda, Iran, the Philippines and Europe seek out his services, he says, for three reasons: 'Price, location and quality control.' Dr. Stubbs calls it health tourism -- where healthy people who want to improve their quality of life or looks seek out bargain locales. Foreigners like Canada because of the weak dollar -- they save on surgical fees as well as hotel costs.

Nevertheless, a number of Canadians do seek plastic surgery abroad, in places such as Poland or Costa Rica, where it's possible to save up to 50% on some procedures. Rodrigo Araya, a plastic surgeon whose clinic is just outside San Jose, Costa Rica, estimates that 12% of his patients come from Canada, even though his clinic is considered pricey. Although these people don't always save big bucks, he acknowledges, they can boast about the benefits of being in a fabulous sunny place to vacation -- and recover.

Just as fees around the world vary, so do trends. In Brazil, cosmetic surgery is at an all-time high. Edwardo Bolivar de Souza Pinto, head of the plastic surgery department at the Universidade Santa Cecilia in Santos, says Brazilian women spend a lot of time on the beach and are under enormous pressure to look good from all angles. Hence the latest boom -- fat injections on the bottom. 'Brazilian girls like big buttocks. They want [their backsides] to be curvy and to be full.'

Dr. Pinto adds that the most popular surgery in Brazil (as in Canada) is breast augmentation, followed by liposuction and body contouring.

Of all the cosmetic surgery seekers, Baby Boomers are leading the pack. 'The entire volume of procedures has gone up due to demographics,' Dr. de Lorenzi says, explaining that the 50-plus age group is dominating the market with demands for facelifts and eyelid lifts.

'[The boomers] have gone to school, paid off their mortgages and now they want to look after themselves,' Dr. de Lorenzi explains, adding that the results from a successful surgery 'last a lot longer than a cruise.'

But it's not just Baby Boomers. Dr. de Lorenzi says he's treated women aged 20 to 35 who were willing to hand over the $5,500 required for new mammalian protuberances. And Dr. Hall-Findlay says she recently performed a breast augmentation on a 70-year-old widow. She, apparently, was delighted with the rotund additions.

'She liked to go on cruises and do the dancing the whole bit. She was thrilled with her new breasts. She has a healthy attitude -- she did it for herself.'


Standard fees across Canada

BLEPHAROPLASTY Perkier eyelids for $5,000 ($2,500 for upper lids; $2,500 for lower lids)

Rhinoplasty A new nose costs $4,000

OTOPLASTY Trim large ears for $3,000

LIP AUGMENTATION Plump, pillowy smackers for $300 and up

BOTOX Smooth the skin and reduce fine, facial lines for $300

FACELIFT The works for $7,500 and up

DERMABRASION Facial sanding to treat scars $2,000

LASER RESURFACING $4,000 for full face BREAST AUGMENTATION Goodbye to the saggers for $5,500


LIPOSUCTION No more cottage cheese thighs $1,800 per area


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