As Debra Beasley approached age 57, she believed that her face was starting to look “a little haggard.” She needed a boost, something to rejuvenate not just her face, but her spirit, she says.
Beasley, of Farmville, Va., finally spoke to her longtime dermatologist, Dr. Yvonne Knight, about her concerns. Although she was nervous about undergoing cosmetic procedures, it wasn’t for a lack of faith in Knight, Beasley stressed. Rather, her concern was how her actions might be perceived
“I didn’t want people to think I was conceited,” said Beasley, a fair-skinned African-American professional who takes pride in her appearance. “Once I got over that first visit, I started to feel better.” So far Beasley has had Botox, Thermage and microdermabrasion treatments for her face
Beasley’s story isn’t unusual, suggests Knight, who has run a dermatology practice for more than 30 years in Richmond, and Dr. Pollard, a plastic surgeon in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. Improved technology, less stigma and a desire to look and feel their best are why more black women like Beasley are contributing to the $11.8 billion cosmetic procedure business.
More popular procedures include less invasive facial enhancements and dermatologic surgeries such as Botox, injectable fillers and chemical peels (dermabrasion), and more invasive surgeries such as liposuction, nose-reshaping and breast reductions. For face work, the average cost for Botox injections is $417, and a facelift is roughly $6,532, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Lipoplasty averages around $2,800, rhinoplasty is $4,277, and an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) is about $5,263. Insurance rarely covers the costs of such procedures.
In 2008, 907,141 African-Americans had cosmetic or plastic surgery procedures, or 8 percent of the total 11.8 million Americans having such surgeries, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. In 2002, the number was significantly lower, with just 375,025 African-Americans reported having cosmetic surgeries.
Meanwhile, Caucasians had 8.8 million or 73 percent of cosmetic and plastic surgeries in 2008, followed by Hispanics at 1.2 million or 10 percent. Women (92 percent) tend to seek cosmetic surgery more than men, reports the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
The increase among African-Americans who have cosmetic surgery doesn’t surprise Dr. Emily Pollard, who has been a plastic surgeon for 18 years. She became interested in the field when attending medical conferences as a child with her father who is also a surgeon.
Although perceptions linger that plastic surgery is something for “only rich Caucasian people,” it’s no longer true, said Pollard.
“I’ve found that every age group looks at themselves and say, ‘I would like to improve how I look’,” she said. “It has become more mainstream and there is no longer a stigma attached to it. There are so many good examples of natural looking procedures.”
Pollard said body contouring, breast lifts and eyelid surgeries are sought most by African-American women. She does not perform or nose surgeries because she believes it is too personal.
“What they see is not what I see,” she explained. “They see something different.”
“It’s our job to listen to them; I have said ‘no’ to some patients because they may be clinically depressed,” and not need anything altered. “That’s part of our job; we have to figure it out.”
Pollard said it’s important for patients to educate themselves and ensure their surgeons are board certified, and to establish a rapport with their doctors. Patients also should check out a surgeon’s reputation and the facilities where the procedure will take place. “Are they on staff at a local hospital?” and “Is the facility in a safe and clean environment?” should be asked.
Dr. Knight, a Richmond, Va. board certified dermatologist and an assistant clinical professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, offers similar advice to her patients. She also cautions patients to have realistic expectations about cosmetic procedures.
“Take it slowly, don’t jump into big procedures,” she said. “Understand the procedures and the risks.”
Knight attributes African-American women’s increased interest in cosmetic surgery to better marketing by companies aware of their growing numbers and influence. Advance research and technology have led to improved treatments and techniques with minor side effects.
“Society and the media have been quite instrumental in driving the quest for enhancement also,” Knight said. “Thus, there is more demand from Black women for techniques to enhance their appearance.”
Knight notes that younger black women in the 20s and 30s seek complexion texture smoothing and improvement of color tones (chemical peels and microdermabrasion).
“Women in their 40s add on Botox treatments to quiet exaggerated muscle movements and deep wrinkling of the face, while women in their 50s will also take advantage of fillers for furrows like smile lines,” she said. “Also, the entire spectrum of ages takes advantage of Thermage to tighten, firm, treat and prevent loosening skin. Sunken areas of the face and falling cheeks are some of the newer techniques for healthy women with thin bodies but with faces that are too thin.”
Knight’s patient, Debra Beasley, whose first procedure was Thermage, a skin tightening technique that uses radio-frequency technology to tighten the skin, fillers around her nose and Botox.
“I love it,” she says. “So many black women are reluctant to take advantage of resources that can really help us. I’m glad I did.”
Article Courtesy of The Grio