African-Americans Increasingly Going Under the Knife in Quest for Perfection

Bonnie Davis, The Grio, February 16, 2010

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Beasley’s story isn’t unusual, suggests Knight [Dr. Yvonne Knight, a dermatologist], 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.

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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.

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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).

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