Most people have facial plastic surgery because they're hoping to shave a decade or so off their perceived age. But a new study published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery has found that the average amount of "years saved" is only three —and we're not talking dog years.
"Typically, we tend to tell patients they'll look less tired and more refreshed and try not to overpromise and say 'You'll look X years younger,' because we don't want to create unrealistic expectations," says Dr. A. Joshua Zimm, a Manhattan plastic surgeon and one of the co-authors.
The study, he says, was an attempt to "scientifically quantify the degree of change in someone's age as perceived by a lay person."
In other words, they were looking for the brutal honesty of strangers.
Toward that end, Zimm and four colleagues tracked 204 facial plastic surgery patients, all of whom had opted for primary facial surgical procedures such as face-lifts, neck-lifts, upper or lower blepharoplasty (eye-lifts) and brow-lifts at the same Toronto plastic surgery clinic.
Out of the 204, 12 men and 37 women met the criteria for the study. These 49 subjects, who ranged in age from 42 to 73, had a series of photos taken before and after their surgery. Makeup and jewelry, which the study refers to as "confounding variables," were not allowed in either the before or after shots.
Photos were all taken by lead author Dr. Peter Adamson, who also performed the plastic surgery, using the same standardized background, the same camera and the same type of photography techniques.
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A group of 50 "raters," primarily made up of hospital workers and lay people recruited from the community, were then asked to estimate and record the age of the patients in the before and after photographs. They were also asked to rate the patient's attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the top ranking (as always).