- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2009

Viva vanity.

Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the American population who are opting for a little nip and tuck. Disapproval of cosmetic surgery within that ethnic community has lessened while techniques that preserve distinctive Latin features have improved, say physicians.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported Wednesday that the number of Hispanics getting some improvement work done rose by 19 percent in the past year. The number of whites fell by 3 percent, however.

“We’re seeing a rise in Hispanics opting for cosmetic procedures that coincides with the growth we’re seeing in the nation’s population,” said Dr. John W. Canady, president of the Illinois-based group.

“There’s less social stigma, as well as advances in procedures that allow patients to maintain their ethnic look. While the majority of patients continue to be Caucasian, the profile of the typical patient is changing,” he said.

The most popular surgical procedure among Hispanics is liposuction, followed by breast enlargement and nose reshaping. More than 1.3 million had work done, compared with 8.8 million whites.

“I put off my vacation to do this. And I’m glad that I did it. Me being a Latina, it was very important for me to look natural,” said Raquel Laurent, 41, and of Mexican descent.

She recently had her skin resurfaced by laser and smile lines plumped with injectable filler. “No matter what the ethnic background is, it’s very important to feel better about yourself,” added Ms. Laurent, of Morris, Ill.

The trend has not gone unnoticed. The Rodeo Drive Rhinoplasty center in Beverly Hills, Calif., for example, offers a distinct “ethnic” nose reshaping for their clientele - more than half of which are nonwhites.

“It is best to address the noses of various ethnic groups such as African-Americans and Hispanics and Asians individually. ‘Cookie cutter’ approaches to rhinoplasty rarely work well, and this is especially the case with non-Caucasian nose surgery,” the group advises patients.

Dr. Tripti Burt, a plastic surgeon in Morris, said her fellow surgeons across the country are noticing an uptick in the number of Hispanic patients.

“They have a tightknit community. Word of mouth is very important to them, and it’s helping grow this business,” she said.

The number of blacks opting for cosmetic procedures is also growing, up by 10 percent; the number has increased by 5 percent among Asian-Americans, according to the newly released statistics.

Meanwhile, frugality trumps vanity: The bad economy has left some Americans with saggy guts, small breasts, droopy eyes, hairy skin and big noses. Fewer people are looking to surgery to correct imperfections.

The number of liposuctions has fallen by 19 percent in the past year. Tummy tucks have dropped by 18 percent. Breast augmentation is down by 12 percent, eyelid surgery by 8 percent, dermabrasion by 6 percent. Nose reshaping and laser hair removal are each down by 2 percent.

“Like most sectors, plastic surgery is feeling the effects of the economic downturn,” Dr. Canady observed.

And no wonder. Improving one’s appearance can prove a major financial consideration. The surgeon’s fee alone for a typical tummy tuck weighs in at about $5,200. A “buttock lift” is $4,700, breast implants about $3,300.

Americans spent $10.2 billion on such things in 2008, the group said, down from $12.4 billion in 2007.

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