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Vanity vs Aging?

Is cosmetic surgery always about vanity? Is it about self- awareness and looking as good as you feel? is it about self-confidence ? Or is it about trying to be a different version of ourselves?

I was at a cocktail party and the usual small talk led to asking what I do for a living. My answer that I am a Facial Plastic Surgeon led one gentleman to comment- so you work mostly for vanity do you?

That got me thinking about vanity vs. aging- the definition of vanity is ‘excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.’ (Google definition) Thinking about my patients, this is never the reason for proceeding with a facelift. There is rarely a discussion about how gorgeous they are and they want to enhance their looks. The conversations usually hover around how tired they look, how they don’t feel as old as they look, how the inside age does not match the outside appearance. Another patient this week stated after her facelift- that when she was younger, she swore she would never go ‘under the knife’- however, when her neck started to fall, she didn’t see any other option.

This is the best part about what I do as a surgeon who specializes in facelifts– my patients are usually 50’s and over and their motivations are very different from my younger patients looking for celebrity lips or celebrity ‘name any other body part’. That’s why when facial plastic surgeons discuss facelifts or eyelid surgery, it falls under the category of the ‘Aging Face’- treatments designed to slow down or turn back the clock, based upon anatomic studies of how the face and neck ages.

Aging face concerns are quite similar- “Dr. Madnani, one day I looked in the mirror and my face fell.” “My eyes make me appear so tired”- its never- “Dr. Madnani, I want my face to look like so-so movie star”.

Jane Fonda has a TED* talk on aging referring to her current phase as her third act. She points out that we all currently live on average 34 years longer than our great grand parents- this is a whole other lifetime. She said. “We need to revise how we think of aging,” says Fonda. “The old paradigm was: You’re born, you peak at midlife, and then you decline into decrepitude. Looking at aging as ascending a staircase, you gain well-being, spirit, soul, wisdom, the ability to be truly intimate and a life with intention.” Ms. Fonda has openly discussed her facial cosmetic surgery- “I felt pretty terrific, but I always looked tired,” she says. “I got tired of not looking like how I felt.” Going the plastic surgery route isn’t for everyone, but spending time on your appearance at every age will project inner beauty.

Aging gracefully? Does that mean without intervention or with intervention?  Depends who you ask… or does it depend on who you tell?
*(TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas in the form of short powerful talks)