“Under The Knife
Everybody’s Doing It”
By Cara Birnbaum
What was once the surgical conceit of self-conscious socialites has become all but routine among suburban moms- an even dads. The day has come when cosmetic surgery is ready for its close-up.
Gloria, a 75- year-old homemaker from Verona, has discovered the fountain of youth. It flows from a nondescript office building on the edge of West Orange. The Neigel Center for cosmetic And Laser Surgery occupies a sprawling suite on the second floor, where Gloria is now a regular. Since first meeting oculofacial plastic surgeon Janet Neigel, Gloria has relaxed the lines around her forehead and eyes with Botox injections and plumped the deeper grooves around her mought and chin with the spongy new wrinkle-filler Restylane. Last time she came to the center, she berought a friend. “She can’t wait to make an appointment here,” says Gloria, whose next visit, in tow months, is already on the books. “She knows there’s hope for her.”
This year, tens of thousands of people are finding hope-in the Botox needle, in the laser, and in the scalpel. From 2003 to 2004, the number of surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures performed nationally increased by 44 percent, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. (Yet such procedures still carry some social stigma; like Gloria, the other patients quoted in this story declined to use their real names.) The society estimates that Americans spent $12.5 billion on plastic surgery procedures last year, an increase of $3.1 billion (or 33 percent) from 2003. And while no one tracks specific figures for New Jersey, by all accounts the state has become a mecca for those desiring a little nip here and little tuck there. When plastic and reconstructive surgeion Caroline Glicksman opened her office in Sea Girt fourteen years ago, she says, about 5 plastic surgeons practiced in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Today, she says, there are more than 30.
Women account for most of the patients that doctors see, but more husbands, brothers, and fathers are trickling into waiting rooms. From 2002 to 2003, the number of cosmetic procedures performed on men increased by 31 percent, with liposuction, rhinoplasty, and eyelid surgery the top procedures. “There’s no question- I’m getting more male patients,” Neigel says. “I have a husband and wife who come here. Neither one knows the other is the patient. We have to make sure not to schedule them at the same time.”
Cosmetic surgery used to be a luxury for which New Jerseyans were perfectly willing to cross state lines. A tasteful nose, like an Hermes bag, was something one typically bought in Manhattan. Snobbery aside, most people presumed that the best doctos practiced in New York and Philadelphia. When facial ploastic surgeion Alvin Glasgold finished his medical residency at Columbia University more than 30 years ago, colleagues advised him to remain on the east back of the Hudson. Instead, he tacked up his shingle in Highland Park and began, as he says, “fighting the flow of patients from New Jersey to Manhattan.”
Glasgold stayed put, raised a family in town, and partnered with his two sons, Mark and Robert, currently attending physicians at Roberrt Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. And while he also has an office on Manhattan’s Park Avenue, his practice seems centered squarely on the New Jersey side of the river. “That flow to Manhattan has reversed,” says Glasgold, whose roster of patients includes a few European commuters. “Today I operated on a girl from Long Island. Last Thursday we had someone from Newburgh [New York]. These people had the option of coming to see us on Park Avenue.”
Why forgo a Park Avenue appointment for one in Highland Park or Sea Girt or West Orange? For starters, New Jersey’s mushrooming network of teaching hospitals, medical research labs, and pharmaceutical companies have dispelled any doubts about the quality of local healthcare. The New York metro region, which includes much of New Jersey, produces some of the most progressive plastic surgeons in the country, according to John J. Connolly, co-author of the annual America’s Cosmetic Doctors and Dentists.
One of Mark Glasgold’s techniques, which he often perform along with a face-lift, involves fat transfer- suctioning fat from one part of the body and injecting it into the cheeks or benieath the eyes. It’s a relatively new method that promises to replace the taut “cat-woman” face-lift. But Glasgold says it’s not a trend that’s taken hold across the Hudson. “New York has been dominated by a few high-profile surgeons who have pretty much been doing the same thing for 30 years,” he says. “Every patient who comes to my practice say, ‘I don’t want to look like a New York face-lift.”