Can’t handle heels? Doctors can now modify your feet to make stilettos more bearable. (Corbis Images)
Every few years, the plastic surgery cycle repeats itself: A hot new procedure sweeps onto the scene, promising to blast more fat or deliver perkier breasts than previously thought possible.
“After being in this practice for almost 40 years, I’ve seen new things come and go,” says Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. “There are only a few things that have really stuck on and that have actually gotten better as time goes on.”
Even so, the public continues to be swayed by trendy treatments — and in recent years, Ellenbogen has observed an interesting shift in popular procedures: “Generally, people are now demanding something that looks real,” he says. “However, there’s an equal number of people who want to look fake. They want to look like they’ve had a facelift. There are even people who want their tongues split to look like a snake.” This is what he calls “the lunatic fringe of plastic surgery,” the sometimes-bizarre procedures that he often feels torn about performing.
So which crazy cosmetic treatments — some effective, others not — have recently invaded America? Read on to find out.
Can’t squeeze your tootsies into a pair of stilettos? Most women would just switch to comfy shoes — but for some, plastic surgery is the obvious solution. In fact, after seeing a number of women who complained of foot pain when wearing stylish shoes, Dr. Ali Sadrieh, a podiatrist in Beverly Hills, developed what he calls “Cinderella surgery,” where he removes bunions to make wearing high heels more bearable. Similarly, Dr. Neil Blitz in New York City offers the “Bunionplasty,” most recently in the news after a 35-year-old flight attendant had the procedure to save herself from wearing flats out at night.
Thigh Gap Therapy
The thigh gap — that space between supermodels’ legs that many women aspire to — is purely a product of build (skinny with wide hips), but that hasn’t stopped some women from trying to achieve it. And Thrive, a clinic in Dallas, Texas, has capitalized on this alarming body obsession by offering “Thigh Gap Therapy,” cold laser treatments designed to zap any extra cushioning between the thighs, using a device called the Zerona.
As the clinic’s owner, Clint Herzog, told CBS, “Everybody has one part of your body that it’s really hard to get rid of. And that’s where Zerona comes in. The laser goes in and it basically emulsifies that outside layer of fat, and allows it to exit out of your lymphatic system.” The FDA approved Zerona in 2010, making it the first device cleared for circumferential reduction (a decrease in size of treatment areas), although there’s some speculation that is simply redistributes fluids.
As scientific as that sounds, keep in mind, FDA clearance doesn’t mean a device is effective. In fact, Ellenbogen is a skeptic: “[The makers of Zerona] sold it to a lot of doctors — they had a lot of steak dinners,” he tells Yahoo Health. “Basically, it doesn’t work.” This is a common problem in the plastic-surgery world: “As soon as they sell these machines and they start to see complications — or they don’t work — they have the new, improved XL model. The wheel has been introduced a million times over.”
Not satisfied with your lashes? Eyelash transplants are one of the crazy cosmetic procedures Americans are trying. (Corbis Images)
Originally developed as a treatment for burn victims, eyelash transplants are now available to anyone who wants fuller fringe. “There’s only a few people who do them,” says Ellenbogen. “They’re very hard to do.” However, when performed properly, the results are impressive, though there is a downside to the procedure: “The hair continues to grow, so you have to actually cut your eyelashes,” he says.
That’s because the transplanted hair comes from your head — specifically, the back of your scalp. Patients with wavy hair usually yield the best lashes, since their hair naturally curls, Dr. Alan Bauman, a hair-restoration expert who performs the procedure, told W Magazine.
It’s not just women who worry about below-the-belt grooming: A non-surgical procedure known as “ball ironing” — which George Clooney has joked about getting — is supposed to help guys look younger…down there. One spa lets men pick from a buffet of options: laser hair removal, tightening of the scrotal skin, evening out any discoloration, and removal of skin tags. The procedure is “basically a facial for the area,” according to the spa’s website.
“There are places out here in L.A. where all the porn stars go — where the women get their Brazilians,” says Ellenbogen. “They also use this laser on the scrotum [of male porn stars] to take out the hair, so it’s much smoother.”
Although this is technically a cosmetic surgery — it involves “putting the ear back together” for people with tribal piercings or gauges, says Ellobogen — patients often seek it for a reason other than vanity: Earlier this year, the U.S. Army banned ear gauging of 1.6 millimeters or larger, which means military hopefuls are going under the knife to undo previous piercings, according to CBS News.
Feel conspicuously flat chested in your bikini? Want to fill out your wedding dress a little more? Within the next couple of years, women may be able to temporarily perk up their chests for special occasions. Dr. Norman Rowe, a plastic surgeon in NYC, is developing what he calls “vacation breasts,” a spin-off of his famous 24-hour breast enlargement procedure. Using a liquid injectable, Rowe will pump up patients’ breasts, a temporary boost that will last two to three weeks; he anticipates debuting the procedure in 2016.
“It’s an interesting idea, but to me, the breast is holy,” says Ellenbogen. “There are so many things that cause breast cancer and cysts in the breasts, I personally think breasts should be left alone. Implants are OK, fat injections are being done, but liquid that lasts [a few weeks]? Forget about it.” Although Rowe hasn’t revealed what his liquid enhancer contains — which means it’s impossible to know the risks, if any, associated with it — Ellenbogen speculates that he’s using hyaluronic acid, the same stuff found in facial fillers like Juvederm and Restalyn.
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