Bad recession only dented quest for good looks
The sagging U.S. economy didn’t do much to reduce the demand for youthful looks. Americans put off surgery to make breasts larger and waistlines smaller, but they couldn’t resist the lure of fuller lips and fewer wrinkles. The steep recession brought a mere 2 percent cut in cosmetic procedures last year. Vanity spending seems to have become a necessity.
The plastic surgery industry has been amply augmented. In 1997, when Botox was still botulinum toxin and to be avoided, doctors performed just 2.1 million cosmetic procedures. Last year, they did nearly 10 million of them, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
The decline in procedures was sharper during the much milder recession of 2002, a sign that artificially good looks have become an entrenched part of the economy. Americans paid out $10.5 billion to sculpt their noses, laser their hair and the like, or roughly the same as they do for music.
The resilient “me economy” can be seen elsewhere too. Couples spent 10 percent less on their weddings in 2009. But the savings came from spending on others: fewer guests and cheaper food, according to research firm The Wedding Network. Brides didn’t scrimp on themselves, though. They splashed out more for their nuptial gowns and photographers, despite the worst downturn in generations.
As far as the plastic looks go, conceit seems to be crossing with a new development of the sexual revolution. Procedures on women declined 3 percent last year, but males subjected themselves to needles and knives 8 percent more times. It’s also a safe bet that as economic worries fade, even more attention will be paid by both genders to all those unbearably flabby thighs, big tummies and creased brows.