Would You Gift Plastic Surgery for the Holidays?

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Would You Gift Plastic Surgery for the Holidays? featured image

Whether you’re a last-minute gift-giver or already have all your holiday shopping done, finding that perfect gift for friends and family members can be somewhat of a fine art. Getting that “just-right” present is a great feeling (for both parties), but has it ever crossed your mind that your recipient might want something that goes beyond the “put it in a box and tie a bow on it” route and is ready for something really personalized?

A study by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has numbers that might lend a hand: According to the survey, 27 percent of women say they would want to receive a plastic surgery procedure as a gift, while 32 percent say they are open to the idea. Likewise, 20 percent of surveyed men say they would want to receive a plastic surgery procedure as a gift, while 26 percent of men said they are open to the idea. The lineup for what’s popular: The most commonly gifted procedures are liposuction (17 percent), tummy tuck (11 percent), facelift (11 percent) and Botox Cosmetic/fillers (11 percent).

What’s more, the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) reports that cosmetic treatments and surgeries typically increase by about 25 percent starting from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve, with an overall rise in people purchasing gift certificates for facial rejuvenation treatments for a spouse, parent, sister or friend.

Pre-COVID, New York plastic surgeon Stafford Broumand, MD, says that, while the “trend” of gifting someone with plastic surgery during the holidays is not new, it is becoming more and more prevalent. “Spouses and significant others are gifting services such as Botox treatments for wrinkles and sweating, filler for facial creases, ultrasound skin tightening, and also potential surgeries after a consultation for neck lipo, body lipo and eyelid surgery, much more frequently recently,” he says, and adds that one new gifting request he’s seen really take off is CoolSculpting. “In addition to surgical or injectable treatments, skin care treatments like peels and physician-grade cosmeceutical products are also well-received as gifts,” says San Diego plastic surgeon Joseph L. Grzeskiewicz, MD, who has been selling gift cards at his practice for almost a decade.

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“The trend toward gifting plastic surgery is definitely something that has been going on for quite some time,” Troy, MI, plastic surgeon Anthony Youn, MD, says, and points out that, historically, the holidays are actually the busiest time for plastic surgery. “So many people use the time off to recuperate from surgery. We see a huge increase in the number of people having surgery due to the time off, and people having injections and noninvasive treatments to look good for holiday parties.” 

From a financial standpoint, Dr. Grzeskiewicz points to the fact that many people have flexible spending accounts for health care with “use it or lose it” benefits at the end of the calendar year, and they may choose to undergo a procedure with those funds—as long as it meets eligibility criteria. “It’s also the end of the fiscal year for many people, and their overall financial and tax planning may include spending for cosmetic surgery for themselves or a loved one.”

So, the big question: How does someone typically go about doing this? According to Dr. Broumand, the gift-givers are typically “friends” of the office already and they want their significant other to “improve” their looks. “They inquire when they come for their own personal treatments.”

To break it down, Dr. Grzeskiewicz’s office typically sees the gift being given in two ways: The practice sells the card with a designated value, then the recipient can redeem it for any indicated procedure or product he or she chooses within that value. “Or the giver of the gift actually accompanies the recipient to consultations—and maybe even surgery—and pays the fees for the procedure directly. More often than not it is a family member or a close personal friend that is giving such a gift. Considering the very personal nature of plastic surgery, this is understandable.”

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Of course, not all procedures are good gifts for all people. “One of the most important things to remember about surgical, as well as minimally invasive procedures like fillers and Botox, is that they should only be done when indicated,” Dr. Grzeskiewicz says. “Each person contemplating a particular procedure must be evaluated by a qualified surgeon to determine the need for treatment and the scope of the procedure. This makes it a little difficult to just indiscriminately give a specific procedure to someone if they either don’t need it or don’t want it. In those instances in which a gift recipient might be undecided about a procedure, or if the gift is a ‘secret,’ and the recipient doesn’t know that he or she is getting it, giving gift cards with simply a dollar amount but no defined procedure attached makes the most sense.”

It may go without saying, but, regardless of what you have in mind, Dr. Youn stresses that the key to giving plastic surgery as a gift is making sure the recipient actually WANTS the surgery or procedure. 

“It is absolutely mandatory that the recipient state that he or she definitely wants it, otherwise gifting a procedure to someone who doesn’t want it could create some very bad feelings.”

Pasadena, CA plastic surgeon Lily Lee, MD concurs, and goes as far to call it an “extremely intimate thing.”

“Not only are you saying that, ‘I know you well enough to know that this is something you really want,’ but you are also implicitly saying, ‘I am going to support and help you through the entire process.’ That’s a huge message in my opinion.”

Plus, on an even more personal and timely level, Dr. Lee warns, you may be testing (or strengthening) the ties of any given relationship. “This pandemic has brought on a culture of social-distancing and has really defined relationships—by both bringing people closer or showing them that maybe the relationship isn’t meant to be. This year, unlike previous years, we are finding that we are not competing as much with travel and luxury clothing. People are finding that they have more disposable income to spend on facial beauty that shows up on a screen or long last surgical needs that they can show off later when the pandemic is under control.”

While Dr. Lee’s practice has always done holiday gift cards, the current landscape has called for some revisions as the year rounds out. “This year, I decided not to print or make any more physical cards. We have some available for people who might still want something to wrap and open, but everything has gone digital, which has mainly been spurred on by the COVID era. Getting a gift card with us is as easy as making an online purchase. If you have a credit card and email, we can do it!”

Scottsdale, AZ facial plastic surgeon Kelly V., Bomer, MD says she is also a proponent of the gift card–only route.

“I don’t think gifting surgery [itself] is a good idea. It is a very personal decision that involves a team approach between patient, surgeon and the surgeon’s support staff. If it is gifted, the commitment to that relationship is often not strong enough and can affect the outcome negatively. This opinion is from years of experience as a facial plastic surgeon.”

“I do think giving a gift card towards services at a desired cosmetic surgery office is a better way to gift,” she adds. “Then, the patient can make personal decisions as to exactly what they would like to commit to.”

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