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Are You Ever Too Old for Plastic Surgery?

Are You Ever Too Old for Plastic Surgery? featured image
DESIREE MATTSSON/THE LICENSING PROJECT
This article first appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

Are you ever too old for plastic surgery? Doctors answer the question, and the responses share an underlying theme: As long as you’re healthy, it’s never too late.

Curve Ball

“We are all going to be living a lot longer than our parents and grandparents have, so we need to shift our thinking and let go of our preconceived biases about aging. The life expectancy curve in the U.S. is skyrocketing, and we are living much fuller and healthier lives. As long as they are in good medical condition, I believe that we are going to be operating on patients at a much older age.” —New York facial plastic surgeon Matthew White, MD

Support System

“Even though you’re older, it doesn’t mean that you don’t care about your appearance. I see patients in their 80s and even into their 90s who want to restore or improve their looks. If their goals are attainable and their health is good, age doesn’t matter. However, we must be extra careful with this more fragile population as their response to anesthetics can be sluggish. Ensuring that they have a robust support network is vital.”—Chicago plastic surgeon Peter Geldner, MD

Even as we age, it doesn’t mean we stop caring about our looks.

Small Fixes

“Less is more, whether you’re 90 or you’re 20—nobody wants to do the most invasive thing to get a dramatic outcome, especially when they’re older. I have many 80- or 90-year-old patients who want to look 60 or 70, and by using a noninvasive method, that can be viable. If there are issues that are bothering the patient that we can’t solve noninvasively, there’s also no age cutoff for a bigger fix.”—New York dermatologist Orit Markowitz, MD

Patient Checklist

“I tell patients that chronological age is not the determinant for surgery. The most important factor to look at is biological age. A few questions I always ask myself: Does the patient have aging changes that are able to be fixed through surgery? If so, is the patient healthy enough to have a surgical procedure? Is the patient fit? Can they walk up two flights of stairs? Is there any history of stroke or heart disease?” —Stanford, CA facial plastic surgeon Sam P. Most, MD

Numbers Game

“When it comes to plastic surgery, age is just a number. A patient’s psychological and physical health are considered first as we choose the type of procedures they require. For instance, an elderly patient who is healthy and not overweight may be an excellent candidate for a procedure such as a blepharoplasty. Conversely, a younger diabetic female may not be the best candidate for a tummy tuck.”—San Jose, CA plastic surgeon Kirk Churukian, MD

Health First

“Today, it is much more common to operate on people in their mid-80s and beyond. People are living longer, healthier lives. If the patient is of sound mind and has reasonable concerns that the surgeon can address safely, they are an appropriate candidate. Remember: There are people in their 50s who may be younger, but unhealthy. We are physicians first and must be certain that each patient, regardless of their age, is optimized for these elective procedures.”—Pittsburgh plastic surgeon Leo R. McCafferty, MD

In Evidence

“There is a July 2021 study from Mayo Clinic that compares the average age of death for people who had facelifts with those who didn’t, and those who did lived about 10 years longer. The reason for this is because, when they looked in the mirror, they felt more comfortable with themselves and were, therefore, less stressed and more social. All of this has a tremendous emotional impact on aging, so there’s documented evidence that facelifts not only promote a tremendous physical change, but also an emotional change. Good physicians are aware of this and they screen out patients who are not appropriate.” —La Jolla, CA plastic surgeon Robert Singer, MD

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