Plus, he says, it sometimes takes years before these patients actually feel comfortable with their decision. "I'll ask patients how long they've been thinking about it ... invariably, they'll say a couple of years."
But it appears the next generation down -- the mid-baby boomers -- is coming to those decisions more quickly.
"There's no doubt over the years we've seen a shift with rejuvenation procedures to younger age groups," Earhardt says. "The other piece of this is 20 years ago, we had a limited number of things we could do. We didn't have lasers or liposuction. There's been an incredible evolution in cosmetic surgery."
And it's paid off for patients and practitioners, with a 175% increase in cosmetic procedures being recorded between 1992 and 1999, Earhardt says. The most common procedures: liposuction for both men and woman, eyelid surgery for men, and breast augmentation for women.
Whatever their reasons for seeking it out, those who have undergone plastic surgery don't necessarily perceive themselves as being more attractive than those people who haven't had anything done. On a scale of 1 to 10, cosmetic surgery recipients rated their attractiveness at about the same level as most other Americans.
"Asked at what age they reached -- or will reach -- their peak of physical attractiveness, men and women alike say it is (or will be) not during their youth, but in their early middle age (38 years old, on average). Interestingly, as they get older, they think their peak of attractiveness is older, too," the authors write.
For more information from the AARP on boomer issues, visit www.mygeneration.org/.