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Turning Back Time

New Face, New Outlook

Truths About Recovery

As promising as some of the new cosmetic surgeries are, however, it takes time to recover from them.

For the first few days after a facelift, "you look like you've been in a car crash," says Kron. She warns people to cancel all social contacts for at least two weeks. People also should plan on going into social hibernation for two weeks after laser resurfacing, since the treated skin swells, turns bright red like a sunburn, and oozes and crusts like a blister.

"It used to take a month to heal. Now it takes a couple of weeks," says Kenneth Arndt, MD, a professor of dermatology at Harvard School of Medicine. Improvements in lasers and techniques, as well as better wound dressings, reduce pain and healing time, Arndt tells WebMD.

After an eyelift, healing takes several weeks, and eyelids may droop. Headaches, bruising, or pain may follow Botox injections, but these are usually mild and short-lived.

Overall, older people approved for cosmetic surgery should not have significant healing problems, doctors say.

To maximize results of cosmetic surgery, surgeons tell patients to give up smoking. "Even if you don't care about heart disease, lung cancer, or emphysema, smoking is bad for your skin," Kinney says. "If you have any vanity at all, quit smoking."

Whatever their age, anyone considering plastic surgery should be realistic. After cosmetic surgery, "most people don't look exactly like they did 10 years earlier, but they do look significantly better for their age now," Barton says.

Smart Shopping

Legally, any physician can perform cosmetic surgery. But for the best results, get a referral to a qualified surgeon from your primary care physician or from friends who have had the procedure you want. Check the doctor's credentials to see if he or she is board certified and has experience with the necessary techniques. (Physicians board certified in plastic surgery, ear-nose-throat, dermatology, and ophthalmology most commonly do the cosmetic procedures discussed above.)

Ask to see before-and-after photos of people who have undergone the procedure you want, and talk with previous patients about their experiences.

Also, ask about any payment plans the doctor may offer, since insurance plans generally do not cover cosmetic surgery unless it is also functional (for example, a nose job to fix breathing problems) or restorative. Expect to pay about $2,400 for laser resurfacing, $430 per area for Botox, $2,400 for an eyelift of both eyes, and $5,100 for a facelift, according to average national cost data compiled by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in New York City.

One Surgery Leads to Another

After taking the facelift plunge, Kron added a nose job and brow lift in 1996 to an operation for sinus polyps that required treating. If people ask her why she looks younger, better, or different, she isn't coy, like many Hollywood stars. She's straightforward and honest, telling those who ask that she had a facelift.

"I call it growing old disgracefully," Kron says.

Carol Potera is a journalist from Great Falls, Mont., who writes for WebMD, Shape magazine, and other publications.

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