Demand For Nips and Tucks Sags As Economy Slumps

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    Demand For Nips and Tucks Sags As Economy Slumps
    Last update: 10/31/2008 1:17:00 PM

    By Victoria E. Knight
    Of Dow Jones Newswires

    NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Another sign of the tough economic times: Americans are cutting back on nips and tucks.
    "When the economy is bad, people put off buying a car or getting a facelift until times get better," says Dr. Richard A. D'Amico, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, or ASPS, which comprises of about 94% of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the U.S.
    Dr. D'Amico, chief of plastic surgery at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, N.J., says the practice has been directly impacted by the layoffs on Wall Street. Body contouring, breast surgery and face and brow lifts are down 15% to 20%. "Cosmetic medicine is holding up well though," he says.
    Cosmetic surgery is taking a hit nationwide as consumers of all wealth levels tighten their belts and the credit crunch makes it harder to get loans for big-ticket items. Six out of ten plastic surgeons said they performed fewer cosmetic procedures in the first half of 2008 than in the same period last year, according to a new poll by the ASPS of its members. Liposuction and breast augmentations are down the most.
    Spooked by the slide in business its members are experiencing, ASPS has decided to tackle the topic head on at its annual meeting, which kicks off today in Chicago. The session entitled, "Survival Strategies for Tough Economic Times: A Town Hall Meeting," due to take place this Sunday is likely to draw a large crowd, according to Dr. Michael F. McGuire, an ASPS vice president who is to chair the meeting.
    Americans spend a lot on cosmetic procedures - $12.5 billion on surgeon/physician fees alone in 2007, according to data from the ASPS. Some 12 million surgical and non-surgical beauty procedures were carried out last year, including 348,000 breast enhancements, 302,000 liposuctions, 285,000 nose jobs, and 241,000 eyelid operations. Around 4.6 million injections of wrinkle-busting Botox were administered last year.
    Feeling the pinch
    Cash, credit cards or loans from cosmetic surgery financing companies are the three main ways patients pay for treatment. Tapping home equity is another strategy some patients use. However, the credit crunch is making it more difficult for potential patients to get loans for the procedure.
    Cosmetic surgery can be costly. According to the ASPS, the average physician fee for liposuction was $2,982 per body area, while a nose job cost $3,833 and a breast augmentation was $3,816 last year, and that's excluding the cost of the operating room, anesthesia services and any implants, which can cost thousands of dollars more.
    Dr. McGuire doesn't expect surgeons to drop their fees in order to attract patients. However, he says, surgeons may recommend tackling one area at a time, a departure from the past when patients had multiple cosmetic procedures done at the same time.
    "Surgeons are also offering more-flexible financial terms and payment plans," he says, especially to return patients, who are perceived as a lower risk.
    Lower cost alternatives
    In the meantime, wrinkle-busting Botox, skin-rejuvenating chemical peels and fillers are offering a temporary beauty fix for those on tighter budgets.
    "Consumers are choosing the less-invasive cosmetic procedures to give them a boost or to buy time if they need to postpone a more costly invasive surgical procedure because of the economic downturn," adds Dr. D'Amico.
    Last year the average physician fee to administer Botox was $501 per area, while a chemical peel costs $744 and hyaluronic fillers, such as Restylene and Juvaderm, cost about $598.
    While Dr. D'Amico understands the desire to save money during the current economic climate, he says prospective patients shouldn't lose sight of the importance of vetting cosmetic practitioners' credentials.
    Consumers should be particularly leery of ads offering dramatic discounts, such as 30% off the retail price of Botox, as it could be a bootleg or substitute product.
    "If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is," warns Dr. D'Amico.
    By Victoria E. Knight, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-2438;