How Old Is "Too Old" for Plastic Surgery?

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Is there a hard and fast "upper limit" for age in plastic surgery? As with most good questions, there’s more involved in the answer than a simple Yes or No.

But we’ll start with the simplest response: No.

Now this doesn’t mean we’re going to advocate that all 90-year-olds start lining up for nips and tucks. There’s a lot of in-between.

THE BABY BOOM EFFECT
As they’ve been doing all their lives, the vast Baby Boomer generation is leading the way in a march toward cosmetic surgery in the higher age brackets. Every day, thousands of Boomers surpass the 65-year mark. And guess what? Many thousands (or millions) of them are still as busy and engaged as they’ve ever been — in their first, second, or third careers! — not to mention the very active "leisure" lifestyles they’ve adopted.

We now have the largest over-65 population in our nation’s history, and it’s continuing to grow. Advances in medical science and healthy living have given us a longer life expectancy. That adds up to great numbers of healthy older people. Many of them retire if they can, or if they want to. But changes in the economic reality have also meant that many more people are remaining in the workforce longer than they'd planned or imagined.

So, that gives us:

  • Large population of healthy older people
  • Desire to work and stay relevant
  • Extended economic need
  • Competition in the workplace
  • Desire to look as good as possible
And, that brings us to the plastic surgery element:

What kinds of procedures do people in the upper age ranges want?
  • Facelift
  • Neck Lift
  • Eyelid Lift (Blepharoplasty)
  • Brow Lift
  • Liposuction
The areas that are most visible seem to get the most attention among older patients. Many people begin investigating facelift procedures in their 40s. By their 50s, it may become a plan rather than an investigation. And people in their 60s and beyond can and do undergo their first facelift, neck lift, and/or eyelid surgery. (And many who’ve had earlier surgery, are coming back later in life for a second lift.)

However, it's important to note that a 70-year-old may not see the same kind of results as a 40- or 50-year-old. Skin tone, elasticity, and healing are different in the different decades. For these reasons, an earlier face or neck surgery may produce more youthful-looking results.

As we age, our skin gets thinner, muscle tone is more lax, collagen production is slowed, and wrinkles or creases become more apparent more quickly. That loss of tone may make the skin and underlying muscle droop or sag.

Those are the effects of aging that non-surgical treatments can’t counter so well. And that realization is ultimately what brings most patients to opt for a surgical solution.

WHAT SHOULD OLDER PATIENTS EXPECT?
Face, neck, and eye surgeries all aim to give the patient a natural-appearing result. We don’t usually hear patients in their 60s and 70s asking to look like 20-year-old movie stars.

But, they do say they “want to look like themselves.” Men and women want the drooping eyelids lifted, the turkey neck wattles removed, and the cheeks and jawline defined. They don’t want an unrealistic result, but want some of the "extras" deposited by time taken away.

During face, eyelid, neck, and brow surgeries, plastic surgeons remove the excess, then tighten the skin and muscle with great care not to overdo it.

AM I A GOOD CANDIDATE?
Your plastic surgeon will ask for a detailed medical history. Being a good candidate, means being a responsible patient too. Please provide details of any condition a doctor should need to know. Be detailed about the medications or supplements you take. Have you undergone surgery before? What were the complications, if any?

You may be asked for an evaluation by your primary care physician.

You may be asked to undergo some additional testing, such as an EKG, or additional blood testing.

If you are in good health, and have medical clearance from your doctor, there should be no medical reason preventing you from having cosmetic surgery.

Keep in mind that there are risks associated with all surgeries, at any age, and discuss these details carefully before making up your mind.

SO, HOW OLD IS TOO OLD?
We can’t quote a number for you. But we can tell you that we’ve seen healthy, active patients in their ‘80s and yes, even ‘90s, coming in for procedures with a very common goal — they want to look as good as they feel.

[Dr. Vincent Lepore, a board-certified plastic surgeon, serving Silicon Valley, will be happy to answer your cosmetic surgery questions.]

Article by
San Jose Plastic Surgeon