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Am I “too old” for Plastic Surgery?

Dispatches from a Patient Coordinator at The Plastic Surgery Clinic

Age is just a number… or is it?

Having worked with hundreds of patients in the plastic surgery space for some time now, I’ve responded to an array of questions and concerns. One comment I sometimes hear when asking for birthdays for patient files is, “I’m probably older than the folks you usually see for this procedure, but I’ve been wanting this operation for years now.”

It breaks my heart each time because these patients feel the need to justify their decision to undergo a procedure that could improve their quality of life.

With our now ageing population (the baby boomers are no longer babies), we have seen a 4.9% increase in cosmetic procedure recipients over the age of 65 between 1997 and 2014 [a]. So I’ll start by saying that if you’re considering plastic surgery in your 60s, you are not alone.


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I mean, many plastic surgeries are often marketed as “anti-ageing” interventions, so naturally the field caters to an older demographic. Why then are older patients still apprehensive about getting work done? Let’s do some unpacking.

Why These Concerns Are Common

I think the most obvious concern underlying the assumed “age limit” for plastic surgery is the health risks. It’s no secret that as we age, we become more susceptible to health conditions and illness.

Irrespective of an existing condition, there are certain physiological changes associated with the ageing process that may put patients at risk during select surgical procedures. Changes like decreased muscle mass, fat redistribution, skin thinning, etc. [b] can create anxiety around going under the knife.

The truth is, and I know people hate this answer, your outcome will depend on a host of factors. Everyone has a unique circumstance which is why it’s important to find a doctor with extensive qualifications and consultation procedures to ensure your health and safety. For older patients, all this really means is that your treatment plan and your surgeon’s technique must be individualized to suit your needs!

Rest assured that a good surgeon will never operate on a patient if the risks of surgery outweigh the benefits. They all take oaths to ensure that sort of thing—the Hippopotamus something or other… (I kid!) But if you’re still not convinced, let’s take a look at the science.

What are the risks in undergoing surgery later in life?

In terms of age-related risks associated with plastic surgery, a meta-analysis (which is a study studying other studies) showed that there wasn’t a significant difference between the postoperative complication rates in the younger (average age of 39) and older (average age of 69) groups [c].

Another paper exploring the impact of ageing in wound healing determined no association. Instead, associated factors included: pre-existing health conditions, steroid and tobacco use, and high BMI [d], among other things.

Ultimately, when it comes to questions of safety, your actual health is what really matters, not your age.

But I find that a patient’s reservations aren’t limited to health concerns. Patients will often voice their worries regarding the social implications of getting certain cosmetic procedures. I spoke to one of our patient care coordinators to get a better idea of the particular anxieties patients share during their consultations.

Your Body on Your Own Terms

For starters, the kinds of procedures that older patients exhibit the most apprehension about are ones that are augmentative in nature. Things like a BBL (buttock augmentation) or breast implants (breast augmentation). This is in line with a study conducted on the psycho-social factors impacting women’s perceptions of cosmetic surgery.

The author found that younger participants exhibited more concerns with their bodies, while older participants had more concerns with their faces [e]. So maybe some older patients feel as though their interest in body-based (as opposed to facial) procedures is juvenile.

My rebuttal for this concern is as follows: Young women are not the only ones with bodies! Mainstream media has commodified the bodies of young people and Hollywood tends to vilify older performers, which can make it seem like ageing bodies are not of as much importance.

But this simply isn’t true. Patients of all ages have every right to accentuate and augment their features if they choose. As long as you’re living in your body, you are entitled to feel beautiful within it.


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Another concern along the same line is that older patients shouldn’t be looking for procedures that are strictly for aesthetics. It seems more socially acceptable to undergo a procedure that is reconstructive in nature–a tummy tuck after pregnancy, a facelift, a breast lift after nursing–but something done strictly for vanity’s sake is, well… “vain.”

Rebuttal number 2: We live in a visual world. No one is exempt from this. People like to look at visually-appealing things and, while I am by no means implying that there’s a singular way to be beautiful, people seeking to fulfill their personal definitions of beauty through plastic surgery are completely free to do so.

I think it’s silly to make people feel bad for wanting to feel good about themselves!

Lifestyle Concerns for Older Plastic Surgery Patients

The final concern from a social standpoint is the compatibility of a cosmetic procedure with a patient’s lifestyle. Some patients are worried that a surgery will interfere with their duties as a parent or grandparent. For example, in terms of breast augmentation, I hear many concerns that going with a larger implant size will impede daily activities.

My counter-argument: Really take your time and assess the procedure you’re interested in and how it will impact your life. A good surgeon will advise you of the changes and expectations for recovery and maintenance, and our approach here at The Plastic Surgery Clinic is always to enhance natural beauty and outcomes (so we’re not making any drastic changes).

All that being said, everyone’s daily habits are very personal to them, and you still have to do your research when determining if a particular surgery is right for you.

So, is there an age limit to undergoing plastic surgery?

Ultimately, I find that older patients have an advantage in many ways. They generally have more financial security and the means to afford cosmetic surgery, they often are no longer experiencing drastic changes to their bodies like pregnancy or child-rearing, and they’ve usually put in a lot of time and consideration towards their decision to move forward with a procedure. All that’s left is the final plunge.

I know that it’s easy to get in our own heads when making such a life-changing decision, but I hope that this article has helped clear the waters so you can make the right choice for you, because it’s never too late to take a dive.

[a] R. Singer
[b] healthnews
[c] Yezhelyev, Maksym
[d] Karamanos, Efstathios
[e] Goodman

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