For many years, cosmetic surgery got a certain rap — usually bad, always concealed. People were outwardly disgusted by the idea of going under the knife to alter their appearance, but in reality, patients were flocking to clinics. TV shows such as “Nip/Tuck” helped bring the medical genre to water cooler conversations. Today, while cosmetic surgery hasn’t completely shed its taboo status, seeking medical help to look better has become an accepted mainstay of our society.
Look at the statistics: In 1997, about 940,000 surgical procedures were performed. Last year, that number was closer to 1.8 million — an 82 percent increase, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The top three most popular surgeries in 2014 were liposuction, breast augmentation and eyelid surgery, the society reported, and Americans spent $12 billion on invasive and noninvasive cosmetic procedures.
In the region that includes Washington, Virginia and Maryland, more than 312,000 cosmetic surgical procedures were performed in 2014, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Dr. Soheila Rostami, a local ocular-facial plastic surgeon, has seen opinions on cosmetic surgery evolve in the two decades since she’s been in the field. To meet rising demand, she opened Sanctuary Cosmetic Center five months ago in Tysons Corner, Va., next to the Ritz-Carlton hotel to provide a full-service cosmetic surgery and convalescence experience. An expert in eyelids, she created the Lunch Hour Eyelid Lift — an outpatient procedure that takes 30 to 60 minutes and requires three to six days’ worth of recovery time — to offer busy Washingtonians and international visitors a quick but effective fix.
We talked with the Iranian native about the state of cosmetic surgery in the nation’s capital:
Q: Washington is loosening up, but it’s still considered a fairly conservative city. How does plastic surgery fit in here?
A: [Washingtonians] used to be much more conservative and less seeking plastic cosmetic surgery, but as the years pass by, I have learned that they’re more open-minded about it and they’re seeking more cosmetic surgeries. But there’s definitely a difference between Washington metropolitan [residents’] desire of how they want to look, compared to L.A. or New York or other large metropolitans.
Q: How so?
A: One thing about Washington is that they’re much more conservative in how they look. They really do not like to have a “done” look. They come in and they really say, “I want to keep my natural look,” and this is why they like me, because I’m the same way. I’m very much into keeping your own look but improving it and taking some of the aging that has happened. I really don’t like to change people’s appearances in a way that they’re not recognizable; they’re not themselves. Bringing a large lip to a face that never had a large lip just doesn’t appeal to me.
Q: So there’s less stigma attached to cosmetic surgery now?
A: Even men patients are seeking our advice and wanting to know how they can improve their looks, and you’d be surprised that it’s becoming acceptable in our area.
Q: Is it equal between the two genders?
A: A majority of my patients are female even though the gap is getting closer.
Q: So what do your customer demographics look like?
A: We see all walks of life. We have patients that are moms at home, executives, but because Washington is such a political area, we have a very mixed population and we have a lot of international travelers. Being an immigrant myself, they feel more comfortable with us — from the Middle East, from the Far East or from other countries. They know that outside the U.S., cosmetic surgery is very acceptable, and they feel that I understand what they’re looking for, especially being from the Middle East.
Q: Tell me about Sanctuary. The name implies a place to go to find peace and calm.
A: I wanted to make sure that the patients feel comfortable. Cosmetic plastic surgery can be very intimidating, so I wanted to say [with the name] that we have created a place for you to trust us. I really have tried to create an environment that makes them feel welcome, that makes them feel at home, at ease and comfortable. We try to provide every aspect of their needs. If they want to have privacy, for instance, we have a private entrance. They can ring the bell, we can open the door for them, no one will see them.
Q: Do you offer noninvasive services that help improve appearance?
A: Sanctuary Youth Remedy is fantastic for aging necks, face or any part of your body. It’s a combination treatment. I’m an advocate for combination treatments. It’s radio-frequency resurfacing with … a combination of certain treatments that I added. We use the radio frequency, we use platelet-rich plasma from your own blood and we also use other things. There will be three or four treatments done on the same day, and you have to get three or four treatments to get the final results you’re looking for. There’s very little downtime and very little pain with it. I’m one of the patients.
The second thing that I think would be very beneficial now that the winter season is coming is laser resurfacing and laser treatments for aging and skin as well as Kybella. Kybella is a new injection for fullness in the neck. If you have a little bit of fat in your neck, you can come and get some treatments at our center and wear a turtleneck for the little bit of swelling and little bit of bruising that you get and [there’s not much] downtime.
The third thing is the Liquid Gold Facelift. We combine some fillers with the platelet-rich plasma — and that’s the liquid gold that we can get from you, from your own blood — and either we can do a facial with it or we can do facelifts.
Q: We’re entering into winter, time for dry, cold air. What tips can you offer to keep skin looking and feeling good?
A: Moisturizing during the wintertime is very important. Drying the skin ages the skin and doesn’t look very appealing, so moisturizing products are very good. Hyaluronic acid has wonderful moisturizing characteristics to it and it will plump your skin and make your skin look so much better.
During the wintertime, we have such dry weather because of the cold, the humidity in the air is very little, so take a steam bath and it will give the moisture back to skin as well.
About the Author
Stephanie Kanowitz is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.