The Risks of Facelifts

Join Joyce Collin as we listen to her story and learn about facelift surgery risks and benefits. Find out if facelift risks far outweigh the benefits of looking younger.

Bucking the traditional rituals that less inspired people might enjoy on their 60th birthday, substitute science teacher Joyce Collin (not her real name) marked her 60th earlier this year in nonconformist style.


The Derwood, Md., mother of two went under the knife that very day in February for a facelift, a cosmetic operation paid for by her mother from whom Joyce had inherited the self-described "turkey wattle" that gradually settled on her once firm, youthful neck.

Having lived six decades now, Joyce doesn't see herself as vain. "Fairly confident," yes. And "very sensible." So why would a woman with a healthy self-esteem—and a long-time marriage she describes as "world-class," to boot—turn to plastic surgery to transform her look?

Her face and neck were aging faster than her same-aged husband's, Joyce was noticing. But beyond that, the birthday facelift celebrated her credo, born years ago from a hard-won victory over breast cancer: "Make the most of the life you've got."

Life-embracing Attitude

The life-embracing attitude is common among cosmetic surgery seekers, according to Mark E. Richards, M.D., who counts Joyce's facelift among the hundreds he has performed. His patients tend to be active, social, baby boomers who could live till they're 90.

"It's a different world than when people died at age 60," says Richards, a board-certified plastic surgeon for the past 10 years. "At 60, their health is good. Some still run miles a day, and juice their vegetables."

All told, 73,000 people got facelifts in 1999, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, with some 6,700 men among them. There are the eccentrics who capture the media spotlight for wanting to look like Barbie or Catwoman, Richards says, and then there are typical patients, who are "so much smarter and more normal than the myths make them out to be."

Richards' patients are workaday professionals, he says—mail carriers, doctors, engineers, newspaper reporters, politicians and schoolteachers like Joyce—who "look in the mirror and see their mother. They're not people who want to change who they are. They want to look like they already do, but a little prettier, so that the reflection in the mirror matches the way they feel inside."