Ultimate payback after a breakup? Plastic surgery

Forget “Bridalplasty.” The real money is in “surgical vengeance.”

The reality show in which women compete for pre-wedding cosmetic surgery may be getting all the attention, but doctors who ply their trade sculpting bodies and faces know that just as many – if not more – of the patients walking through their doors are motivated not by a new union but a marital breakup.

“There are a lot of women who come in either pre- or post-divorce who are looking to make themselves feel a little bit better,” says Michael D. Cohen, medical director of the Cosmetic Surgery Center of Maryland. The whole story might not come out at the beginning, he says, but once he gets to know a patient, he often starts to hear details of a split.

Two weeks ago he did a tummy tuck and eyelid lift on a woman just out of an 37-year marriage, followed by breast augmentation for a woman in her 20s who found out her husband had cheated on her. “She suggested to the people preparing her for surgery that it was sort of payback,” he said.

Hence the nickname the procedures have gained: “vengeance plastic surgery.” It’s become so popular with physician Stephen Greenberg’s clients in New York City that he developed a “divorce package” that gives patients a slight discount if they’re coming off a breakup. (And it’s not just women; Greenberg estimates that 30 percent of the patients taking advantage of the plan are men.)

Ann Soriano wasn’t thinking about revenge. The New York City woman’s husband left after 17 years of marriage, she says. They were separated for several years before she filed for divorce seven months ago. Five months later she walked into the offices of Joseph Eviatar.

“I lost a lot of weight, just from the stress of it all. And if you lose weight because you’re eating well and exercising, it looks good. If you lose weight because somebody walks out on you, you don’t look so good,” says Soriano, a 49-year-old office manager. After a round of Restalyne injections, she’s feeling better about her appearance and contemplating liposuction for her midsection.

“I was just like, ‘Jeez, I don’t want to grow old by myself. So I’ve got to throw myself out there and see what happens,’ ” she says. “And the first thing [people notice] is the look, unfortunately.”

Phil Haeck says that’s a common theme among his patients: “I’m going back on the market and I’m afraid how I look right now isn’t going to work.”

Haeck, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, says he has two major concerns about clients seeking treatments in the midst of a divorce: They’re making weighty decisions during an emotionally unstable time. And they sometimes expect that plastic surgery will immediately alter their circumstances in life.

“There’s a discussion that has to be had – do they expect to find Superman or Superwoman the next day after they change their appearance? Because that person may not suddenly drop into their lives just because they’ve had something done,” says Haeck, who practices in Seattle.

But, he adds, in the best cases cosmetic procedures give newly single patients an extra shot of confidence as they wade back into the dating pool. “There may be subtle things that happen in terms of their openness to talking to strangers,” he says.

Soriano thinks that might be the case for her. “It’s time,” she says. “Not necessarily to get married again – but to go out, to find companionship.”

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