All I want for Christmas is … plastic surgery

By Johnny Diaz, Staff writer 2:25 p.m. EST, November 15, 2012

Santa is leaving attractive gifts in some South Florida stockings this season: Gift certificates for botox and collagen injections, breast implants and tummy tucks.

Plastic surgery procedures and cosmetic treatments are topping holiday lists, making this a busy time not just for Old Saint Nick but for local plastic surgeons.


“The holidays are a time when people want to give gifts, and people are looking to make each other happy,” said Dr. Jacob Steiger, a Boca Raton plastic surgeon. “The cosmetic medicine and surgical market is so large these days that people enjoy looking their best and rejuvenated, and their friend [or loved one] will know that. They will give that as a gift.”

This Christmas, Carolyn Gallichio will leave her husband, Larry, a wrapped box under their tree with a $500 gift certificate for botox injections and laser hair removal. “Instead of buying a bunch of little things. I can buy one big gift,” said Gallichio, a psychotherapist in Fort Lauderdale. “It’s a nice gift, one piece of paper, one little bow, one little box, and that’s it, you’re done, and the person is very happy. “And there’s a benefit — you don’t have to look at their wrinkled, shriveled face,” she said, jokingly.


She thinks men are more willing to be on the receiving end of cosmetic procedures if it’s a gift from a wife, girlfriend, or significant other. “There is a lot of shame and ego attached to a male going in and stopping at an aesthetic institute,” she said. “It’s not something that they would buy for themselves. If he got the gift certificate, it’s like, ‘My wife got this for me. She wants me to look better.’ “

That thinking works the other way around, too. Gallichio, who received breast enhancement surgery as a gift from her husband 10 years ago, has hinted to him that she would like any holiday gift money to go toward a breast lift. “That’s what I want in my stocking,” said Gallichio, 51.


Some people like to receive their gift early to be ready for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities. Others typically schedule vacation or time off from work during these months, which provides enough time for to recuperate. “I am set to go, I am ready for the holidays, and I feel great,” said Sarah Love, of Sunrise, who received Perlane fillers last weekend courtesy of her husband. His card to her read: “Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas and go have fun!”

The procedure, done at Dr. Shashi Kusuma’s office in Plantation, evened out lines around the side of her nose and plumped up her lips. “People like to get a little freshened up,” said Kusuma, whose business goes up by 30 percent during the holidays. Love, 52, says she’s happy with the youthful face that stares back in the mirror. “My first gathering is Thanksgiving, so I wanted to make sure I had it done before,” she said. “If you receive it as a gift for Christmas, it’s almost better to get it done a couple weeks before.”


Doctors and gift-givers say people are more willing to lavishly spend on a gift during the holidays than for a birthday or Mother’s or Father’s Day. Prices can run anywhere from $500 to a few thousand, depending on whether the gift involves injectable treatments or invasive surgical ones.

While such gifts are certainly generous, The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and some local doctors strongly suggest that people who accept these procedures as holidays presents are truly having them done for themselves and not because they were paid for by a loved one or friend. “Make sure that the idea for plastic surgery came from the person who intends to have it, and not from a well-meaning spouse, relative or friend,” says ASAPS website, which also lists qualified plastic surgeons. “The gift has to be self-motivated and not because the partner is interested,” said Dr. Paul Wigoda, a plastic surgeon in Fort Lauderdale.


It’s also important that the recipient have real expectations about the results of the procedure and potential for complications. “It’s not like a piece of clothing that you can throw away. It’s something that you do to your body,” said Kusuma, the Plantation surgeon. “It has to be given with a lot of thought and hindsight and research. You have to make sure that there is a conversation to determine what the patient actually needs.”


Sheila Manners already knows what her husband, Harry, will buy her for Hanukkah: Botox! “When you look good, you feel good,” said the Weston wife, 76, who asks for the treatment to smooth out lines around her forehead every year. “He is so happy that he doesn’t have to wonder what to get me.”

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