March 24, 2014 Last updated: Monday, March 24, 2014, 1:21 AM
By VIRGINIA ROHAN
The signs of aging have been creeping up for years — marionette lines around the mouth, under-eye pouches, the dreaded neck wattle just like the one your mom had. But then, one day, you look in the mirror and think, who the heck is tha
t person looking back at me? And that’s the day when you may resolve to look into what cosmetic facial procedures are out there.
But then you tune in to one of TV’s many star-studded awards shows and see something scarier than “The Following,” “Hannibal” or
“Bates Motel” — once beautiful and familiar faces that are now lumpy, puffy, frozen, barely even recognizable.
Take, for example, the recent Academy Awards, when the appearance of 81-year-old Kim Novak, 68-year-old Goldie Hawn and 60-year-old John Travolta generated lots of tweets and morning-after buzz. They join a long list of celebrities — including Mickey Rourke, Joan Rivers, Bruce Jenner, Kenny Rogers and Priscilla Presley — whose apparently bad facial work has inspired online ridicule and troubling questions. One of them: If Hollywood’s rich and famous could end up looking so bad, what chance have I of looking good?
“The nagging problem in our industry is that our good results — Mother Nature gets the credit. And our bad results are there for everyone to see,” says Dr. Richard D’Amico of Englewood, the 2008 president of The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, who saw enough of the latter to have been cringing as he watched this year’s Oscars. “If it looks like plastic surgery, then it’s bad plastic surgery. Good plastic surgery is something you’d never think of. You look at the person and say, ‘She looks good and she looks natural.’ That’s the good plastic surgery, and we get no credit for it.”
D’Amico and other North Jersey board-certified plastic surgeons say that patients often mention famous people that they do — or do not — want to wind up looking like. “Earlier today, I had a woman who came in for facial rejuvenation, and she said, ‘I just don’t want to look like the people I saw on TV the other day,’ and she was referring to the Oscars,” says Dr. Luis Zapiach, who has offices in Paramus and Franklin Lakes. “I told her, ‘I’m a very conservative plastic surgeon. I will make you refreshed and that’s it. … And she was very happy with what we had done, just with fillers. She was very concerned about not having her cheeks too full. Some of the things that we see sometimes on TV is their cheeks are too full.”
Dr. Valerie Ablaza, who does 80 to 85 percent cosmetic work (much of it facial rejuvenation) in her Montclair private practice, often has to reassure patients who bring up celebrity mishaps.
“Everyone says the same thing, ‘How did someone do that?’ ” says Ablaza, last year’s president of the New Jersey Society of Plastic Surgeons. “I don’t know why those people and their handlers don’t see that just like the common people see what happened to that person. But I know that no one that walks out of my office looks like Kim Novak or Goldie Hawn.
“Even Priscilla Presley and Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Burnett — they all just look a little bit freaky and you say, ‘Really, who’s giving you advice?’ Why did Priscilla Presley have silicone injections in her face when it’s not even approved by the FDA in this country? … You’d think that they have all the money in the world and all the exposure, they must be going to the best. But they aren’t. They’re just in their own little bubble of thinking.”
Ablaza believes that some celebrities “get carried away … and keep making changes, little by little, and they get so far off the mark,” they may even lose sight of their “starting point.” (She speculates that this may be the case with Joan Rivers.)
D’Amico has also had patients say, ” ‘I don’t want to look like blank.’ Fill in any number of those blanks,” he says. “People come in and they say, ‘Don’t change me.’ And what I explain to them about facial rejuvenation surgery is that time and the environment and stress has changed you. So, it’s restoration, never alteration. What you saw in Kim Novak and Goldie Hawn is alteration, and that’s always a mistake.”
Dr. David Abramson, chief of the department of plastic surgery at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, says, “I think, unfortunately, a lot of these people do too much, whether it’s surgery or fillers. If you overdo something, you wind up with abnormal facial expressions. They always talked about that ‘Joker’ look from having too many face-lifts, but I think when people have too much non-operative stuff they can look just as bad because they can look puffy, swollen.”
To be sure, many older actors and actresses look great, including 64-year-old Meryl Streep and 56-year-old Ellen DeGeneres, the Oscars host, who quipped that night that “the most important thing in the world is youth.”
“The ones that looked good, but didn’t look like they had something done, you bet your boots they had something done,” says D’Amico, an assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Although women in general account for the vast majority of all cosmetic procedures — 91 percent in 2012, the most recent year the American Society of Plastic Surgeons released data — the gender breakdown is surely less lopsided in Hollywood, where looking good is in everyone’s job description. Travolta, after all, was among the Oscar-night stars who raised eyebrows (and not just for mangling Idina Menzel’s name).
While a character actress like 84-year-old June Squibb may feel no need to hide her gray hair and wrinkles, aging can be especially tough for those once known for their looks, as Cameron Diaz told Oprah Winfrey on the March 16 episode of “Oprah Prime,” which also featured Sharon Stone. “It’s almost as if we have failed if we don’t remain 25 for the rest of our lives,” Diaz said.
While most of us don’t have millions of strangers watching as we age, the process is the same for celebrities as for everyone.
“When we’re young, the skin has a lot of elasticity, so all the rubber bands are nice and tight and the dermis is very thick with collagen and plump, and tight skin and plump skin is young skin, and that looks very good,” says Dr. Barry DiBernardo, a Montclair plastic surgeon and past president of the New Jersey Society of Plastic Surgeons. “Somewhere around 35 years old — it’s different in all of us, it depends on your genetics, your sun damage, your smoking — those cells will slow down the production of collagen and elastin, and that’s when you’ll start to see the lines come in. The skin thins. Things start to fall.”
The good news, the doctors say, is that there are now many non-invasive and minimally invasive options for rejuvenating faces, including toxin injections (such as Botox, for forehead wrinkles) as well as fillers like Radiesse or Voluma (for, say, cheeks); Juvéderm (for nasolabial folds); a newer, lighter filler called Belotero (good for lower eyelid hollows); and fractional lasers to resurface and tighten the skin.
“We now have more tools in our toolbox than ever,” D’Amico says. “It used to be, you held out and you went right into the operating room at some point. Nowadays, we have all different levels of intervention.”