Cosmetic infidelity: A new way to cheat

By Dr. Anthony Youn, Special to CNN  – updated 6:20 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Surgery can be difficult to hide, especially large operations such as tummy tucks and face-lifts.
Surgery can be difficult to hide, especially large operations such as tummy tucks and face-lifts.

(CNN) — “I have five days to recover from surgery and look good before my husband gets home.”

Marina, a 60-year-old Caucasian woman, sits before me to sign the consent forms for her upcoming operations: a 3-D face-lift, upper and lower eyelid lifts and an endoscopic brow lift.

I see on her information sheet that she hasn’t authorized us to discuss her surgeries with anyone else — not even her husband.

“So you’re not telling him about all these procedures?”

“Not unless I have to. You don’t know him. He wouldn’t understand, and he wouldn’t want me to spend all this money, especially on something he thinks is frivolous. So that’s why I need to look good before he gets back. We’ve got five days, Dr. Youn.”

Cosmetic surgery has become a new form of infidelity — for both men and women. As the number of people having plastic surgery rises, more and more feel the need to hide their procedures from their significant others. In fact, we did a survey of cosmetic patients in my office and found that one-third don’t tell their partners about their treatments.

Hard to believe? While surgery can be difficult to hide, especially large operations with dramatic changes such as tummy tucks and face-lifts, less-invasive procedures such as Botox and filler injections aren’t as hard to conceal.

The first step many patients take is to hide how much they’re spending. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the average cost of Botox is $392, and the average cost of Juvederm is $675 — pretty hefty amounts to cover up.

So how do they do it? Some patients pay with cash. Others split it up and pay half in cash, half in credit. Many of my patients have a certain threshold that they can spend on their credit card before their partner notices the individual charge. This amount usually ranges between $100 and $400. Often the patient will spend up to that amount on a credit card, then pay the rest in cash. Other patients spread small amounts over several credit cards.

Timing the procedure strategically is another way people hide their cosmetic treatments. Many patients, like Marina, have their surgeries done while their spouses are out of town.

They use this alone time to recover, so that when their spouses return, they’re none the wiser. For less-invasive treatments, such as lasers and injections, many patients have the procedures performed on days when their partners have plans after work. This way, they have all night to let the swelling subside. When their spouse sees them the next day, they look normal again.

Some women also take advantage of the fact that their men just aren’t that perceptive. Men are notoriously bad at noticing changes in their spouses. In fact, a 2004 study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women are much better than men at remembering appearances.

I am as bad as any. It can take me days to notice that my wife has changed her hair.

So what happened with Marina?

She underwent all four surgeries, with the hope that she’d look good enough five days later to prevent her husband from noticing the dramatic changes in her face. She stopped by the office to see me several hours before her husband was to return home.

Marina was a hot mess. Her eyes looked like she went 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, her neck was taut as a pair of Spanx, and her lips resembled two Vienna sausages.

“Wow, Marina. You’re still quite puffy and bruised, but give it another week or two and you’ll look fantastic,” I told her. “However, I’m not sure your plan to hide your plastic surgery from your husband is going to work.”

“Dr. Youn,” she deadpanned. “You don’t know my husband.”

He never figured it out.

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