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December 20, 2007

Beauty Excess: How Much Is Too Much?

woman plucking eyebrows


Photo Credit: Michael Wirth/Michael Wirth

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While it is tempting to think Americans invented plastic-surgery gluttony—after all, when we find something we like, whether a hamburger or a handbag, we supersize it—this isn't entirely true. Gilman points out that South Korea has the greatest number of aesthetic surgeons per capita in the world, and Brazil has the greatest number of procedures per capita. It's a burgeoning worldwide obsession he attributes to the rise of a global "health culture" in the past 10 years — fueled by our desire to look younger and more attractive, and thus be more accepted.

Luckily, most trends in this country eventually produce their own backlash — see awfulplasticsurgery.com, an addictive phenomenon in its own right. And these days, most women don't see Janice Dickinson, with her waxlike complexion, as a beauty ideal they wish to emulate. With In Touch accusing Ashlee Simpson of "Botox at 23!" could it be we will become savvier, more skeptical consumers of antiaging treatments thanks to the same tabloid weeklies that sold us on them in the first place?

"Every time Michael Jackson comes on TV, my phone stops ringing," says Dayan. "When celebrities go a little overboard, that actually hurts us. People don't want to look like that."

However, walk into the tony Manhattan department store Henri Bendel on any Saturday and you'll still be surrounded by trout pouts and shiny, lasered skin. But you'll also be reminded of another, increasingly important part of the antiaging landscape: dermo-skin care, which has stolen at least some of the attention from more drastic interventions. "The majority of people I see want to know about skin care first," insists Lancer. "Five years ago, people came in saying, 'I need this laser or this chemical peel.' This is a positive step backward."

And in the meantime, as we watch overworked Hollywood faces broadcast their cartoonish perfection like JumboTrons, it becomes increasingly clear that the ever-evolving buffet of available antiaging procedures will only complement the things we've known all along: that you also need sunblock, water, and a sensible diet if you're going to look like Demi Moore well into your 40s. And that the most elusive nonsurgical factor — happiness — is the real silver bullet.

Find out what the experts have to say on the following subjects — and how you can avoid falling into beauty excess.

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