Thinking about a facelift? Before you spend the money, consider this: It might help you look a few years younger but not more attractive, a new study found.
The study of 37 women and 12 men who underwent facial rejuvenation procedures like facelifts and eyelid lifts and found that plastic surgery shaved about three years off their perceived age. But it had no effect on their perceived attractiveness.
"The drive to maintain a youthful appearance and attractiveness has been an important motivating factor leading patients to seek aesthetic facial surgery," the researchers wrote in their study, published today in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery. "From this study, it seems that the attractiveness level will remain the same, regardless of age."
A group of 50 men and women was tasked with guessing the patients' ages and rating their attractiveness on a 10-point scale. As perceived age went up, attractiveness scores went down, according to the study. But those scores failed to improve with surgery.
The authors theorized that attractiveness is intractably linked to perceived age. So when the patients looked younger post-surgery, their attractiveness score shifted down since they were being compared to younger people. In other words, the old adage "you look good for your age" is only a factor when you know how old someone really is.
"Because a person's age is perceived as younger following aging face surgery, his or her attractiveness level is also intuitively perceived to be better, commensurate with the apparent age reduction," the authors wrote. "As long as a person ascribes a correct age to someone else, that person will perceive the other's attractiveness with his or her assigned age in mind."
Interestingly, female raters tended to ascribe higher attractiveness scores than male ones. And 75 percent of all of the raters' scores landed in the four-to-seven range, according to the authors.
Americans underwent a whopping 1,594,526 cosmetic surgical procedures in 2012, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. And eyelid lifts were the third most common procedure, with some 204,000 recipients - more than 98,000 of them 55 and older.
All in all, Americans spent more than $1.4 billion on facelifts and eyelid lifts last year, according to the ASPS. Was it worth it?
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