botox2.jpgAmong the markets that are taking financial hits due to the current US economic wobble/slowdown/meltdown (choose one to suit your personal level of anxiety), apparently the cosmetic surgery industry is facing a nip and tuck of its own. Along with cutbacks in spending on such critical areas as interior design and sports cars, America's newly monied are opting for a reduction in reductions while the bad times last.

While official figures aren't kept on a month-to-month basis, anecdotal evidence among practitioners and customers alike collected recently by journalists suggests that the desire to achieve the perfect manufactured body through easy access to retail plastic surgery has suffered a noticable decline in recent months. This downturn reverses some of the white-hot growth rates the sector had been experiencing, just as many doctors had made the investment to add cosmetic treatments to their menu of services. According to reports, many potential patients are opting for botox and other temporary non-invasive treatments over under-the-knife procedures like liposuction, breast augmentation and facelifts.

The implications for this shift are manifold. American, and global, aesthetics for beauty have been changing for some time, and have recently taken a steep turn toward artificial over natural, with media coverage of cosmetic surgery acting as an echo chamber, encouraging less wealthy, younger consumers to slice their way to this new definition of beauty. For the digital set, we even suspect there has been a sort of aesthetic merger with the look, feel and ease of creating virtual selves--making themselves into personalized avatars online and off. Harder times may mean this crowd sticks more to shaping second lives than reshaping real ones. Secondarily, a turn to other, less expensive means of reshaping and resurfacing may be on the cards as well. The market for cheaper chemical peels, microdermabrasion, cosmeceuticals, and injectable treatments will certainly benefit. Also, unregulated, black- and grey-market products will probably benefit as well, many trafficked in from Asia.

Lastly, as Slate points out, doctors may have to seek other forms of business, perhaps returning attention and investment to some of the basic services that lost attention as these new revenue streams in casual cosmetic services emerged. The loss of qualified doctors and other medical professionals to less critical but more profitable areas of treatment has undoubtedly had an impact on availability of services (it's doubtful that many new casual cosmetic treatment services subsidized core medical practices in any significant way). This bad news for dealers of sports cars and interior designers may be good news not only for drug stores but for sick patients as well. (Image: kowitz/Flicr)

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