Plastic surgeons see surge in Hispanic business


Sunday, June 20, 2010

By LORA HINES

Released by The Press-Enterprise

 

Tammi Vasquez lost 150 pounds and wanted to remove extra skin hanging from her body. A surgical nurse at Riverside Community Hospital, she turned to plastic surgery to fix the results of her dramatic weight loss. Health insurance paid for much of the $50,000 cost, she said. "I didn't do it for vanity," said Vasquez, who describes herself as a Hispanic in her 40s. "I needed the skin off of me."


Vasquez is among a growing number of Hispanics going to plastic surgeons for cosmetic procedures, including liposuction and chemical peels, to enhance their appearance. Doctors and researchers say cosmetic procedures have become popular among Hispanics who have the money or can come up with it.

While tough economic conditions led to overall drops nationwide in cosmetic surgery two years in a row, increases in cosmetic procedures performed on patients in almost all minority groups, especially Hispanics, were reported.

 

Of the 12.1 million total cosmetic procedures documented in 2008, including surgeries and minimally invasive skin treatments, almost 1.3 million were performed on Hispanics, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. In 2009, nearly 1.5 million out of 12.5 million total cosmetic procedures were performed on Hispanics.

 

Meanwhile, total cosmetic surgeries, excluding minimally invasive treatments, dropped 9 percent, from about 1.8 million in 2007 to close to 1.7 million in 2008. The number dropped another 9 percent in 2009, down to 1.5 million.

 

Overall, whites still were most likely to undergo cosmetic surgery or a minimally invasive treatment.

The society, a nonprofit professional organization, does not separate its report data by state. But a regional breakdown shows that the highest percentage of cosmetic procedures reported in 2008 and 2009 were performed in 13 mountain and Pacific states, including California.

 

State and local plastic surgeons say the tanking economy dramatically affected business, with losses for some as high as 50 percent. However, they say people of all races, no matter income level, find ways to pay for cosmetic surgery when they are determined to get it.

 

"They use whatever money they have or can borrow," said Dr. Ben Childers of Riverside Plastic Surgery Associates Inc.

 

"Hispanic people have money, and they want to spend their money. They want something that everyone else wants. It makes people feel good about themselves," said Childers, who did Vasquez's surgery.

Many plastic surgeons work with financing companies to arrange patients' payment plans. Some advertise in Spanish to mine for clients.

 

Growing market

 

Amalia Cabezas, an associate professor of women's studies at UC Riverside, said cosmetic surgery is popular among Hispanic women worldwide. Many are driven by images they see on television or in magazines, she said. They want to look more European.

 

"There's a huge market for it in South America," Cabezas said. "The beauty industry is pretty big. It's not just for wealthy people."

 

In 2008, there were an estimated 47 million Hispanics living in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and about 13.5 million living in California.

 

The median income nationwide for a head of household of Mexican origin in 2008 was more than $40,600, compared to $52,029 for the total population. Seventy percent of people who were at least age 16 and of Mexican origin were working.

 

In the Inland area, about 45 percent of the population is Hispanic, according to census estimates.

The top cosmetic procedures requested by Hispanic patients were liposuction, breast augmentation and nose reshaping, the plastic surgeons society report states. Average surgeon fees for the procedures range from nearly $2,800 for liposuction to about $4,200 for nose reshaping.

Cabezas, whose research includes the sex industry, said many women go through cosmetic surgery because they see it as an investment in marriage or employment. More people are able to have surgery as credit options have expanded to pay for it, she said.

 

"It has become much more commonplace," Cabezas said. "It's now democratically available."

 

Hispanic clients

 

Childers said he always has had a lot of Hispanic patients. He thinks his patients are a reflection of the community, which is home to a large Hispanic population. On a recent Thursday, Childers performed three surgeries, all on Hispanic patients.

 

All of his employees at his Riverside and Redlands offices speak Spanish.

 

He recalled that a Spanish-speaking woman seeking information about facials called his Redlands office. The woman and her daughter became clients because Childers' employee could communicate with her, he said.

 

"You have to be able to communicate," he said, adding that most of his business comes by patients' recommendation.

 

Vasquez said Childers' waiting room often is filled with a variety of people. During a recent visit, she said the large number of men patients waiting caught her attention, not the difference in people's skin color.

Vasquez said she chose Childers as her surgeon based on her professional observations of his work at Riverside Community. It took 10 years for her to muster the courage to have surgery.

 

"As a nurse, I've seen a lot of complications and a lot of deaths," she said of her hesitation.







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