How Much Younger Can Plastic Surgery Make You Look?

Written by WD Staff, Skin Care Specialists on November 14, 2013 4 Comments


It’s a question commonly asked by patients: How much younger can plastic surgery make me look?

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Facial Plastic Surgery, subsequently reported on by the Today show, found that plastic surgery, on average, made patients look just 3.2 years younger. If you’re surprised at that figure, you’re not alone. It seems illogical patients would choose to undergo surgery that potentially offers such minimal change.

So let’s take a closer look at the study, and examine how they came to that average age reduction figure.

The study included 49 patients, ranging in age from 42 to 73, who underwent various facial surgeries including facelift, neck lift, upper or lower blepharoplasty, eye lifts and brow lifts. The photographs taken before and after their surgeries were strictly controlled so as to eliminate any potential bias:

  • Makeup and jewelry were not allowed in any photograph.
  • All photos were taken by the lead physician/author of the study, and the surgeon who performed all of the procedures.
  • The same standardized background, camera and photography techniques were used throughout all photos.

The authors recruited a team of 50 “raters”, which included hospital workers and lay people from the local community. These raters examined the photographs, both before and after, and estimated the age of the patient. Importantly, no rater saw the before-and-after photographs of the same patient The difference between the before and after photographs was then averaged out, to give a figure of 3.2 years.

So Why the Surprising Result?

Some facial procedures are more effective in making a patient look younger than others. A brow lift or eye lift does not have the same impact as a full facelift, for example. Of the 49 patients included in the study, 18 patients (more than one third of the sample) had brow lifts or eye lifts. These procedures are quite effective for targeting a particular problem area, but do not necessarily reverse the visual effects of aging to the extent that a full facelift does.

In a similar study reported by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), a facelift was found to reduce the estimated age of patients by an average of 7.2 years. So it seems that the 18 eye lift and brow lift patients may have pulled the average figure for the JAMA study down.

There are other factors too that could not be controlled, but may have affected the outcome of the study. Since each rater was only allowed to view either the before or after photographs (but not both) for any given subject, the study design prevented raters from assessing relative improvements in appearance after surgery.

While the study provides an interesting perspective, I think it is impossible to provide a generalized answer to the question “how much younger will plastic surgery make me look?” Since every person’s face and needs are unique, this question can only be answered on a case by case basis.

If you would like to find out how plastic surgery could benefit you and how you look, contact us to setup a free consultation.

WD Staff

A united group of skin care specialists from Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, Austin's leader in Dermatology and Plastic Surgery. Articles posted under WD staff are authored through combined contributions from our entire team, including Plastic Surgeons, Dermatologists, Aestheticians, Physician Assistants, Aesthetic Nurses, and Patient Coordinators.

4 Responses to “How Much Younger Can Plastic Surgery Make You Look?”

  1. Avatar Stacy says:

    I can tell everyone reading that most procedures lift decades of aging. DECADES people!

  2. Avatar Elizabeth says:

    For the cost of a plastics procedure I better see at least 10 years come off the clock. I can attest that Dr. Craven does great work! He’ll knock those years off.

  3. Avatar Des says:

    Interesting read, however I would guess this would differ from person to person? Isnt it hard to really generalize the outcome of plastic surgery since so broadly?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Des, your correct with that thought. Each person has extremely different characteristics and needs. So in that these comprehensive studies fail to take the uniqueness of each individual into account.

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