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Plastic Surgery Really Does ‘Turn Back the Clock,’ Study Finds

A face lift can make a person look seven years younger, according to a study that asked volunteers to guess the ages of patients who had cosmetic surgery.

Shown photos of 60 people who had the procedures, the volunteers, composed of first-year medical students, estimated the patients to be an average of 8.9 years younger than their actual age, according to the study published online today in the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery. Before surgery, the medical students perceived the patients to be 1.7 years younger, yielding an age difference of 7.2 years after plastic surgery.

Americans spent almost $10.7 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2010, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The most common surgeries that year were breast augmentation, at 318,123, liposuction, at 289,016, and blepharoplasty, or eyelid surgery, at 152,123. The study offers objective evidence of cosmetic surgery’s success and may help doctors when counseling patients, researchers said.

“The goal of aesthetic facial surgery is to improve one’s appearance and to ‘turn back the clock,’” wrote the study authors, Nitin Chauhan and Peter Adamson of the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, and Jeremy Warner of the NorthShore University Health System in Evanston, Illinois. “Our data demonstrate a significant and consistent reduction in perceived age after aesthetic facial surgery.”

The study today evaluated only facial cosmetic surgeries, by showing photos to volunteers.

Patients in the study, mostly women, were 45 to 72 years. Those who had the greatest number of procedures -- face- and neck-lift, upper and lower eyelid surgery and forehead-lift -- had the biggest perceived difference from their actual age, the researchers reported.

One of the authors, Adamson, is a medical consultant for Allergan Inc. in Canada. Allergan, based in Irvine, California, sells the wrinkle therapy Botox, which generated $1.42 billion in 2010 revenue.

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