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With the 10-Year Challenge, cosmetic enhancements are front and center


Chances are you’ve seen plenty 10-year challenges pop up on Facebook and Instagram in recent weeks. But the viral Internet phenomenon, in which people post side-by-side photos of themselves from 2009 and 2019, can be a nightmare for many of us — a daunting reminder that as we age, skin begins to droop and wrinkles form.

Yet one group seems to be reveling in posting their photos: celebrities. Compared to 10 years ago, they seem to look dewier, their skin all glowy and smooth. It’s as if they’re aging in reverse. While some of that could be attributed to their access to the best trainers, nutritionists, and aestheticians, many of us are wondering the same thing: Could a cosmetic procedure or two have played a part?


It’s not that all celebrities are going under the knife to maintain their camera-ready looks. While major procedures like breast augmentations or tummy tucks will probably always require general anesthesia, other cosmetic procedures have evolved in recent years. Many have become less invasive, with minimal downtime, providing results for more moderate costs.

The industry is thriving. In 2017, $16.7 billion was spent on cosmetic procedures in the US, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. In 2013, that total was $12.6 billion.

“Twenty years ago . . . I did 90 percent surgery and 1 percent non-surgical. Now, more people are doing non-surgical procedures than surgery,” said Dr. Joseph Russo, a plastic surgeon in Newton. “The younger population, they’re going to have the option of using technology to maintain and enhance their looks. They may never even need surgery.”

While patients used to come to Russo in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, now, he says, they’re starting in the 20s and 30s with injectables like Botox, fillers and technologies involving lasers, ultrasounds, and radio frequency that maintain a youthful look, preventing the need to go under the knife later on.


The rise of injectables is one of the reasons why medical spas are popping up on every corner. At Skin Deep Med Spa, a non-surgical cosmetic enhancement facility on Newbury Street, the most popular service is lip enhancement. Michelle Cory, an aesthetic nurse at Skin Deep, says injectables provide such significant results that it’s no wonder the average age of a plastic surgery patient has increased from 40s to 60s. Meanwhile, the ages of the patients getting non-surgical procedures has skewed younger and younger, she says.

“I have mothers bringing in their 16-year-old girls to have their lips done,” said Cory.

While the face lift used to be one of the most popular procedures for plastic surgeons, new technologies allow some patients to avoid such an extensive procedure. One of Dr. Russo’s recently developed procedures is what he calls the “J Lift,” the more modern equivalent of a face lift. It involves two small incisions behind the ears, and is done under local anesthesia or IV sedation.

“In the older days, we had face lifting surgeries. What we didn’t understand was that one of the biggest parts of aging was volume loss. We were just pulling skin. We had patients who had that ‘windblown’ look. That’s not something that exists in nature,” Russo said. “The J Lift is like the lower half of a face lift.”

The J Lift begins with a device that employs radio-frequency to provide fat and tissue “remodeling” on the lower face, jawline, and neck. It’s followed by liposuction to remove excess fat and create a more-defined jawline. A small incision shaped like a “J” is then made behind each ear, a small amount of skin is removed, and two sutures are used to tighten and lift through the jawline and neck. The procedure, which costs around $8,000, is completed with a full-face resurfacing treatment to improve skin irregularities and texture.


But it’s not just the technology that has changed in the past 10 years. With selfies and social media, our level of awareness about beauty and how we look has skyrocketed, says Russo. As a result, our perceived imperfections are magnified.

“The ability to use filters, to make ourselves look different, i.e. basically mimicking plastic surgery — it’s created this environment where everyone has to be beautiful,” he said. “As a result, people are seeking out ways of looking better.”

Megan Johnson can be reached at megansarahjohnson@ gmail.com