April 16, 2012 at 12:05 AM ET
Americans are taking it on the chin more often. Literally.
"Chinplants," i.e., surgical procedures that enhance and define the chin line, increased 71 percent between 2010 and 2011, outdoing breast augmentation, liposuction and even Botox, which increased a mere five percent between 2010 and 2011, according to new statistics released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
"Having a strong chin is not something you can gain via diet or exercise," says Dr. Darrick Antell, a Manhattan plastic surgeon and clinical professor of surgery at Columbia University. "You're either born with it or you see a surgeon to improve it."
The procedure is now popular with both men and women, with nearly 21,000 Americans opting for the operation last year alone, the ASPS reports.
Experts point to a handful of reasons for the rise in chinplants.
"The biggest jump was in people over 40 which is the point where people are bridging the gap between youthfulness and middle age," says Antell. "They're getting loose skin under the jaw line and a chin implant can make an immediate improvement."
Why chins? Why now?
"People have cameras everywhere," Antell says. "You can be at a wedding at the buffet table and a moment later see pictures of your double chin on Facebook. We're a much more image-driven society than we were even five years ago."
Dr. Mehmet Oz told TODAY's Matt Lauer that chin implant surgery is not without risk; there's a 5-7 percent chance of infection, Oz said. He said people considering chinplants should make sure the doctor is board certified, experienced at the procedure and has hospital privileges (even though the procedure is usually done in an office). Also, ask for references and check them out.
Finally, Oz cautioned, people need to realize that the plastic surgery procedure du jour will not guarantee happiness. "Ask the soul-searching question: am I happy, or am I doing this to make me happy? Because the latter is not a good way to go."
Lauer agreed: "This will give you a more prominent chin, this will not make you happier."
Michigan-based plastic surgeon Dr. Tony Youn says he's "definitely" seeing an increase in people who want chin augmentation, although many of his chin patients are under 40 and are opting for fillers like Restylane over implant surgery.
Youn credits the web and its readily-available information and TV shows like The Doctors which regularly feature niche operations like chin implants as reasons why the procedure has skyrocketed in the last year.
Unflattering cell phone angles could also responsible for the sudden "chincrease.”
"I'm seeing more younger people coming in who don't like the shape of their face," says Youn, who recently authored the memoir "In Stitches". "I think it has to do with applications like FaceTime, which is like Skype for iPhones. I do FaceTime with my wife and kid and I'm shocked at how bad I look on that. I think these apps are causing people to see cosmetic imperfections they may not have noticed before."
There may be more to the chin than meets the eye (or the iPhone), though.
A strong chin is equated with leadership -- think of former Presidents Clinton and Ford and President Obama, all of whom have strong chins.
In an anecdotal study Antell conducted of CEOs of the top Fortune 500 companies in 2007, he determined that 90 percent of the chief executives -- including Carly Fiorina of Hewlett-Packard -- had chins that were stronger than the average population's.
Megan Petersen, a 34-year-old community manager for the cosmetic industry consumer review site RealSelf.com, says the chin implant she got 10 years ago was strictly about personal aesthetics.
"I knew my chin was underdeveloped and it wasn't a super great look. It was definitely recessed," says the Seattle resident.
Petersen’s procedure was fairly simple, involving an incision under her chin through which a small rubbery implant was inserted.
Patients usually require just a few days recovery time and chin implant surgery is reversible, says Antell. Complications can include numbness, infection, and bleeding but he says the complication rate is "remarkably low -- less than a half of a percent."
Ten years later, Petersen says the procedure she had was absolutely the right decision.
"It definitely made a difference in my life," she says. "In fact, I kind of wish I would have gone a little more. Now my sister's considering doing it."
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