Sagging economy nips plastic surgery biz

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. Plastic surgery has long been a growth industry, especially in Los Angeles, where everyone wants to look young, tan, and fit. Because of that you'd think the business of cosmetic surgeons is recession-proof. But you'd be wrong.

"Talking to my colleagues and looking at my own numbers, I think within the Beverly Hills area at least, most plastic surgeons are down by about 30 percent, some people even to 50 percent," said plastic surgeon Dr. Payman Simoni.

It's nothing like the car business. You don't see lines of plastic surgeons lining up on Capitol Hill looking for a handout. But there are similarities. Doctor Simoni, who has a thriving practice on La Cienega Boulvard says many patients, like car buyers, can no longer borrow money to pay for it.

"One of the problems also we're having is the financing issue. A lot of people used to finance their procedures, and now we're realizing that the finance companies are holding their money tight," said Dr. Simoni.

The rich and famous are still getting their faces lifted, but cosmetic surgeons who practice around Beverly Hills who were flying high just a couple of months ago, say business because of the economy is definitely going down.

Dr. David Alessi may be the exception. Dr. Alessi says he hasn't seen a downturn yet at his practice on Wilshire Boulevard, because he has held on to his high-end clientele.

"It seems that when times are bad, people want to take care of themselves, and one of the easiest ways to take care of themselves is to do something plastic-surgery-wise that makes them feel younger and healthier, more confident about themselves," said Dr. Alessi.

Dr. Allessi and others say because of the tough economic times, patients are opting for more Botox procedures and antioxidant creams to smooth a face without surgery. Doctor Simoni has developed techniques that allow lifts without the use of expensive anesthetics. Plastic surgeons, like everyone else, are adjusting to the new wrinkle in the economy.

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