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Plastic surgery gives the economy a lift

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Forget tough economic times; Australians will spend around $850 million on cosmetic surgery this year, research suggests.

The most common procedures include breast reduction, liposuction, rhinoplasty (nose reshaping) and eyelid surgery, according to a study by IbisWorld.

Meanwhile, demand for non-invasive cosmetic procedures has been growing at a phenomenal rate for several years, with Australians spending about $560 million last year, up 25 percent on the previous year, IbisWorld estimates.

Formal statistics on the size and growth of cosmetic surgery are difficult to obtain as records are not collected on the industry in Australia. But the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery used sales records for botulinum toxin, better known as by the brand names Botox and Dysport, to estimate 1.5 million jabs had been administered in about 250,000 wrinkle reduction procedures in 2009. That was a 30 percent jump on the previous year.

Dr Jeremy Hunt, a plastic surgeon in Sydney and spokesperson for the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons told Fairfax he has seen an increase in the number of people seeking non-surgical solutions to ageing.

"If you look at the trends coming from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), there is certainly an increase in the number of non-surgical interventions such as Botox and the use of fillers and I think Australia is embracing those products at the same kind of rate as the United States," he said.

In 2011 cosmetic surgery gave the US economy a lift to the tune of $10.4 billion, with Americans undergoing 13.8 million cosmetic procedures and around 5.5 million reconstructive surgeries.

ASPS data shows that women were the drivers of the cosmetic surgery industry in the US, representing 91 percent of all procedures last year. While for American men, the most commonly requested procedure was nose reshaping. But eyelid surgery, liposuction and ear surgery also made the cut.

Chins were in last year, with the number of chin augmentation surgeries rising fastest by 71 percent from 2010. However, the most common cosmetic surgery in the US in 2011 was breast augmentation, with women spending an average of $3388 on a physician consultation, ahead of nose reshaping at $4422 for the average consultation, according to ASPS. Rounding off the top five cosmetic surgeries for 2011 in the US (by number of procedures) was liposuction ($2859), eyelid surgery ($2741) and facelift surgery ($6426).

Most health insurance policies in Australia don't cover the cost of cosmetic surgeries to enhance appearance, and patients will typically need to foot the bill – which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the procedure. You could take out a personal loan or use a credit card to pay for a procedure, but an automatic savings plan will help you reach your goal debt-free.

For instance, if you deposit $1000 into a high-interest savings account paying, say, 5.5 percent interest and add $250 per month you'll reach a goal of $10,000 in less than three years, assuming the interest rate remains steady.

By comparison, spending $10,000 on a credit card and making only the minimum repayment each month (around $200) at a rate of 14 percent could see you forking out an extra $13,567 in interest and take you more than 36 years to repay the debt in full.

Costs aside remember, that despite the best efforts of plastic surgeons to deliver a more youthful appearance, the ageing process is an inevitable reality.

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