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The Growing Trend of Ethnic Plastic Surgery

NEW YORK, NY (November 3, 2005) — According to statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 20 percent of all cosmetic procedures performed last year, an increase from 14 percent in 2000. Hispanics again led minority racial and ethnic groups in the number of procedures at 8.5% followed by African-Americans, 6.2 percent; Asians, 4.6 percent; and other non-Caucasians, 1.1 percent.

Ethnicity has prevented some people from seeking plastic surgery for years, many fearing that their features would look "too white”. However, “Many are realizing that plastic surgery can be done without feeling like you're trying to change your ethnicity," says Julius Few, MD, FACS, assistant professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "New procedures and specific training in treating ethnic populations have opened new avenues for patients who previously were afraid to try many procedures. For example, scarring is an area of concern among darker-skinned patients; we now have new techniques to help minimize unwanted outcomes," says Dr. Few.

Expertise in treating skin of color involves more than knowing how a certain laser or injectable might affect a Hispanic or Brazilian patient. A doctor's cultural sensitivity can also improve a patient's outlook. Renato Saltz, MD, of Salt Lake City, UT, believes that, “One size does not fit all – not only are techniques different for certain minority populations but the concept of what is beautiful is as well” he said. “For example, South American women typically want smaller breasts and larger buttocks than the average white American female." He also recognizes the potential economic force that ethnic populations represent.

Many plastic surgeons speak more than one language or have multi-lingual staff to aid in patient communication. When it comes to developing a rapport with his South American patients, Dr. Saltz admits that speaking the language is an asset, but he insists that other factors are equally or more important. “Being aware of cultural differences is more than just speaking the language. It's also about understanding how patients want to enhance their natural ethnic beauty.”

ASAPS member Kristoffer Ning Chang, MD, assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at the University of California-San Francisco, says that his very diverse practice includes Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern and Caucasian patients, each with somewhat different goals and requirements. Asian patients, he says, are primarily interested in eyelid surgery and rhinoplasty (nose reshaping).

"As far as Asian patients, I find some of them come to my office because I am Chinese,” says Dr. Chang. “Those who do are seeking doctors of a similar ethnic background because they don't want a Westernized look. They want subtle improvements that are not overly done. However, you don't need to be Asian to treat Asian patients. For example, experienced aesthetic surgeons will identify pleasing ethnic features and recreate them,” he said.

"First generation immigrants are usually hard-working people who want to give their children every advantage, and those children are growing up very 'Americanized',” says Michael McGuire, MD, a plastic surgeon with a private practice in Los Angeles. He has recently added a Hispanic Patient Care Coordinator to his office staff, and a Spanish version of his web site. Many of the second and third generation Hispanic-Americans are sophisticated, successful, and very interested in appearance.

With increased awareness about ethnic concerns and new procedures that cater to the inherent differences in darker skin, people of all ethnicities can finally consider changing their nose or lips or eyes, without removing a piece of their heritage.

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