Facelift Inflation – Does a Higher Price Guarantee a Better Result?

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Before and After SMAS facelift by Dr. Brian Machida

Inflation – it seems like we encounter it every day.  While national reports indicate that the inflation rate is slowing down, prices seem to keep going up.  That’s even true of facial plastic surgery like facelift and blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery) procedures that can help you “turn back the clock.” The benefits of looking younger and more attractive remain constant.  Extensive research reveals that they include greater popularity, better job prospects, increased credibility, and higher pay.  Naturally, people continue to want to improve their appearance.  It’s just costing them more.  Why?

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Why does facial plastic surgery inflation exist?

As The New York Times reported in, “And Now, the $200,000 Face-Lift,” cosmetic facial plastic surgery prices are increasing – in some cases, dramatically.  This is often seen in areas that cater to the rich.  For instance, The New York Times article quotes a Beverly Hills facial plastic surgeon who charges $40,000 to $50,000 for a facelift.  It describes a plastic surgeon with offices in Chicago and Los Angeles who charges $50,000 for a basic facelift and “well into six figures for a more extensive procedure.”

High prices like these surprise me.  There are a number of highly experienced board-certified facial plastic and plastic surgeons who provide their patients with excellent results for substantially less money. So how do “surgeons to the stars” justify their astronomical rates?

“It’s a little like the label on clothes, or if the price of the wine is more, it’s better…Is facial surgery worth the super-high tariff? Only the consumer can decide that.”

– a Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon quoted in The New York Times

A facelift is like “commissioning an artist to make a very beautiful painting for you…At first blush, it may seem like a big number, but I think of this as a question of value, not of cost…Your face is your job, it’s your love life, it’s your identity.”

-a Manhattan plastic surgeon who charges up to $200,000 for a face-lift quoted in The New York Times

Members of the 1% for whom money is no object can afford a celebrity plastic surgeon who charges high prices due to their reputation.  And behavioral economists know that people really do assume that a higher price means a better procedure.  But what many people believe isn’t always true.

Does a high-quality facelift or blepharoplasty have to cost a fortune?

No, it doesn’t.  As I discussed in “How to Make a $27,000 Beverly Hills-Quality Facelift Cost Much Less,” on this site, there are several ways to reduce costs while still providing outstanding results.  One way is to choose a board-certified plastic or facial plastic surgeon with lots of experience in facelifts who practices somewhere other than a highly affluent community.

I practice in Inland Empire, California in Greater Los Angeles. I was surprised to learn that in nearby affluent Orange County, a blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery) for which I charge $6,000 costs $17,000.

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Before and After blepharoplasty eyelid surgery by Dr. Brian Machida

A SMAS facelift for which I charge around $10,000 costs $17,000 and more.  In fact, my patients pay $13,000 to $16,000 for a full Deep Plane facelift (depending on how much work they need).   This procedure rejuvenates your face more than any other.  But in Beverly Hills and Manhattan, a similar procedure can cost 3 to 4 times more.  Why?

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Before and one week After Deep Plane Facelift by Dr. Brian Machida, MD, FACS. Dramatic improvement, including in cheeks and nasolabial folds, is seen while patient is still healing.

It’s not because celebrity surgeons have unequaled levels of experience.  I’ve performed more than 6,000 facelifts in my career, and I’m not alone in this.  Have they done more?  Are they better qualified?  Using my case as an example, I taught facial plastic surgery for years at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.  Surgeons I trained could now be working at celebrity practices that charge far more than what I do for a facelift or blepharoplasty. Why?

Medications and surgical supplies needed for these procedures cost a little more these days.  Labor costs are about the same as they were a year ago.  So, why are we seeing substantial inflation in facial plastic surgery?  Could it be that some surgeons charge a lot more because people expect to pay more in a time of inflation?  Could some highly competent surgeons be motivated by something in addition to their desire to improve their patients’ looks and lives?

How can you get a high-quality facelift for less? 

There are three factors that don’t impact your facelift results and yet can make a big difference in the price you pay:

Where your surgeon practices

I don’t recommend going overseas for a “plastic surgery vacation.”  You can see the reasons in “Facelift Abroad – Are the Savings Worth the Risks?”  But in the United States there are places to avoid if you want terrific results at a lower cost.  If you’re wealthy, you can get an outstanding facelift from a celebrity surgeon in places like Beverly Hills and Manhattan.  But you’ll pay a premium price – perhaps $50,000 to $100,000 or even more.

In places like that, even a skilled surgeon who’s not famous will cost you more.  Office rent and staffing rates are significantly higher there.  If you want a great procedure for less, you’ll want to find a skilled, experienced facial plastic or plastic surgeon in an area where the cost of living is moderate.  Excellent surgeons can charge less if their expenses are lower.

Before and After Facelift by Dr. Brian Machida

Your surgeon’s level of experience

 It seems pretty evident that a highly experienced, board-certified specialist can provide better results.  How does that affect the price of your facelift?  It’s the time it takes to do your procedure.  A facial plastic or plastic surgeon who has performed hundreds, even thousands, of facelifts is extremely familiar with the procedure.  They know what to expect, and what to do if something out of the ordinary occurs.  They can work efficiently without rushing.

A surgeon who performs a few facelifts each year may prefer a slower, more deliberate pace.  If your facial anatomy “throws them a curveball,” they may need a little more time to determine how to overcome that challenge and give you the look you want.  Unfortunately, in a surgical setting, time is money.  Operating rooms and staff generate hourly costs.  The longer your procedure is expected to take, the more it costs.  And the more money you’ll pay.

A highly experienced surgeon may be able to perform an outstanding facelift in an hour and a half.  They can charge considerably less than a surgeon who needs to allow three hours for the same procedure.

The type of anesthesia used in your procedure  CONTACT Dr. Machida Inland Empire, CA 

You may not realize it, but the type of anesthesia your surgeon uses during your facelift affects the price you pay.  Some surgeons still use general anesthesia.  This allows them to take their time in surgery – a possible tip-off that they may not have the level of experience that would help them need less time.

Joan Rivers PropofolGeneral anesthesia in the office is either expensive or dangerous.  Many states require surgeons who use general anesthesia to have a licensed anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist on hand exclusively to monitor patients’ safety.  They also need to have a local hospital at the ready in case complications arise during your surgery.  Both add considerable expense to your facelift cost.

To avoid the dangers of general anesthesia, many plastic and facial plastic surgeons use I.V. sedation agents like propofol.  This anesthetic makes patients wake up feeling good, which adds to patient satisfaction.  But propofol can be dangerous.  Remember Joan Rivers?  A state medical review of her death concluded that it was a “predictable complication” of using propofol.  Thus, many states require that a licensed anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist be on hand to monitor your vital signs during your procedure.  This also increases your facelift cost.

Getting great results while avoiding facelift inflation

It’s certainly possible to get a procedure that will help you look younger for years without becoming a victim of facelift inflation.  You just have to do your homework.  Look for a board-certified facial plastic surgeon, or a plastic surgeon that specializes in the face and neck.  Find one who practices in an area that does not cater to the wealthy.  Then find out how many procedures of the kind you need the surgeon has performed.  Check out their Before and After photos for that procedure.  Ask which procedure they’d recommend.  Then ask how much it will cost.

You can find a qualified specialist who will provide great results at an affordable price.  It will take some work.  But you can look younger for years and still beat facelift inflation.  If you’re in Inland Empire, California, you’re welcome to come see me at STC Plastic Surgery in Ontario for a free consultation.

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Facelift, neck lift, and blepharoplasty by Dr. Brian Machida

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About Dr. Brian Machida, MD, FACS

Dr. Brian K. Machida, MD, FACS is a double board certified facial plastic surgeon. He has an exceptional level of experience, having performed ( read more )

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