Feb 2, 2010 2:17 PM by Diane Mapes, MSNBC
Thinking about a nose job? Chances are you're from the Northeast, according to new data released from RealSelf.com, a consumer review site for the cosmetic industry. Permanent makeup more your thing? Then you're probably from the Southwest.
"We looked at our logs - we're talking millions of searches - in order to map [regional] consumer interest," says Tom Seery, president and founder of RealSelf.com. "There were definitely some interesting findings."
For instance, the Web site's search data tracked 55 percent more searches for rhinoplasty by people in the Northeast than in other area of the country. And Southerners (people who live in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi and other nearby states) were 30 percent more likely to search for traditional facelifts and related procedures than in other areas.
Body slimming interest was higher in the South, as well, with 20 percent more searches for liposuction, tummy tucks and other fat-fighting procedures, whereas breast reduction surgery was tops in the Pacific Northwest - outpacing other regions by 67 percent.
The Web site was even able to break down search information city by city.
What are the people in Washington, D.C., concerned about? Scar removal, it would appear, followed closely by straight teeth (Invisalign is the second most researched procedure in that area). When it comes to Houston and Atlanta, however, the problem lies further south, with the top slot going to lipodissolve (or mesotherapy), an experimental "fat-melting" technique used for small areas of localized fat, such as saddlebags.
In Miami, tummy tucks were the No. 1 procedure being investigated. As for Los Angeles? Not surprisingly, it was all about augmentation - lip augmentation, that is.
"We call it the trout pout," says Jim Cherry, a 51-year-old writer and style blogger from Los Angeles. "When I travel up to Seattle, I never see women who look the way they do here, with those big inflated lips. But with Angelina Jolie and Julia Roberts being held up as the bombshells of the age - the ideal - it's no surprise women go and have their lips inflated like that."
Of course, just because people are searching for information about a certain procedure doesn't mean they actually have it done, says Dr. Michael McGuire, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
But he admits regional cosmetic trends do seem to exist (the ASPS keeps track of procedures by region, as well).
Breast augmentation, for instance, is big in the Pacific and Mountain states, leading the nation with a whopping 36 percent. Other popular procedures for this region include laser treatment of leg veins (37 percent), laser hair removal (33 percent) and liposuction, which pulls in 31 percent of the nation's procedures. (The South Atlantic, stretching from Washington D.C. to Florida, is second with 22 percent.)
"Some of its related to weather," says McGuire. "When you get into the south - California and Florida - you have a lot more outdoor activities and outdoor weather much more of the year. So body contouring is going to be more significant in those areas as compared to Minnesota or the Northeast, where people are covering up at least six months of the year."
Elizabeth Dashiell, a 37-year-old public relations person from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., says she's definitely seen people succumb to the allure of the "plastic fantastic" after moving to the Sunshine State.
"It's pretty insidious," she says. "You can literally see people - like friends of friends on Facebook. They'll come for a visit and they'll look a certain way and then after they move to Miami or Palm Beach, their appearance will start to change in their pictures. A lot of it you can attribute to the beautiful weather. You're on the beach a lot and you don't want to look nasty in your bathing suit."
Not everyone is looking to make their backside smaller, though. Buttock implants, according to regional data gathered by the ASPS, are more popular in the South Atlantic region than any other part of the country.
What's behind this trend?
"Buttock implants and butt lifts are very big in South America," says McGuire. "If I had to explain this difference, I'd say it has to do with the number of South Americans living in the Florida area or the number of South Americans going there to have it done."
While the statistics from RealSelf.com and ASPS don't always see eye to eye (the regions are divvied a bit differently), they're definitely in alignment when it comes to rhinoplasty. Not only are nose jobs a big search item for the Northeast per RealSelf.com, the ASPS data shows 30 percent of all nose reshaping surgeries take place in New England and the Middle Atlantic region (with the Pacific and Mountain region running a close second).
Why are noses so big in the Northeast and the West? "Some of it is related to the society and to the culture," says McGuire, who has a private practice in the Los Angeles area.
"In certain areas, it's almost become a rite of passage to have your nose fixed and straightened when you're a teenager," he says. "It used to be teens would have their nose fixed during summer vacation or spring break, but now they want to go back to school with their splint on. It's a sign their parents are rich enough to get their nose done."
Ethnicity is part of it, too, says Dr. Shervin Naderi, a rhinoplasty specialist with practices in both northern Virginia and Chevy Chase, Md.
"A large group of rhinoplasty patients are ethnic patients - Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, African American - and the East Coast probably has more of a predominance of ethnic groups and minorities than you find in the central part of the country," he says. "Also, people will cross the country to have surgery. Twenty to 25 percent of my patients aren't from the east. There are just more rhinoplasty surgeons on the coasts."
Weather may even have an influence, says Susan Kula, a 60-year-old teaching assistant from Ithaca, N.Y.
"Around here, it's so cold that your face and your nose are the only things that show," she says. "I've even thought about a nose job, but I can't spend that kind of money."
The temperature may certainly be the reason why people in the southwest are 2.5 times more likely to get permanent makeup procedures, such as tattooed eyebrows, lip liner and eye liner, than in other parts of the country.
"It's so hot down here that you sweat off all your makeup, plus everybody has pools," says Rylee Bledsoe, a 29-year-old cosmetic laser instructor from Scottsdale, Ariz. "People are vain; they don't ever want to be seen without their makeup."
There's such demand for the procedure, in fact, Bledsoe says her cosmetic school has started offering a permanent makeup application training course. And she, herself, has both taken the course and had permanent eyeliner put on (she's also had Botox, a top procedure for the region, according to the ASPS).
"I figured if I was going to do it on other people, I'd better have some done myself," she says. "But I also wear eyeliner every day and thought it would be easier to have one less piece of makeup to put on."
A native of the Pacific Northwest, Bledsoe also admits moving to Arizona has influenced her perceptions regarding cosmetic procedures.
"I think there's peer pressure," she says. "People make it seem like no big deal here and everybody does it. And if you're not doing it, you think, ‘What's wrong with me?'
"I have a friend who's 25 and she was always against getting her boobs done. But a couple of months ago, she went and got them done. I guess being the only girl who didn't have big boobs at the pool was intimidating. Now I'm considering getting my boobs done, too."