There are just some things I don’t tell my husband about: the new pair of boots I bought (I already own too many), the Facebook message from an ex (I didn’t respond), the amount of leftover Halloween candy I’ve eaten (hush), and lastly, most of my beauty rituals.
It’s not that I try to hide when I dye my hair or tweeze my eyebrows, but I try to do it when no one else is home. And heaven help the man, child or cat who walks in on me while I’m waxing my ‘stache.
I’m not alone in my reticence to share. According to plastic surgeon Anthony Youn, M.D., hiding cosmetic enhancements has become a trend among his clients. And it’s not just facial hair they’re lying about — it’s full-on plastic surgery.
“Cosmetic surgery has become a new form of infidelity — for both men and women,” he writes. “As the number of people having plastic surgery rises, more and more feel the need to hide their procedures from their significant others. In fact, we did a survey of cosmetic patients in my office and found that one-third don’t tell their partners about their treatments.”
My friend Shannon wasn’t surprised. “My husband never notices when I get Botox. I pay for it so I don’t say anything.”
Botox or fillers are one thing but how do one-third of patients hide something like bigger boobs or a nose job? Any made-up explanation for why you have to stay bandaged for weeks or have two black eyes is probably more alarming than just saying “I had surgery.” (I’ve decided to be an MMA fighter? I was mugged at the grocery store? The doctor had to puncture my lung to save my life after I was in a horrible car accident?) Yet Youn says patients go to great lengths to hide even the biggest procedures. Some take a “vacation” to get the work done and others wait until their spouse goes out of town for business.
Kelly says that after her breast augmentation, which took her from an a-cup to a d-cup, she had to come up with a myriad of excuses to explain why she couldn’t lift her arms. “I didn’t have a boyfriend at the time so I didn’t worry about that, but I did get some really strange looks at work and at the gym,” she says. “Eventually I just told everyone I’d pulled a muscle in my chest really, really badly.”
In addition to lying about the procedure itself, patients also have to cover the money trail. Ashley explains, “I work for a facial plastic surgeon and a lot of women will pay in cash for Botox and Restylane (they’re not as easily detectable like a face lift) to avoid charging their cards and having to explain to their husbands.”
While it’s kind of funny to think about someone going to FBI levels of deception to hide getting work done, Youn never addresses the idea of why women (and it does seem like it’s mostly women) feel that this is necessary.
“To me this just reinforces the complete fantasy that our society demands: Women never age, their looks don’t change, there is no such thing as Photoshop, and cosmetic procedures don’t even exist! This state of non-aging is natural and costs no money!” Monica says. “In my opinion women need to be more upfront about all this stuff. With that said, given the social pressures involved, I really can’t fault any individual woman for hiding this.”
What’s clear is that whether women are doing it to keep the romance alive, to boost their own self-esteem or to look the way society says they should, taking pride in and spending money on one’s appearance is still considered vain, frivolous and even embarrassing. Until we can embrace realistic standards of beauty for women in all ages and all stages of life, “cosmetic infidelity” will continue to happen.
More on cosmetic surgery
The lunch hour facelift: What you should know about injectables
The latest WTF beauty treatment: DIY plastic surgery
Why I’m getting mommy makeover surgery