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A steady stream of alleged patient complaints and negative reports about one version of the “mini facelift” seems only matched by the continued growth of the company that offers the controversial procedure.
Indeed, it’s the combination of these two factors that prompted reporter Tom Wilemon to cover the Lifestyle Lift in the online version of The Tennessean this month. In “Bargain face lifts ignite debate,” Wilemon noted that that Lifestyle Lift “is poised to become the McDonald’s of the cosmetic surgery business.”
How can this be happening? First and foremost, Lifestyle Lift (the company) is capitalizing on the demand for what amounts to a “holy grail” of cosmetic surgery: a way to rejuvenate the face without the downtime, cost and anesthesia of a traditional facelift. Judging by the number of Botox treatments in 2009—more than 2.5 million, and popular injectables like Restylane—more than 1.3 million, the market for less-invasive facial procedures is huge. In its decade of operation, Lifestyle Lift itself reports more than 100,000 clients.
Second, there’s a remarkable lack of regulation in the cosmetic surgery industry. There’s nothing to prevent anyone with a medical degree from performing cosmetic procedures. This means that the backgrounds of doctors who work in the dozens of Lifestyle Lift centers across the country vary widely. Some are fully trained and credentialed in the field of plastic surgery as recommended by the American Board of Medical Specialties; others are ear, nose and throat physicians who have undergone Lifestyle Lift training. And, although the centers also offer what they term “neck firming” and “eye firming” procedures, if what you really need is something else altogether, you may not be advised accordingly.
What are the problems reported by patients? Some complaints start even before surgery. Patients report being aggressively “sold” on the Lifestyle Lift by employees who are not medically trained. Many patients say they were dismayed by the procedure itself, citing multiple painful shots, distressing sounds and smells and difficulty in bearing the tugging and snipping of skin.