Dr. Santa

Giving the gift of Botox, lipo, and laser resurfacing this holiday season

New York's purveyors of unnatural beauty are sharpening their needles in anticipation of another gift-giving season. With the plethora of newish lunch break procedures, apparently it's not at all rude or mean to give your girlfriend/boyfriend/partner /roommate a $200 gift certificate toward a Botox 'n' Restylane treatment to freeze and fill that scary fissure between the brows.

It's also the season for dissolving big, blue hand ropes. So many people—many of them women who've already had their faces done and fear their hands will give away their ages—are getting veins removed as presents (usually from their husbands) that vein specialist Lee Schulman's nurses were telling him to print up gift cards already. And Mt. Kisco-–based cosmetic surgeon David Bank, who does laser resurfacing and lipo among other procedures, says he's sold about 20 gift certificates to date.

This is clearly not a good gift idea for one who thinks lip plumping should be added to the United Nations' fact sheet on harmful traditional practices, but if you suspect a loved one would be happier without the constellation of hairy moles across her or his back, there are graceful ways to give the gift of minimally invasive surgery.

Dr. Michael Kane, Botox king of the Upper East Side (already completely booked through January), says clients will often buy a certificate for "aesthecian" services knowing full well the giftee couldn't care less about a deep-cleansing facial and will just use it to suck out some chin and neck fat. Dermatologist Tabasum Mir, one of New York's first practitioners of Thermage (a procedure she claims makes the flesh "thicker and tougher"), says she's sold about 30 gift certificates already, mostly to women buying for friends/sisters/ daughters. ("Women want to look better for other women," says Kane.) And while most people aren't insensitive enough to push it on those who haven't expressed an interest, there are exceptions.

Mir recounts a recently married, very glamorous 57-year-old woman who bought a gift certificate for her outdoorsy 37-year-old stepdaughter. "She was a surfer type—her skin was like leather, it was so damaged," Mir says. She suggested a series of chemical peels, but it was clear the daughter didn't really want to be there. Finally she said she didn't care what her skin looked like. Mir says she didn't get anything done, "But who am I too argue with that? It's fine in its own way. Her stepmother was really disappointed, though."

Mothers and daughters can present the most complex dynamic. Kids usually don't want their moms to get stretched and pulled, but some moms want their daughters to have the optimal social success that perfect looks presumably bring no matter the cost, says Kane. He remembers a woman who brought in her 14-year-old daughter for a nose job—in this city, not so remarkable. But after talking with the ninth- grader for 10 minutes he realized she didn't care about the bump on her nose. Then her mom, whose own nose was "fixed" and who had married a man with a small, straight nose, uttered the deal breaker. "She said, 'But you have to get it done soon, otherwise people will wonder where you got that nose!'" Kane says he threw them both out. "I said thanks but no, I just don't feel comfortable with this."

 
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