Utah’s Mommy Makeover: A State Rich in Plastic Surgeons

Apr 25th 2013

A state rich in plastic surgeons

It surprises many people, but studies have found that conservative, sober Utah shows the nation’s highest interest in breast implants, according to a plastic surgery marketing site realself.comForbes magazine, in 2007, went so far as to call Salt Lake City the “vainest” city in America because of its disproportionately high number of plastic surgeons for its population. Salt Lake has six plastic surgeons for every 100,000 residents, as compared to New York City’s four. Statewide, a 2010 survey found that the Beehive State as a whole came in at No. 8 for board-certified plastic surgeons, joining New York, California and Florida in the top 10. And during the recession, Utah’s plastic surgeons continued to prosper. (Hard numbers for Utah are difficult to break out because the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery lumps the state’s statistics under an eight-state region, which also includes California, Colorado and Arizona.)

‘Restoration’ not vanity

Renato Saltz, a Salt Lake plastic surgeon, observes that, based on his practice, Utah’s conservative population nevertheless cares deeply about physical appearance. “Utah has some of the most beautiful people in the world, and they like to remain beautiful as they grow older.”

Saltz, who taught medicine at the University of Utah before going into private practice, says that while the number of Utah men interested in cosmetic work is lower than the national average, young mothers are much more open to it than average because of their relative youth and the support of friends and family. “Pregnancy really damages parts of the body, including stretch marks,” he says. “It is a direct result of repeated pregnancies —the tissues don’t get a chance to recover.”

Not surprisingly, plastic surgeons in Utah tend to be as conservative about their work as their patients. “I don’t like any ‘adventures.’ We screen our patients very well,” says Saltz. “My patients are in their 30s and 40s—it’s a mature population. They have real expectations. We don’t get many who say, ‘I want to look like Jennifer Lopez or Angelina Jolie.’ We take it seriously when they are looking for the wrong [self-image] solutions. Sometimes you just have to say no.”

Yates agrees. “I’m not a flamboyant type of guy. I’m here for a reason. I like normal.”

Another advantage of Utah’s young mommies is that they tend to be healthy and fit, allowing them to get their mommy makeover in one shot. “The patients are healthy,” Saltz says.” Good candidates for combined procedures.”

A second spring

Elizabeth (not her real name) doesn’t fit the Utah mommy makeover mold in some ways. She’s from the Mormon culture, but older—near retirement age. But she has had a dozen or so children and decided recently that she wanted her body to match they way she felt physically. A slim blonde, Elizabeth swims two miles a day between a busy schedule of work and community involvement.

“I didn’t have surgery because I was unhappy with myself or trying to appear to be something I’m not,” she says. “I have a healthy body, and it has served me beautifully. But when you bear that many children, there is a price that is paid on the body. I didn’t want to change myself—I wanted to put myself back together. My body didn’t match up with how I felt about myself. If my body is not congruent with my health, then I’m distorted.”

Though Elizabeth says she is not ashamed of the surgery, she comes from a generation that doesn’t openly discuss medical issues in general. “It’s a private matter. I don’t dress differently. I don’t behave differently,” she says. “After the surgery I felt fresh. It felt good. It was like springtime again. Now, I feel I’m all one. I’m 40 years old again.”

‘It’s for me’

Strong says that within her family and circle of friends, no stigma is attached to cosmetic surgery; she’s even discussed it with her daughters. “A lot of girls are worried about people knowing about it,” she says. “But I’m more open than that.”

She doesn’t go around bragging about her cosmetic work, but when she receives compliments from other women at races who are amazed by the body of the mother of three, Strong is honest. “When they say things like, ‘I wish I could look like you,’ I want them to know it’s not just a matter of my exercising and eating well,” she says. “I tell them I had some help.”

So far, Strong says eight women from her circle of friends and family have gone to Yates for similar motherhood restoration surgeries. “He comes highly recommended around here.”

Talking husbands into it

Another surprising reality of Utah plastic surgery is that women aren’t undergoing it to please their husbands, let alone at their spouse’s urging.

“The majority of women have it done for themselves,” Strong says. “It’s not for their husbands—although they obviously benefit. It has a huge impact on your self-esteem, I don’t care who you are.”

In fact, one of the biggest hurdles of getting a mommy makeover for many Utah women is that their husbands don’t want to pay for cosmetic surgeries—which are not covered by health insurance.

“It’s a big chunk of money,” Strong says. “But I tell my girlfriends, ‘Maybe you should ask your husband if his penis shrunk every time you had a child, would he be fine with that?’

“I know it’s really blunt, but they giggle and laugh. I guess I’m rotten.”

Strong says, for Utah mommies, it boils down to the rule of moderation in all things: “You can have some nips and tucks and fix some problems left over from having babies, but you don’t need to go over the top.”

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