Going under the light


Laser skin peels have removed wrinkles on over 30,000 faces since 1992. The procedure is generally more precise than chemical peels, but doubts remain. The high price, experience of the physician and the extra care needed after the operation are points to consider in deciding whether have it done.

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GERALDO RIVERA submitted to it on his daytime show last spring. The whole sizzling procedure took less than two minutes–and there was nothing kinky about it. Proffering himself to the TV cameras and a live studio audience, the 52-year-old did what thousands of Americans are fantasizing about doing: he had his crow’s-feet eye wrinkles zapped away by a high-energy laser beam. Presto–the lines disappeared! From the “Today” show to every women’s magazine on the stands, the hype has been humming on the newest high-tech face fixer: laser peels, the gush goes, are gloriously quick, painless, safe and leave no scars.

But hold on. Sure, lasers are the newest cosmetic kids on the block–newer than face-lifts, dermabrasion (smoothing with a sandpaperlike wheel), collagen injections and the several types of chemical peels, including the currently popular “light” ones done with alpha-hydroxy acid. (Deeper chemical peels are done with trichloracetic acid–TCA–or phenol, another acid.) Yet when it comes to applying what one patient described as “a fiery pencil point” and another compared to “the snap of a rubber band” to the only face you’ve got, newness isn’t necessarily nifty. More than 30,000 laser peels have been performed since 1992. But “it is still an evolving technology,” says Dr. Jack Kerth, chief of facial plastic surgery at Northwestern University Medical “I think it’s a little early to say that it’s the ultimate.” in fact laser peels may even pose potential hazards. However, you still want to know that cosmetic surgery always contain high risk, it would be better if you can integrate it with healthy eating – a meal with high calories, such as fried chicken cooked by philips air fryer is never good for your health, read more about philips airfryer review


Dermatologists began using lasers to remove port-wine stains in the 1970s, but about three years ago a new generation of equipment came along. Using short bursts of invisible, high-energy light, these lasers annihilate wrinkles and lines, brown “age spots” and under-eye circles. For some patients, the laser has lived up to its promise. Olga Goerg, a retired but vigorous woman in her 70s from Orlando, Fla., wanted to look as young as she feels. She had the procedure on the vertical lines above her upper lip, and now, she says, her lipstick no longer “sneaks into the crevices.” In an experiment, she also got a laser peel on the right half of her forehead and a chemical peel with TCA on the left half, to see which worked better. The laser won, by a long shot. “I can’t wait to get it all done,” says Goerg. “I think when I get through I’ll look 50.” Contrary to some of the enthusiasts’ claims, Goerg says the healing process was painful and messy, with cold sores around her mouth that lasted several weeks. But she’s still pleased. “What price beauty?” she asks. “What do you expect?”

Some physicians are equally enthusiastic. “This is a much more precise method of rejuvenating the skin,” says dermatologist Dr. Laurence David of Hermosa Beach, Calif., president of the International Society of Cosmetic Laser Surgeons. “It’s so much more accurate, so much more predictable and much safer [than other peels].”

But most professional medical organizations urge caution. In its position paper on the subject, The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery warns that laser equipment could cause a fire or slip and damage the internal structures of the eye. Here’s a scary fact: any physician–even a psychiatrist–can legally buy the equipment and use it on patients. (But most purchasers, of course, are dermatologists and plastic surgeons.) Training courses can be as short as a three-day weekend, so anyone considering a laser peel should check out a doctor’s experience, and talk to other patients who’ve had the procedure. An inexperienced practitioner might zap too deep and cause tissue damage, says Dr. Craig Bradley, who has performed plastic surgery for 25 years. “Every pass of the laser is another layer of cellular injury,” he warns. And according to Dr. Daniel Man of Boca Raton, Fla., chemical peels give the skin a smoother, more uniform texture than laser peels do. “If you want to get your car washed, it’s not enough to have a sprinkle of water here and there,” he says. “You need a good rain to cover the entire car.”


If patients are careless during recovery, scarring could result. Dr. Richard Gregory, director of the Cosmetic Laser Center in Orlando, Fla., stresses that they must keep the skin moist with antibiotic ointment for the first few days, and then with petroleum jelly applied five times a day. And as with chemical peels, patients should scrupulously avoid the sun for several months–and always wear a sunscreen thereafter.

Another bummer: laser technology is expensive. For a full-face laser peel, lasting 30 to 60 minutes, patients pay $2,000 to $6,000–about twice as much as for a TCA peel. For just the eye or mouth area, the fee is $1,000 to $2,500. And health insurance almost never covers cosmetic skin peels. Because the current technology is only three years old, there are no long-term scientific studies showing safety and efficacy. But for many folks who see the sun’s kisses turning into wrinkles, the high-tech lure of laser zapping is just too tempting to resist.

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Seeking funds to expand: a U.S. non-profit helps women who want boob jobs find men who’ll pay for them

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Candace Leadley is a self-taught house framer from Strathmore, Alta. She’s also a “graduate” of Myfreeimplants.com, a California-based website where men finance breast enlargements for women around the world by donating what they like in return for custom photos, videos and online chat. Leadley’s just raised the last dollar she needs for her surgery. That makes her Canada’s first MFI “Hall-of-Famer” and the envy of the 3,500 or so women (about 100 of them Canadians) still begging for boobs online. But Leadley, 26, isn’t celebrating. Instead, the single mom’s fretting–about going to a 34 or 36C in a few weeks from the 29AA she was left with after breastfeeding her son seven years ago.

Her friends are all for it. “But it’s like a first tattoo, right? You can’t just go in there and say, ‘I want this,’ and then hate it the next day. I’m used to the way I am now. They could get in the way. Climbing through rafters, I don’t want to get strung up on my breasts, right?” But she figures she could “just get them out” if necessary. She’d use MFI for that as well, since the site funds removals and replacements too–even breast reductions and sex changes, according to owners Jay Moore and Jason Grunstra.


On the phone from Calgary, Leadley sounds, well, young. Her favourite song is Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine. For movies, she likes Flicka, Thir13en Ghosts–” anything scary, some that make me cry.” Her implants may just fit that bill. She picked her surgeon out of the Yellow Pages. (MFI charges surgeons to advertise and list on its site, but they “don’t have many links to Canadian surgeons,” she explains.) He wasn’t her first choice, but she’d heard that at $8,500, he charged less.

Quit smoking, he told her. Don’t lift things, don’t return to work too fast. And long-term risks? She draws a blank. “He told me a lot. But do you think I could think right now?”

This all began–of course–at Pure, the Vegas nightclub frequented by Mariah Carey, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton. Moore, now 29, and Grunstra, 30, were there for a bachelor party. “It’s Vegas, it’s crazy, our waitress was trying to get a big tip from us, saying it’s going toward her friend’s boob job,” Moore recites into his car phone from San Francisco. “We thought of passing the hat. Guys pay for this stuff? We realized they would.” Moore had an M.B.A., college pal Grunstra had computer smarts …

At least that’s the story he tells. There are more stories to MFI, and you couldn’t make some of them up if you tried. You find them in a marathon of postings written to MFI men (“benefactors”) by MFI women (“models”). This one, for instance, written at New Year’s by “Allysa”: “i’m home alone, bored to poop. i’m on my bed blowing bubbles pasting my head on big boobed women on photoshop. come entertain me … you’re bored, i’m bored, we can figure something out :)” Or from “Roxann”: “2008 will be great, even better with a pair of perky C’s.”

But then you find this, from “Miss Poland,” for whom the new year rang in at US$4,569 short of her surgical bill: “I guess I really need to start hustling.” From “Maeva”: “Hello eerybody!! Why I don’t receive message yet???? I’m sad Come on guy I’m waiting Kiss.” From “Lori”: “OMG I AM GOING TO KILL MYSELF WOW IAM CRYING SO MUCH: ALll my money is gone how can this happen you cant do this i worked so hard for this i cant belive it this site cheated me i was so close to my goal how can you take all my money away all my pictures jason f–ing answer me where is my money?”

Moore consults for other online social networks but says he works six MFI hours every day. “Jason goes to a nine-to-five but also puts in that kind of effort. Thousands of users need thousands of things.” Lori will likely be just one more.

MFI is non-profit, says Moore, but while the 2006 federal tax return he provided shows no salaries drawn, it lists “partnership income” and labels the site a “domestic limited-liability company.” From his home in L.A. Grunstra pegs donation income at US$100,000 a month, and growth at 25 per cent, with all of this held until surgeries are paid for. This year alone that could yield the operators US$140,000 in interest. Grunstra concedes it could all make a nice nest egg.

In Calgary, a pair of breasts runs to $13,000, with the Canadian average around $7,000. Toronto is cheapest. According to the Toronto Star, they run $6,000 at one clinic, where a young mother had liposuction last fall and later died. Removals and replacements run higher, with most complications charged to the public system.

Since MFI pays surgeons direct, Miss Poland will never see cash however hard she tries, only an account balance. Like all MFI women, she struggles with the fastest way to build hers, especially as competitors sign on. Fetishes are big–dominatrixes do well, says Moore-though custom videos and amateur photos can go begging.

What works is putting in the hours. Successes say they’ve lived online, “messaging, messaging, messaging” to make each man they reach feel he’s the only one. It’s not about tricks, “just about being yourself. I always posted pictures of my daily life,” “Dollface” emails from Columbus, Ohio. “Parties I was at. People I’ve met. Places I’ve been.” She says she’s 22, though her MySpace page, which she also emails, says she’s 39.

But is MFI a porn site? It’s definitely NSFW (Not Safe For Work). Couldn’t she lose her dignity? “You’re starting to offend me,” she replies. “Some women may think it is, but it’s whatever you make it. I don’t do anything I’m not proud of. Who would want to?”

Men think it’s a porn site, all right. “Drone,” a Michigan business systems analyst in his 40s, has subscribed for two years. Pictures traded on MFI range from innocent to “classy nude” (as Leadley describes her efforts, before she quit nudity altogether) to explicit. Lately MFI has “definitely become more sexual,” Drone says. “That’s good or bad depending on your perspective.” From his, it’s bad–sort of. “An extreme close-up of someone’s vagina isn’t a picture I’d ask for,” he says. But “! feel bad about it since it’s a lot to share and then I don’t appreciate it the way I should. But it’s not about the picture, it’s about the trust.”

Here’s a guy who hates The English Patient because its hero “is an adulterer” (on MFI, you read a lot about what movies people like), says he loves his wife, and volunteers exhaustively on the site. He posts “boob news” and jokes, devises contests, spotlights the underexposed, and bucks up the morose.


Drone’s mix of solicitude and prurience is like Bill Johnson’s. Johnson, 32, an account manager for Red Bull in Kansas City, Mo., who goes by “William” online, says the pictures he buys pale next to MFI’s charitable mission. “It’s exciting that so many people want to help these girls. You wouldn’t expect it, not for this cause.” Johnson is an MFI main man to Montrealer Jenny Poussin, 25, a professional pin-up who’s posed for Maxim. What made her thumbnail stand out for him, over 3,500 others? Johnson’s slow-spoken, but here he gets animated. “There she was. And I’m like, wow. She was stunning. And then I’m like ‘this girl does not need breast implants’–that was the best thing about her.”

Drone and Johnson are the only “benefactors” who’ll talk about MFI. “They’re embarrassed, maybe?” Johnson ventures, when asked why others won’t. Poussin puts it more bluntly: “Probably because they don’t wanna look like perverts admitting they love big boobies! lol,” she emails. She’d know. At her own expense six years ago, when she was 19, she increased her C cup to a D. Now she wants a DD for “the projection they’ll give. They’ll go more outwards. I have a small frame! If they’re too wide they could look freakish.”

One of a few professionals using MFI to augment their modelling income as well as their breasts, Poussin’s not been online much, but in two months she’s raised US$2,500 of the US$6,500 she needs. Her largest donation has been US$250, her smallest US$10. Her “Schoolgirl Jenny” clip fetched only US$50, but she was making the video anyway, for her business. “MFI is GREAT!” she enthuses. “Everyone gets what they want!”

“Ryleigh,” 26, measures “who knows? Maybe 32AA?” She’s sick of shopping in children’s wear but hasn’t yet got what she wants from MFI–merely a C cup. Distracted by family, she’s been on and off MFI as long as it’s been around. She’s the oldest active member. In Fort McMurray, Alta., where she’s lived all her life, “guys make lots of money and buy their girlfriends tits,” Ryleigh says. “But my money goes to my kids. On MFI, it can’t. For me, it’s the only way.” She’s tried everything except much nudity (quoted by SewDone.com, a modern online-store selling best beginner sewing machine in US) , and even made an impressive spoof of the Dove “True Colours” commercial that won her an MFI contest and a little extra credit. Lately favoured by Drone, and by “Shannon” in Australia, she finally reached her goal. Bypassing Edmonton doctors, this week she’s in B.C., meeting with a surgeon whose “website looked amazing.”

Ryleigh might have qualified for a non-collateralized loan at credit card rates from one of the “patient financing” outfits springing up everywhere lately, even in traditional banking, but most MFI women don’t qualify. Candace Leadley searched for a loan for two years. “I made good money but it all came down to the ex, bad credit, that story.” Traditional financing isn’t dead yet, says Jay Moore, but social financing and cyberbegging is the wave of the future. Surgeons in the U.S. and Britain have criticized MFI widely, he exults, “but they take the money.”


But last year, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons warned U.K. women that MFI’s process was “entirely inappropriate for what should be a life-changing decision.” Dr. Greg Wiener, a plastic surgeon at Chicago’s Resurrection hospital, told the Chicago Sun-Times that “anything that trivializes plastic surgery is dangerous. Myfreeimplants. com turns [it] into a contest.” Moore responds that women can choose their own surgeons, provided they’re board certified.

In Canada, where implant contests aren’t new–a Calgary bar has done giveaways, an Ottawa radio station once ran an ad campaign for a “Breast Christmas Ever” competition–plastic surgeons have been surprisingly mum on MFI. None of the five Canadian cosmetic surgeons contacted to comment on the site, or their professional association, returned calls.

Ottawa’s Pierre Blais, once a risk analyst for Health Canada who now evaluates failed implants, says MFI is “one more abuse” of the business of breasts. The medical community here is well aware that implants are dangerous, he says, but “they’ve been silenced or worn out. Speaking out is now contrary to association guidelines.” You wonder what “William” in Kansas City would say to that. “They’re embarrassed, maybe?”

Cosmetics tips

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Byline: Paula Begoun

Dear Paula,

I am trying to find information on the Fraxel Laser. My dermatologist said I would be a good candidate for it around my eyes. Her office just installed the machine, so they are just learning how to use it. My dermatologist made it sound so simple, but surely there must be a catch or something to be concerned about, right?


_Marilyn, via email

Dear Marilyn,

Lasers of any kind are never simple and all types have risks, though some more than others. However, I am always nervous when a doctor who is learning how to operate a new machine or procedure wants to use it on you and suggests the procedure is a piece of cake. Personally, I am never interested in being someone’s guinea pig and don’t encourage you to be either. After your doctor has performed a hundred or so treatments, and figures out what techniques work best or can possibly cause problems (and there are always problems), then he or she can call you to set up an appointment.

What makes the Fraxel Laser so interesting is that it performs something called Fractional Laser Resurfacing. The term “fractional” refers to how small an area of the skin is being treated at any one time. The Fraxel Laser pinpoints tiny columns of skin (smaller than a human hair), wounding the underlying collagen. Unlike traditional ablative lasers, the Fraxel Laser creates no visible wound on the surface because only microscopically small areas are affected during the process. Typically, no more than 20 percent of the skin is treated during each session. Therefore, according to Reliant Technologies, the company that sells the Fraxel Laser, “Clinical studies suggest that an effective treatment regime is 3 to 5 sessions spaced 5 to 14 days apart” (Source: www.fraxel.com). But remember, this laser is a work in progress and more information is needed to know what methodology works best.

Fractional Resurfacing can have problematic results similar to those from other types of lasers, such as scarring or potential skin lightening or darkening. All in all, I would wait at least a year before venturing into this new world, after more specifics are published and presented at dermatology or plastic surgery conferences (where doctors go to keep up with what’s new and discuss what works and what doesn’t).


(Sources: http://www.mdlive.net/xfractional.htm; Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, and Photo-medicine, August 2005, pages 204-209; Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, May 2004, pages 11-15; Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, November-December 2004, pages 398-409; Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, May 2004, pages 426-438; and Annals of Plastic Surgery, November 2001, pages 482-488).


(Paula Begoun is the author of “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me (6th edition)” (Beginning Press, $27.95). Write to her at 1030 SW 34th Street, Suite A, Renton, WA 98055 or check out her Web site: www.cosmeticscop.com)


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


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Breast implants linked to suicide; Study says rate triples after surgery

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Byline: Jennifer Harper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Those Hollywood curves may be hazardous.

Women who opt for cosmetic breast implants are three times as likely to commit suicide, according to a study released yesterday by Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“This long-term study further confirms the link between breast implants and a strikingly high risk of suicide,” the study said, noting that there was a “similar increase” in deaths from alcohol or drug abuse and dependence.

Mental anguish related to America’s most popular cosmetic procedure – “long-term psychiatric morbidity and eventually mortality” – is a real possibility, the study found.

“Such findings warrant increased screening, counseling and perhaps post-implant monitoring of women seeking cosmetic breast implants,” said Dr. Loren Lipworth, an epidemiologist with the Tennessee school who led the research, which was published in Annals of Plastic Surgery.


Potential mood disorders associated with breast implants include depression and body dysmorphic disorder, a condition characterized by an obsession with physical appearance, sometimes accompanied by excessive grooming rituals.

Dr. Lipworth analyzed the medical histories and death certificate data on 3,527 women who had cosmetic breast implant surgery between 1965 and 1993, following them for almost two decades after their surgeries. She found the suicide rate was triple that of women without implants. The risk was greatest – seven times higher – for women who got implants after turning 45.

David Sarwer, a psychologist with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, recommended that plastic surgeons scrutinize the mental state of women who want breast augmentation.

“Until we know more about the relationship between breast implants and suicide, this conservative approach is recommended with both the patient’s and surgeon’s well-being in mind,” he said.

Therapists may have plenty of patients. For the first time on record, breast implants outnumbered any other cosmetic procedure, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Last year, 329,396 women improved their bustlines – more than 2 1/2 times the 1997 number of 122,385.

The numbers are only going to increase. Earlier this year, a ASPS survey of 6,000 doctors found that the majority predicted the number of breast augmentations would increase by at least 25 percent in the next year; and almost three-quarters of the surgeons now perform at least five implant procedures a month.


Some say tastes are changing, and bigger may not be better.

“Women don’t want to look ‘done,’ like they’ve had surgery. They instead wish to fill out clothing better and feel more comfortable out of clothing,” said Dr. Michael Law, a North Carolina-based plastic surgeon. “I rarely have patients requesting large implants anymore.”

He still gets occasional queries, though.

“I simply won’t perform any aesthetic surgery that doesn’t look natural. A woman with very large breast implants that doesn’t match her frame looks like a cartoon character,” Dr. Law said. “But these patients never have any problem finding someone who will give them the look that they want.”

Liposuction: Going Micro

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Byline: Karen Springen

Brandy Montoya, 28, eats healthy and visits the gym at least three times a week. But as hard as she tried, she could not get the bottom half of her body to match her smaller torso. So in July, she signed up for $9,000 worth of liposuction. Denver plastic surgeon John Millard performed a new procedure, LipoSelection, which uses ultrasound to liquefy fat before it’s suctioned out of the body, often resulting in less bruising. Montoya said goodbye to millions of fat cells on her thighs, her hips–and even the inner part of her knees. “I look like somebody you’d be jealous of, I really do,” she says.

Liposuction has long been the nation’s top plastic-surgery procedure. But with advances like LipoSelection, which promises a quicker recovery, and the use of tiny suction tubes (“canulas”) that allow doctors to target smaller body parts, it’s growing faster than ever. Lipoplasties were up 24 percent last year over 2003, to 478,251.


The newest lipo converts aren’t settling just for having their tummies and thighs done: like Montoya, they’re adding on ever-tinier body parts, like ankles, knees and cheeks. This quest for perfection is fed by reality-TV makeover shows that leave no flaw untouched. But before you sign up, remember that lipo, like any surgery, comes with a lengthy recovery period and is typically recommended for healthy patients no older than their 50s. And make sure your doctor is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (check plasticsurgery.org or surgery.org ). Here’s a guide to some popular microprocedures.

Calves and ankles (“cankles”). Nearly anyone with thick ankles is a potential candidate, says New York plastic surgeon Gerald Pitman, author of “Liposuction & Aesthetic Surgery.” Though it affects a relatively small area, the surgery is expensive ($10,000) and time-consuming (about two hours), but patient satisfaction is high.

Neck. Sagging skin requires a neck lift. “But for the younger patient who just has a full neck, [lipo’s] a home run,” says Pitman. The procedure takes less than an hour with a one-week recovery period. The cost: about $4,000.

Knees. Having fat removed from the inner knee takes about 45 minutes and costs about $3,500. Doctors make the incision behind the knee so the scar is less visible.


Face. Good candidates have full cheeks but aren’t obese. “If you have someone who comes from a family where they all look like cherubs, that’s a good person to do it for,” says Pitman. Surgeons remove small amounts of superficial fat through tiny incisions inside the nose and behind the ear. Cost: about $5,000.

In the future, doctors hope to also perform nonsurgical body contouring by zapping fat with high-energy ultrasound, says Dr. Mark Jewell, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. (The killed-off fat cells would be metabolized by the body.) Until then, we’ll just have to live with the bruises.

Teens under the knife: is plastic surgery too dangerous for teens?

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Nose jobs. Eyelid lifts. Liposuction. Adults aren’t the only ones going under the knife to change their looks. Last year, more than 87,000 teenagers had cosmetic plastic surgery, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Nearly half of them wanted new noses.

Why? Turn on the television or flip open a magazine. Nose jobs dramatically changed the looks of punkish pop rocker Ashlee Simpson and High School Musical star Ashley Tisdale. Shows such as Extreme Makeover make it look as if everyone is having plastic surgery.

Is having an operation just to try to fit in a good idea, though? Some doctors worry that plastic surgery on teens’ still-growing bodies can be dangerous. In Australia and Germany, lawmakers are considering banning all but necessary plastic surgery for anyone under 18.

Is banning plastic surgery for minors the right answer, or should teens be allowed to get plastic surgery whenever they want?

Current Events student reporters Kaitlyn Ali and Tiffany Lam debate the pros and cons.



By Kaitlyn Ali

Why do teens want plastic surgery? Is it because they don’t think they look good enough?

There are many risks in plastic surgery, such as permanent numbness, infections, blood clots, and even death. Because teens’ bodies are still developing, what they change now may not look the same in a year. What feels like a big nose at 11 might be perfect once the face is done growing. With surgery, it could end up looking worse later.

“Surgery during the teenage years should be performed only to correct impairments and traumatic injury,” says Dr. Asha Manaktala, a pediatrician in Windsor, Conn. Manaktala urges teens to avoid plastic surgery during this time of physical and mental development.

Many celebrities have had procedures to achieve perfection, yet they’re still not satisfied. Their images aren’t real. Sure, the procedures change their lives, but not always for the better.

Don’t feel pressured by society or peers. It’s what’s inside that counts. Tell people you prefer to keep it real.


By Tiffany Lam

Plastic surgery should be an option for anyone mature enough to handle life-changing decisions.

Teens have access to enough information today that they can decide what’s in their best interests, and they know plastic surgery doesn’t always turn out perfect. If the research is done and the kids are 100 percent sure, then it’s their decision. Victoria Gonzalez, an eighth grader in Peoria, Ariz., says, “It’s their own bodies…. If it will make them happier with themselves, why shouldn’t they?”

In our society, self-esteem is essential. Rather than force someone to remain self-conscious about that imperfect nose, that person should have the option of plastic surgery.

Of course, the final decision for any type of surgery lies with the parents and doctors. They should be asking questions: Is the teen mentally and physically mature enough? Has he or she considered the side effects? Is the teen able to handle the results if something goes wrong? In conclusion, cosmetic surgery should be available to everyone.

Get Talking

Ask students: What is plastic surgery? Why might someone have plastic surgery? When might plastic surgery be necessary?

Notes Behind the News

* Surveys by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) have found that most young people interested in elective plastic surgery want to blend in with the crowd, while most adults want plastic surgery so they can stand out.

* In 2007, the ASPS counted 87,601 cosmetic plastic surgery procedures on teenagers ages 13 to 19. Nose reshaping, or rhinoplasty, led the way with 38,886 procedures on teens, followed by breast reductions in young men (16,400), ear surgery (8,062), and liposuction (4,960). Nearly 1,500 teens had chin augmentations. The numbers do not include minimally invasive work, such as Botox or collagen injections, or reconstructive plastic surgery used to correct birth defects and restore the physical appearance of people with burns and serious injuries. Learn more at www.plasticsurgery.org.


* Ashlee Simpson was easy to recognize when she was a punkish pop singer with dark hair and a unique face. After she had rhinoplasty, she looked a lot more like her big sister, singer Jessica Simpson. “It’s a personal choice,” Ashlee Simpson, now 23, told Harper’s Bazaar of the nose reshaping surgery. “I believe if somebody chooses to do plastic surgery it [should be] for yourself, not for anyone else.”

Doing More

What happens during nose reshaping surgery? Have students research rhinoplasty. Then have each student draw a diagram, labeling the parts of the nose and illustrating a type of rhinoplasty. As a class, list and discuss the potential risks of plastic surgery.

Dissolving fears: fat-melting injections are all the rage, even if no one knows if it’s safe

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In a society obsessed with quick fixes, it’s not surprising that the siren song of injection lipolysis is luring more and more Canadians. The injections, which promise to dissolve away unwanted double chins, paunches, and extra weight around the hips and thighs, have made their way from Europe and South America to the United States and Canada, and the invasion shows no signs of slowing. Brian Peterson, a plastic surgeon in Kelowna, B.C., and past president of the Canadian Society for Aesthetic (Cosmetic) Plastic Surgery, says the number of such non-surgical cosmetic procedures being performed is increasing by an astonishing 1,000 per cent a year.


The formula being injected was originally approved in Germany (under the name Lipostabil) to treat medical conditions such as liver disease and fatty tumours. During the past decade, doctors in Europe and South America started experimenting with injecting the mixture as a cosmetic treatment and the practice has been growing ever since, even though it still isn’t approved for any use by Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. To get around the lack of approval, doctors in North America write prescriptions for the individual parts of the well-known formula and have a compounding pharmacist mix the cocktail for patients. But many physicians remain skeptical about the safety and efficacy of the procedure. With so many unknowns, says Peterson, “I wouldn’t recommend anyone have it done.”

Although the Canadian plastic surgery society has no official position statement concerning injection lipolysis, the treatment’s growing popularity and the persistent controversy surrounding it have pushed some of North America’s regulatory bodies into action. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) came out with an official position statement in May, denouncing injection lipolysis. It urges doctors to caution interested patients that, currently, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support the practice or ensure patients’ safety, and that they should “wait until something definitive is known.” While several dozen journal papers have been written about injection lipolysis, none has conclusively proven or disproved the treatment’s effectiveness, or even shown how it works. On top of that, the injections can affect people very differently. “Only nine out of every lo people respond” says Barry Lycka, a cosmetic dermatologist based in Edmonton who’s offered injection lipolysis since 2003. “It’s unfortunate, but not everybody responds to everything that we do and not everybody reacts exactly as we think they will. But that’s the unknown of medicine.” Other doctors who perform the treatment admit that more studies need to be done. “There’s still a lot of things that have to be worked out in terms of patient selection and maximum volume that one can inject safely and that sort of thing,” says Steven Weiss, an assistant clinical professor at UCLA and dermatologist who offers injection lipolysis and has written a paper on it.

Those offering the treatment may soon be able to point to more than just anecdotal evidence. The ASAPS had sought FDA approval to begin a clinical trial on injection lipolysis for nearly two years, and finally got the go-ahead in September. The trial, which will be supervised by the FDA, will follow patients for nearly a year to determine what, if any, reactions and long-term complications result from the injections. It should also give researchers a better understanding as to exactly how the drugs work and what happens to the broken-down fat cells, all of which is still a matter of debate. Even if the FDA is satisfied that injection lipolysis is safe and effective, it will likely be another five years before an approved formula is on the market, says Weiss.


In the meantime, the organizations that regulate Canada’s doctors are starting to keep better tabs on who’s doing what, and how safely. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta intends to review the practice at a Nov. 21 committee meeting to decide whether to continue to allow its doctors to perform the procedure in their offices, or only in clinics that the province itself has licensed. And for the first time this year, the annual survey the Ontario college sends out to its member physicians asked them to report not only if they perform cosmetic procedures, but exactly which ones they offer, including injection lipolysis, and how often. The organization is also forming a special committee to assess whether individual doctors have undergone sufficient training. “I think we find that the vast majority of people are perfectly fine” says spokeswoman Kathryn Clarke. “But I think through this exercise, we could identify people who do need more training to safely do what they’re doing.”

“There’s no question that more regulation is going to occur,” says Garrett Swetlikoff, a Kelowna naturopathic physician who has incorporated injection lipolysis into his practice since 2004. “And I don’t have a problem with that, as long as regulation doesn’t mean extermination.”

The 10 Scariest Movies and Why They Creep Us Out

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Byline: Barbara Herman

You don’t need anyone to explain why you should be afraid of a homicidal maniac with an ax, but that unease you get from the face with the rigid smile or from lookalike children? That creepy feeling has a theory that goes with it: It’s called “The Uncanny Valley,” and it helps explain why some of the most iconic horror movie characters spook us. (See below.)

In 1970, robotics professor Masahiro Mori created a graph charting people’s comfort levels with robots, starting with the most simplistic machines and ending with the most human-seeming robots. He found that when the robot had human characteristics, but was still clearly a robot, people felt fine about it. They might have even thought it was cute.

But the huge dip in comfort – the graph’s “valley,” where people described unease and even revulsion – began when robots had enough human features that they seemed like creepy, defective people. Mori dubbed this revulsion the “Uncanny Valley” (riffing off of Ernst Jentsch and Sigmund Freud’s theory of das unheimliche: “the uncanny,” or the fear of the unfamiliar Other). Since Mori coined the term, the Uncanny Valley has become a term used not only in robotics, but 3-D animation, plastic surgery, and cinema studies.

“The concept of ‘the uncanny,’ or encountering an eerie double of oneself or of the human form, has been really important to many analyses of the psychology of horror,” says Catherine Zimmer, associate professor of film and screen studies at Pace University in New York City. “A horror movie ‘monster’ represents the repressed elements of an average human being, and this is why they are unsettling. There has to be enough that is identifiable or relatable about a monster to make it truly disturbing.”

Stephanie Lay, a Ph.D. student who researches the Uncanny Valley in the psychology department at the Open University, calls the scary figure a “near-human agent.” She believes it becomes truly terrifying when we notice that it is too different from us. “Creepy dolls, badly animated CG characters, and slow-to-react androids,” creep us out, she says, because “they dwell at the boundary between an object and a person.”

The makers of Polar Express (2004) learned to their dismay that when it comes to making characters look incredibly lifelike, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. They used a live-action performance-capture technique to animate most of the human characters, which gave them an eerie lifelike appearance critics described as creepy and zombie-like. Canadian film critic Geoff Pevere said of Polar Express, “If I were a child, I’d have nightmares. Come to think of it, I did anyway.”

Here are 10 iconic denizens of Uncanny Valley:

Before The Omen (1976) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) proved that children could be more horrifying than any old monster, Village of the Damned (1960) creeped out audiences with its white-blond, glowing-eyed children. These spawn of Midwich, England, all mysteriously born on the same day, have the supernatural abilities of mind control and telekinesis, and with their striking looks and odd affect they reside in that uncomfortable zone of the Uncanny Valley.

In George A. Romero’s proto-zombie flick Night of the Living Dead (1968), Barbra and her brother Johnny drive to a cemetery where their father is buried, only to discover that it has been overrun by murderous animated corpses out for blood. This zombie is the archetypal Uncanny Valley figure: It looks human but drags itself around like a corpse, and it has an insatiable appetite for human flesh. And did we mention that it’s dead?

At the beginning of Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973), two sisters, one of whom is blind and clairvoyant, warn a couple (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) mourning their recently departed daughter that the husband needs to leave Venice before something bad happens. Based on a spooky short story by Daphne du Maurier, Don’t Look Now is filled with tropes of the uncanny – doubles, ghosts, a crumbling medieval city. The film enters the Uncanny Valley with the appearance of a little girl in red that Sutherland’s character finally catches up with….

William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) created a mini-hysteria when it was released. Not only were people fainting in theaters during screenings, but priests were outside to warn those queuing up. In the film, Regan (Linda Blair), a 12-year-old girl in the throes of demonic possession, takes us on a trip to the Uncanny Valley when she does some decidedly unhuman things like spinning her head and speaking to a priest in his dead mother’s voice. Most terrifyingly, in a moment seen only in the director’s cut, she walks down the stairs backwards on all fours, like a spider, while darting her freakishly long tongue in and out of her mouth like a lizard.

In John Carpenter’s classic slasher film Halloween (1978), Michael has spent the last 15 years in an insane asylum for stabbing his sister to death when he was 6 years old. One day before Halloween, he escapes, returns to his hometown, and he becomes fixated on a local teen (Jamie Lee Curtis). For the remainder of the film, he pursues her in a blank, white mask. The impassive face of Michael’s white mask, and his psychopathic determination to stalk and kill makes him a creature from the Uncanny Valley.

In David Cronenberg’s 1979 film The Brood, something is radically off about a group of mysterious children in red coats who suddenly appear and begin attacking people. Dr. Hal Raglan (Art Hindle) is a divorced man who launches an investigation into a controversial therapy technique his ex is participating in after their child comes back from a visit with mysterious bruises and scratches. As he gets closer to the secret of the demon children who harmed his daughter, the dwarf-like creatures proliferate, becoming angrier and even more murderous. It’s when we finally see their faces that their special place in the Uncanny Valley manifests itself in all its horrible glory.

Forty-one-year-old Corky (Anthony Hopkins) is a magician whose ventriloquist dummy, Fats, is taking over his act – and his life – in Magic (1978). Used at first as a prop to help him overcome stage fright, Fats’s increasingly disturbing autonomy turns into domination. The too-human-like dummy with the New York-accent, blank expression and homicidal rage comes straight out of the Uncanny Valley.

David Lynch has his own truck stop in Uncanny Valley. In films like Blue Velvet, Lynch finds the strangest shadows in idyllic suburban America, revealing its perversions and its violence. He makes the familiar strange and menacing-the definition of the uncanny-and brings to light that which was repressed. Lost Highway (1997) is a tale of doubles, switched identities, and confounding narrative absurdities. In the film’s most famous scene, Bill Pullman’s character meets a strange-looking man wearing white face makeup and blackened eyes (Robert Blake) at an L.A. party. “We’ve met before, at your house, don’t you remember?” says the stranger. “As a matter of fact, I’m there right now. Call me.” He does, and he is… “That’s crazy, man,” says Pullman.

A mysterious videotape begins circulating that causes its viewers to die within a week of watching it in Hideo Nakata’s Japanese horror flick, Ringu (1998). We learn that in the video, a young girl with long hair obscuring her face has a terrible secret. Her creepy, zombie-like gait and monstrous, lethal appearance place her in the bottom of a well deep in the Uncanny Valley. (The Ring was the English-language remake in 2002 starring Naomi Watts.)

In Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Guillermo del Toro’s fairytale fantasy set during the Spanish Civil War, a little girl named Ofelia meets a magical faun who invites her to join his underground kingdom, on the condition that she complete three dangerous tasks. In one undertaking, she is to enter the banquet hall of the Pale Man to retrieve a gold dagger. The eyeless Pale Man sits motionless at a table, his eyeballs before him on a plate. When Ofelia disobeys the faun’s instructions not to eat anything, he comes to life. First, his hands, red at their claw-like tips, creak into movement. Slowly, he places each eyeball into empty sockets on the palms of his hands, which he holds up to his face where his eyes would be in order to see. He staggers out of his seat and begins to pursue her…

For the birds: what parrot sanctuaries say about Canada’s throwaway culture

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OAK TREES LINE THE SNOW-COVERED ROAD that leads to a sprawling and unadorned concrete building in Smith Falls, Ont. The Gallipeau Centre, a former institutional hospital, is being converted to a high-end community for seniors. When I first enter the building, I hear barking. Then squawking. And then some unholy and cacophonous alliance of the two. The Gallipeau Centre is also home to Parrot Partner Canada.

The sanctuary’s mission is to educate the public about parrots, to rehabilitate these animals when required and, when possible, to connect abandoned birds with safe and responsible owners. Judy Tennant, the head of the organization and its lead trainer, has been working with parrots and exotic birds for over a decade. She started the registered charity in an attempt to respond to the growing need to care for needy parrots, the fourth most common domestic pet in North America, whose captivity she compares to “having a dolphin in a bath tub.”

Before meeting Tennant, I’d assumed that unwanted pet birds could be deposited at the local humane society to be serenaded with the dulcet tones of Sarah McLachlan. Not so. Tennant tells me most humane societies won’t take anything larger than a cockatiel.

Instead, the unwelcome wild birds–she is quick to point out that though they are often found in homes, parrots retain their feral behaviour–tend to find themselves flapping around the pages of Craigslist and Kijiji, their owners unable or unwilling to care for them. Only a lucky few end up in sanctuaries. Parrot Partner currently houses 17 birds.

“Sanctuaries are used as dumping grounds,” Tennant says. “We could have hundreds here, like a warehouse. But that isn’t good for the birds.”

Fifteen minutes into my visit, I understand why parrots are so commonly discarded: they are loud, difficult, and demanding.

That’s just the tip of the beak.

“They’re expensive to keep, a lot of work, and they can be violent. People lose eyes; they have to have plastic surgery sometimes,” Tennant explains. Coco Grey, a Timneh African Grey parrot, sits on my shoulder and picks at my notebook. I find myself grateful for my eyeglasses.

“Many can live to 80 years old, and some even longer,” she continues. “It’s like having a three-year-old who’ll never grow up, with anger management issues and a can opener for a beak.”

She adds that the average time a parrot spends in any given home is two years. Coco Grey whistles loudly in my ear.

SHORTLY BEFORE MY TRIP to Parrot Partner, I visited a friend in Peachland, B.C., fleeing rain-soaked Vancouver for the Okanagan Valley. Along the highway to the town, I passed a sign for the Parrot Island Exotic Bird Sanctuary. Later, on my friend’s deck, overlooking the stately and ancient Okanagan Lake, the sign popped into my head. I found myself wondering why Canada needed these sanctuaries. Does the irresponsible behaviour of parrot owners say something about the general character of Canadians? Does our proclivity to jettison an animal stand in for our broader preference for lives marked by the fast, the cheap, and the easy?

Recent data suggests that the answer to both questions is a resounding yes. Temporarily eager parrot enthusiasts are a subset of the greater assemblage of Canadians who are chronically overleveraged and prolific consumers of goods, services, and energy. Last December, the credit bureau TransUnion forecast that the average Canadian non-mortgage debt-load will rise in 2014 to $28,853, up from $27,743 in late 2013. This rise in debt is concomitant with a sustained swell in consumer retail spending which, despite retreating temporarily in 2009 during the recession, grew 17 percent between 2006-2011 and has continued to track upwards.

What happens to all of these consumer goods? Statistically, they end up in the trash. The Conference Board of Canada reports that our country ranks 17th among its peer countries–which is to say, last–in its production of municipal solid waste. Simply put, we produce the most garbage. In 2008, Canadians produced an average of 777 kilograms of trash each, two times as much as the top performer, Japan.

In 2012, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released a scorecard of the most and least energy-efficient of the world’s top economies. Canada ranked second-last, just slightly ahead of the creaking post-Soviet behemoth of the Russian Federation, and well behind China, which placed sixth. The rankings were adjusted for climate and geography, so we can’t blame our massive size or frigid and challenging landscape.

Given our tendency to purchase and toss so many products, the existence of Parrot Island and Parrot Partner–and the many organizations that cater to birds, dogs, cats, lizards, and so on–should come as no surprise. We consume pets just like we consume goods and services, and the heavy burden of responsibility incurred by parrot ownership has no place within what we as nation have come to value. There’s no way we’re going to make space in our daily schedules, for the next several decades, for the avian equivalent of a toddler in a perpetual state of arrested development.

WHAT DRIVES THIS BEHAVIOR? This cycle of consumption, abandonment, and waste? University of Ottawa political scientist Matthew Paterson, a scholar of global political economy and global environmental politics, points towards the social structures that surround our daily lives. According to Paterson, these structures are the product of realities and relationships that long precede us: the structure of the economy, the history of corporate interests, the resource intensiveness of our economy, and the history of the notion of abundance.

In other words, simply blaming individual consumers for over-consumption misses the point. “It’s not useful to blame people for consumerism; it’s a social logic,” he says. “If you look at most of what people consume and throw away, most of those actions occur within conditions under which people have limited control.”

In Canada, he adds, these structural relationships are supported by a false, persistent belief in our own superiority. “We are, comparatively speaking, the worst of the rich countries on almost any environmental or consumption measure, but our capacity to tell a story about being a good country despite all evidence to the contrary is very powerful.”

William Rees, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning and creator of the “ecological footprint” concept, extends Paterson’s structuralist argument. He traces the root of our consumption habits to evolutionary behaviour that has become entrenched through cultural approval.

“Humans are evolved organisms that share two survival tactics with all other species,” says Rees, “one, our populations expand to fill all accessible habitats; two, we have a predisposition to consume all available resources sooner rather than later.

“Culture helps to shape and determine which of our natural behavioural predispositions are sanctioned and tend to prevail in any given society. We happen to live in a material age in which the socially-constructed consumer lifestyle dominates and is still sweeping across the planet as fast as local ‘economic development’ takes hold.”

So where does this leave us? Are we the helpless victims of the structures that shape us? Are we destined to consume ourselves, and any species that gets in our way, into oblivion? Paterson believes change begins with critical thought. “We need to have space to think about the social conditions under which we live,” he says.

If social structures frame and direct our lives, then structural reform might generate changes to how we consume, how we treat ourselves and one another, and might even reform our relationship with the birds. After all, we aren’t merely the passive products of our social conditions; we play a part in creating the structures that make us who we are, and so we can change them. Limited individual power is no excuse for collective apathy. The important question isn’t whether or not we can be agents of change, but whether it’s too late to save ourselves and other species with which we share the planet.

DAVID MOSCROP is a Vanier Scholar and doctoral candidate at the University of British Columbia, where he studies democratic citizenship and political judgment.

3-D Silk Structure Enables Scientists to Grow Blood Cells Outside the Body; The model could help treat platelet function disorders

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Byline: Kristin Magaldi

Your blood isn’t the uniform river of red it appears to be. It’s actually made up of many, varied cells. One class of blood cells is the platelets, which are small, and circulate throughout the blood to activate clotting and stop bleeding. When platelet function is impaired–such as in the case of thrombocytopenia, hemophilia and more than 200 other conditions, according to the Platelet Disorder Support Association–patients run the risk of bleeding in greater, life-threatening amounts. If the blood does not clot, patients may bleed out and die.

Treatments for platelet function disorders have many drawbacks. Platelet transfusions are common, but the process requires donors, and complications due to immune responses are frequent and unpredictable. Sometimes drugs will be prescribed to block antibodies–immune cells–from attacking platelets. A last resort is the removal of a patient’s spleen, which eliminates a substantial site of antibody production. But even that doesn’t always improve platelet count.

A team of researchers at Tufts University School of Engineering in Massachusetts and the University of Pavia in Italy, however, believe they may have a solution: create functioning human platelets outside of the patient’s body. They’ve created a model that acts exactly like human bone marrow, the environment within the body that stimulates platelet growth.

By building microtubes spun of silk, collagen and fibronectin, and surrounding these tubes with a pervious silk sponge, the scientists were able to mimic the porous environment of bone marrow outside of the body. Once the environment was created, researchers implanted patient-cultured megakaryocytes–the cells that produce platelets–into the system. Reacting as they would if in actual bone marrow, the megakaryocytes went to work, and the researchers had a platelet-making system on their hands.

According to Dr. David Kaplan, one of the lead researchers on the team, silk was key to the process. Because of its structure, silk can be made in varying degrees of stiffness and different forms, which researchers have found affects the formation and release of authentic platelets. Most important, silk does not cause the platelets to clot, meaning that functional platelets can be gathered from the system and used later on–without the quality and storage problems created by donor platelets.

The system doesn’t yield as many platelets as healthy human bone marrow, but the researchers are optimistic that they can up that. Of course, it may be a while before the system can be used to treat humans. “The big test is if it can work just as well, or even better in animal trials,” says Dr. Mortimer Poncz of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. If it’s not successful in this context, it’s not a viable solution. He notes, however, that “it is a nice step forward.”

Megakaryocytes cultured from patients could also allow researchers to design patient-specific treatment courses. The researchers hope future applications will go beyond blood disorders, and include healing ulcers and burns, regenerating bone tissue for dentistry and even certain kinds of plastic surgery.