How To Discern Between Aging Well and Good Plastic Surgery (It’s Not Always Obvious)

Meryl Streep Annie Leibovitz Tell Tale Signs of Plastic Surgery

Rolling Stone

We asked 3 plastic surgeons the tell-tale signs of plastic surgery.

Botox, fillers, boob jobs, facelifts. These procedures are a dime a dozen these days, but as a resident of Los Angeles, let me tell you: there’s some effortless work out there, and then there’s the over the top. It’s the former that has me intrigued, however.

As a newbie to the Botox world, I check out people’s foreheads more than ever. I investigate. If they don’t have wrinkles, I wonder if they, too, have endured the needles like I had. Do other people do the same thing about breasts and bellies and butts and lips? Sometimes the procedure is so minor it’s hard to know. Other times, someone just had an amazing surgeon. No matter the case, if you want to be an investigator too, you’ve come to the right place.

I nailed down three plastic surgeons who gave me the scoop on what to look for when your friend or fave celeb is looking damn fine these days and you’re just not sure if it’s a new intense Tracy Anderson workout or if they’ve gone under the knife. (If you’re considering a procedure, my investigation will also help you ask the right questions and manage expectations. You’re welcome!)

Makeup Madeover: Some people just seem to age so gracefully, but where are the wrinkles? Where is the sag? They don’t look like they’ve had work done. They don’t look like Joan Rivers! What’s the tell-tale sign someone has had a facelift?   

David Song, MD, Former President of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons: That’s genetics. Tell-tale sign for a facelift is when patients smile. Do the wrinkles look more like cat whiskers? Then they most likely had a facelift.

Heather Furnas, MD: Faces deflate with age, and a facelift won’t necessarily address these changes, so ancillary procedures, such as laser resurfacing, a chin implant, fat transfer or fillers and Botox are often added to produce the best results. Tell-tale signs include a sideburn that is way too high, an over-pulled, flattened face, wide scars in front of the ears and around the ear lobes, clear surface irregularities, a “parenthesis” line from the side of the nose to the side of the mouth that has been pulled toward the ears, and shiny, waxy skin after aggressive laser resurfacing. The way the skin falls over the cheeks can pull in a direction not found in nature, with lines like a hammock.

MM: What’s the clear sign someone has had Botox?

Botox virgin or botox for the first time

Dr. Furnas: Aggressive Botox between the eyebrows can result in widening of the space between the eyebrows and an upward Spock-like angle, so that the outer eyebrow looks too high and the inner eyebrow looks too low. Aggressive Botox of the forehead can result in a smooth, flat surface with eyebrows that don’t lift. Botox injections that are done well are almost undetectable.

Anne Taylor, MD: Botox patients cannot scowl—or knit their forehead.

MM: What kind of scars should you look for if someone has had a tummy tuck? Liposuction?   

Song: Good scars are those that are hidden beneath a bikini line so technically for a good result you shouldn’t see the scar. Liposuction scars are two millimeters, so they should be barely visible.

Furnas: Scars after a full tummy tuck are low down across the abdomen from hip bone to hip bone. There is also a scar around the belly button. A mini or bikini tummy tuck has the horizontal scar from hip to hip (typically), but there is no scar around the belly button. Some people expect that the mini-tummy tuck scar is mini in length, but it’s still long. The only way to remove extra skin is to cut it out, and cuts leave scars. To remove an adequate amount of skin requires a long scar.

Liposuction can result in surface irregularities of the skin. The tummy is at particularly high risk, since that skin is flexible (it has to be for bending and stretching), and once it has lost tone after pregnancy, it is unforgiving.

MM: How can you tell if someone has had a nose job?   

Song: This is hard. The best way is to see their pre-op photo in a high-school yearbook perhaps.

Taylor: The best results for surgery are natural—so you would not really know someone had a rhinoplasty—unless you knew them before.

MM: How can facial expressions change as a result of surgery?  

Furnas: Facial expressions are the result of the action of facial muscles. When a patient smiles after a facelift, the skin can pull in an unusual way. The nasolabial folds (skin folds commonly known as “smile lines” or “laugh lines”) may look a little farther than usual from the corners of the mouth. When a facelift person turns his or her neck, the skin can accordion along the jawline and below in a way not quite seen in nature.

Taylor: After surgery, the expressions are about the same, but the skin is tighter and if they had [a] filler, [the skin is] fuller.

MM: How can you tell if someone has had a brow lift? (Also known as a forehead lift, this procedure elevates a drooping eyebrow that may cause an obstruction of vision, and/or removes the deep “worry lines “on the forehead.)

Microblading: The Key to Getting the Best Brows for Life


Furnas: An aggressive brow lift can result in unnaturally high eyebrows, giving a surprised look. In men, the result can look feminine, as male eyebrows typically rest lower than those of females. A transcoronal brow [ the most extensive type of brow lift that is done via an incision placed in the hairline and runs from ear to ear].

MM: Not all breast augmentations are noticeable. How can you tell if someone has had one?   

Song: [It’s] very difficult to tell when a patient is clothed.

Furnas: Implants add fullness to the upper breast, which women often request, but it is not necessarily natural looking. The appearance of breasts after an augmentation can look like breasts in a push-up bra. Rippling may be visible with thin, stretched tissues. A well-proportioned implant can fit a woman’s body well so that it’s difficult to tell that she’s ever had a breast augmentation.



1 comment

  1. I am 53 yrs old what are my options for sagging jowls and eyebrows that have fallen

You may also like