Beauty At Any Age: Cosmetic Procedures Stigma Loses Its Sting

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Dr. Mark Berkowitz examines a patient.

The face of cosmetic surgery is changing as patients become more willing to share their experiences, and new, more effective and less invasive procedures are developed.

Dr. Mark Berkowitz, cosmetic surgeon and owner of Accents Cosmetic Surgery in Sterling Heights and, most recently, West Bloomfield, said the stigma surrounding cosmetic surgery that may have prompted patients in the past to conceal the work they had done doesn’t apply as much to a new generation of plastic surgery patients.

Baby boomers who undergo cosmetic surgery are more likely to be discreet about it, sharing their experience only with spouses and maybe a few trusted friends, according to Berkowitz. But for younger generations, the question of “did she or didn’t she” is going by the wayside.

Social media is one reason cosmetic surgery is losing its aura of secrecy, encouraging people to share, rather than hide, their experiences at the plastic surgeon’s office, Berkowitz said.

“A decade ago, we would have someone who would tell a friend, and one or two friends would follow her lead. Now, because of the viral nature of social media, dozens of friends might come in based on what they saw from one happy client.”

Berkowitz recalled a 30-year-old woman who was satisfied with the results of her liposuction. “She began posting pictures in a bikini within two weeks after the procedure,” Berkowitz said. “Her friends posted how great she looked, and her ‘likes’ hit several hundred in a matter of 24 hours.”

A board-certified and fellowship-trained oculofacial surgeon, Berkowitz graduated from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, then went on to a fellowship at the University of Toronto, where he specialized in oculoplastic surgery, treating conditions that affect the area around the eyelids.

“Oculoplastic surgeons treat thyroid conditions that affect the appearance of the eye, like Graves’ disease, and cancers around the eyelid,” Berkowitz said. “I’ve always practiced a mix of functional and cosmetic procedures.”

Dr. Mark Berkowitz

After a patient asked him to do cosmetic work on her lower eyelids, Berkowitz expanded his cosmetic surgery practice, also teaching other doctors the most recent developments in that area.

“In 1995, a patient I treated with a laser for an upper eyelid issue asked me to work on her lower eyelids, so I learned how to apply the laser to that area, too. That was when I put down my scalpel and began working with lasers because there is no bleeding,” Berkowitz said.

Since then, Berkowitz has concentrated his practice solely on cosmetic surgery, taking an approach that emphasizes patient education and managing expectations.

“I always knew I wanted to do something that made people happy right away. Even so, I make sure my patients are good candidates for plastic surgery with achievable expectations. Ideally, they have done their research and they know about the procedures they want to have done.”

That doesn’t mean that Berkowitz treats everyone who walks through the doors of his office.

“I probably turn away two to three people a week because they have unrealistic expectations,” Berkowitz said. “My name is on everyone’s face so I want them to look natural, like they just came back from vacation.”

Assistant Brittany Lyon of Birmingham works at the computer as Dr. Mark Berkowitz looks on.

In her mid-50s, “Meryl” (not her real name), a cosmetic surgery patient and a successful local business owner, agrees with Berkowitz’s attitude toward esthetic procedures.

“I went to Dr. Berkowitz for a mini-face lift — it’s like a lifestyle lift,” Meryl said of the procedure that took less than a half a day to perform.

“It was not at all painful. It wasn’t an extreme process,” she added. “Four days later, I was out and about at a restaurant with friends taking selfies.”

Four years after she had the procedure, Meryl’s friends still don’t know about her surgery.

“It was so subtle. I didn’t want to look like I was 20 years old — even 20-year-olds have wrinkles. I just wanted to look good, not fake. I’m really happy about it, but now I wish I’d done my neck, too.”

After two decades in the field, Berkowitz is quick to recognize whether a patient is a good candidate for plastic surgery.

“If patients don’t want their friends to know, that’s fine. But if they don’t want their spouse to know, that’s not going to work,” Berkowitz said. “That’s why we talk to our patients for two hours before they meet with our patient coordinator.”

Women comprise 80 percent of Berkowitz’s practice, but more and more men are coming in for hair transplants and double chin reductions. Both genders have taken advantage of a non-surgical fat reduction process called cool sculpting, Berkowitz said.

Berkowitz works on the computer in one of the exam rooms as assistant Josh Gartner of New Haven moves equipment into place.

Berkowitz practices what he preaches, having undergone a few cosmetic treatments himself.

Looking fit and youthful, he said, “I’ve had a hair transplant and cool sculpting on my midsection. It reduces the fat by 20 to 25 percent in the area we treat.”

Berkowitz advises those thinking of undergoing a cosmetic procedure to do their homework.

“Make sure you feel comfortable with the physician and the staff, and call the doctor with questions you may have. If you don’t feel you can call your doctor, then you don’t have the right physician,” he said. “I believe in treating everyone the way I’d like to be treated so I call all of my patients after their procedures.”

Accents’ new location on Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield gives Berkowitz an opportunity to work in the community where he lives.

Drawn to the Detroit area by its large Jewish community, Berkowitz and his wife, Kerri, moved to the West Bloomfield area more than 20 years ago because they believed it would be a good place to raise their two sons, Kevin, now 20, and Jeremy, 24.

“Our sons celebrated their bar mitzvahs at Temple Beth El. This is a terrific area to raise a family,” Berkowitz said.

By Linda Laderman | Special to the Jewish News
Photos by Jerry Zolynsky

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