Do French women get facelifts?

Do French women get facelifts?
Do French women get facelifts?

Put the word “French” in front of anything – designers, food, wine, perfume, pastries or face cream - and the price goes up. From Brigitte Bardot to Catherine Deneuve, the French twist ups the ante. Are French women more beautiful, sophisticated, better-dressed, elegant, sensual, refined and mysterious? I don’t know, but they sure would like you to think so.

I, myself, have slinked away from the beauty counter, toting an overpriced French face cream, on the one hand convinced of “la difference” and on the other hand sure it’s money down the drain. The French have created a mystique. Part of the mystique is that their women have been untouched by the hands of a plastic surgeon.

Mireille Guilano promotes that myth. Her book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat” met with such success that she went on to write, “French Women Don’t Get Facelifts.” Joan Kron, contributing editor for “Allure,” knows better. She says, “Don’t believe the title of Mireille Guiliano’s new book… these dames have been getting facelifts since the Jazz Age.”

Parisian doctor, Suzanne Noel, was a feminist at the turn of the twentieth century who developed the mini facelift to fight ageism and promote gender equality in the workplace. Noel empathized with the ordinary working woman who, “must support herself, but can’t get work selling luxury goods because she looks so old.” Kron also reports that the research responsible for today’s facelift (the SMAS lift) occurred in the mid-70s in an anatomy lab on the Left Bank in Paris.

So what is “la difference?”
Quite simply, French women never tell. “Half of my facelift patients don’t even tell their husbands,” says Olivier Gerbault, a Parisian plastic surgeon. He says, “Aging is not looked upon very well in Paris — the same as in the States.”

But, for what it’s worth, Gerbault does report a difference. “Nearly all French women want a very natural result. They don’t want to look surgical.” Though Guiliano claims that for the French a facelift is the last resort, Gerbault says that many of his patients come in at age 45, long before they have exhausted the benefits of Guiliano’s naturel bag of beauty tricks – bananas, spinach, water, a good haircut and argan oil.

Kron also spoke with Stafford Broumand, a Manhattan plastic surgeon who claims French women “have as many facelifts as Americans.” In 1993, he spent a year in Paris training with the late Daniel Marchac. Broumand says “We did six facelifts a week and sometimes more. Others in Paris were just as busy.” He laughs at the European women who claim they’re letting nature take its course. “All these famous people who say they’ve never had “it,” have had it. It is simply not possible for a woman in her 60s to have no excess skin on her neck unless she’s had a lift.”

In addition to cigarettes and city smog, plastic surgery is alive and well in the aging, affluent Parisian population…but maybe with one difference. In Paris, plastic surgery goals are to maintain natural beauty and individuality, rather than to follow some current beauty ideal, which is why it’s so hard to identify with certainty a French woman who’s had a facelift.

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