When Margaret first met her boyfriend, she weighed 105 pounds and wore short crop tops. But after 13 years together, the 55-year-old retiree from Torrance developed a "muffin top" that she just couldn't eliminate.
So she did what so many other women do to get their bodies back: She had lipoplasty on her waist, hips and upper and lower abdomen in September. One week later, her boyfriend had lipoplasty for himself.
"He hadn't thought about getting anything done, but after hearing how I would look afterward, he decided he should probably go ahead and have a little something done too," said Margaret, who asked that her last name not be used for privacy reasons.
The couple represents a growing trend. Although neither the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery nor the American Society of Plastic Surgeons keeps statistics, representatives for both groups say there is anecdotal evidence that more couples are having cosmetic surgery together.
The trend is a corollary to the increase in recent years of cosmetic procedures performed on men, who now account for 9% of the total.
"It's a male ego thing. When a wife comes in and has work done and is delighted with the outcome, the husband or partner feels more confident and secure and more likely to ask questions," said Dr. Richard Chaffoo, a board-certified plastic surgeon who runs La Jolla Plastic Surgery in La Jolla. "Men are often initially introduced when they come in with their wives, who are looking at having this or that done. When the husband is in there, he sees some of the information, and then he sort of gets interested. Then, when the wife comes in for a postoperation appointment, we'll talk about his eyes or neck."
Lipoplasty is enormously popular for both men and women. In 2011, more than 300,000 lipoplastys were performed in the United States, surpassing breast augmentation as the most popular cosmetic surgical procedure for the first time since 2008, according to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
But although coupled men and women may have their procedures done around the same time, what they're having done may differ. At the office of lipoplasty specialist Dr. Aaron Rollins in Beverly Hills, the most common areas of men's lipoplasty are the abdomen, chest and chin. For women, it's "all over," he said.
Rounding out the list of top anti-aging cosmetic surgical procedures for women are tummy tucks and cosmetic eyelid surgeries. For men, it's eyelid surgery and gynecomastia, also known as male breast reduction, according to the ASAPS.
If cosmetic surgery is, to some extent, about keeping up with the Joneses, there's no more important Jones than a spouse. Psychologically, there's just something unsettling about a man and a wife who are aging out of sync.
"Sometimes the man will say, 'Well, I think my wife's looking good, and I don't want to look as old as I look when she looks so young and energetic,'" said Dr. Malcolm Z. Roth, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "Maybe the man was the courageous one, so the wife follows suit," added Roth, who has seen several couples celebrate their anniversaries with cosmetic surgeries as chief of plastic surgery at Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y.
"I wanted to have at least one good picture with my grandchildren before I die," said Reita Greene, 59, a nurse from Rancho Palos Verdes who had aface-liftin January. Her boyfriend of 16 years plans to follow suit.
"This all started several years ago when I got a chemical peel," Greene said. She took her now 55-year-old boyfriend with her to the appointment, and he got one too. Then Greene got Botox. Again, her boyfriend followed her lead. Since Greene had herface-lift, she said, "Every day he looks at me and says, 'That looks so good.' I said, 'Now it's your turn …' Neither one of us is getting any younger."
Most doctors who've seen an uptick in couples plastic surgery say their clients are in their late 30s to early 60s. The women are typically done with childbearing, and both members of the couple are unable to lose weight through diet and exercise.
"They've finished having children," Dr. Chaffoo said, "and they want to restore how their bodies looked before their kids ruined them."