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Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession With Cosmetic Surgery Hardcover – October 17, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A podiatrist shortens toes so her clients can fit into Jimmy Choos, and a lawyer who's argued before the Supreme Court routinely lies to a succession of doctors to feed his Botox habit. As this depressing survey of a global beauty business rooted in self-hatred and a fear of aging demonstrates, an unfortunate few are literally dying to be pretty: the Nigerian first lady expired after liposuction and a tummy tuck, and Olivia Goldsmith, whose novels lampooned middle-aged women afraid to look their age, succumbed during a chin tuck. New York Times reporter Kuczynski has attitude to spare as she outs Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicole Kidman as probable Botox users, and assesses the "traumatized" naked body of a litigator who's showing off the results of a total body lift after gastric-bypass surgery: "to be honest and brutal and bitchy, she doesn't look that great." A canny and witty guide to the excesses of a conformist society with more money than sense, Kuczynski discloses her own beauty addiction in the form of Botox, collagen derived from cadavers and fetal foreskin cells, liposuction, eyelid lifts and eventually a botched Restylane treatment that left her housebound for days with a disfigured lip.(Oct. 17)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

New York Times reporter Kuczynski's -docu-mentary-like narrative on the U.S. cosmetic industry is at once an expose, a gripping series of related articles, and an autobiography. The author has produced harrowing tales of our denial of aging--for men and for women. She has done her homework many times over, interviewing patients and doctors, talking to company executives who support the industry (for instance, imaging systems and pharmaceuticals), attending trade shows, and researching past news. What emerges is information about every surgery under the knife, including gastric bypass, breast augmentation, and liposuction; all are painstakingly detailed in the author's engaging, hard-to-put down fashion. When she herself confesses to an abnormal need for Botox and other dermatological enhancements, and when her own lip replumping goes awry, it is a clear cry for Americans of all sizes and shapes and ages to seriously and continuously reexamine their sense of selves--via a process that's much more than skin deep. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (October 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385508530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385508537
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,441,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Lima, Peru, Alex Kuczynski has written for The New York Times since 1997, where as a reporter she has covered subjects as wide-ranging as Botox, Buddhism and billionaires. Her work appears in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review and magazines like Harper's Bazaar and O: The Oprah Magazine. Her first book, Beauty Junkies, an expose of the cosmetic-surgery industry, received critical praise and was translated into ten languages. She is the mother of two children under the age of three and is currently at painstaking, grindingly slow work on her next book, a work of fiction. for updates.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By R. Spell VINE VOICE on November 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has generated great buzz as written by a noted NY Times writer who becomes obsessed with plastic surgery at the age of 28 and have various procedures over the next ten years. It's an interesting story but it only occupies 15% of the book and is the closing.

Prior to that the book is an exhaustive summary of the history of plastic surgery dating back to the 1800s and sorted by the various body types being transposed, i.e., face,[..] botox, etc. Therefore the book is written somewhat as a clinical history until she closes with her personal story which is quite interesting. She uses herself as the new American who obsesses with not growing old and builds a compelling case that Americans will use more and more plastic surgery as some South American countries are currently experiencing.

Overall, a quality book on the subject. Personally, I preferred the recent "Confessions of a Park Avenue Plastic Surgeon" for a summary of the issue and more in depth personal stories from the perspective of doctor and patient.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gretchen C. Rubin on December 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm not much interested in cosmetic surgery (which is not the same as plastic surgery, one of the things I learned from the book), but I am a HUGE fan of Alex Kuczynski's work so will read anything she writes. For instance, I don't like shopping, but I always read her NYT column, Critical Shopper, just for the fun of it.

As I expected, I found this a fascinating book and whizzed through it in two days. Lots of great information. As the title indicates, this isn't a guide for people who are considering cosmetic surgery, but an analysis of the industry and the trends behind it. She throws in some of her own experiences, which are just as (or perhaps more) intriguing as the reportorial sections.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Danny on October 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book names names: from revealing the names of celebrities who've had work done, to revealing the names of doctors (and one particularly horrible New York cosmetic dentist) who rip off their patients and leave their patients scarred or worse while flouting the law, the truth, and their patients' safety.

In other words, it has all of the pleasure of celebrity gossip, with none of the guilt. That's because this book is, at its core, a well-written, serious work of journalism that publicly shames some very bad doctors and a very bad dentist. It shows how the system is failing patients, and why it needs to be reformed.

I LOVED this fun book. It is a true page-turner that left me laughing whenever it didn't make me gasp in disbelief. I highly recommend this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D_shrink VINE VOICE on May 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was a personalized psychological study into the history of cosmetic surgery through its earliest beginnings with plastic and corrective surgery beginning back in the 1400's to today, or at least the today of 2006. The historical parts were quite interesting without getting as technical and boring as a medical book would. The author speaks from first hand experience of the mental and physical anguish that women [and it IS primarily women] go through to maintain an aura of youth and beauty, which are for all of us [males and females] a diminishing commodity whether we want to admit it or not. The photos of the author on the jacket and website show her to be a very attractive woman herself, so it is somewhat heart-wrenching to think she didn't see herself as such. I found the book to be easily readable, funny at times, poignant in places, somewhat sarcastic in others, and also a little long winded as some other reviewers have noted. But all in all it was enjoyable to find the honesty and pathos in book written for an audience I assume somewhat different from my own. Try it, I think you'll like it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Chan Joon Yee on September 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The endless struggle against looking old or inadequate, the inability to accept the changing or imperfect body and face, coupled with the relentless promotion of the technology to reverse the aging process, spawned a $15 billion industry in America. This book discusses the moral, ethical and socio-economic implications of readily available services like liposuction, breast augmentation, face lifts and botox injections.

Kuczynski's reporting is by no means ground-breaking. The book is certainly not an outright condemnation of cosmetic procedures and vanity, but don't expect anything balanced or objective. Its tone is definitely negative and very much against cosmetic surgery.

After throwing a lot of stunning figures (numbers) and highlighting the extreme extent to which some American women go to make themselves look younger or more beautiful. She talks about "surgery safari"s in South Africa. This is followed by a chapter on the "rise and fall of botox". A very concise history of this "magic bullet" against aging, but it would be hard to convince the public that the cases which ended up in disaster/death are representative of the huge number of satisfied botox patients.

Next, Kuczynski goes into the history of reconstructive surgery. This branch of medicine has, over the years, shifted from rehabilitating disfigured soldiers to perfecting the faces of vain people.

The link between HMO hassles and the flourishing of cosmetic surgery industry is an interesting one. But the author goes further than that. The media fixes our notions on what is beautiful. The herd behaviour influences people to improve themselves both inside and outside. The result - nobody is plain anymore. Evolution won't take its course!
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