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Is Cosmetic Eye Surgery Worth it for Older Women? Here Are the Pros and Cons, and the In-Betweens

By Rosanne Ullman September 11, 2021 Beauty

To prepare my friends for my latest news – that my husband had cosmetic surgery on his lower eyelids – I say, “I have something to tell you, and afterward I’ll wait until you stop laughing.”

But apparently, the joke is on me, because no one laughs. Instead, the range of reactions is narrow: “Does he like it?” “Did it work?” “Does he look good?” “Did it hurt?” It leads up to the confession: “I was thinking about getting some work done myself.”

We’re living in a time when we don’t have to age gracefully. We can reject the image staring back at us in the mirror, replace yesterday’s close-up selfie with tomorrow’s more youthful-looking glam shot.

This option appears to be on everyone’s radar when we hit a certain age, so no longer is it frowned upon or whispered only to close confidants. We freely share our hope to look as good at age 82 as Jane Fonda, who seems to have become the poster girl for successfully messing with Mother Nature.

Exploring the Negatives

But there’s a lot to get past:

  • the knife,
  • a swollen, black-and-blue and likely painful recovery,
  • the possibility that the results will be disappointing,
  • the risk that something will go even more horribly wrong and, not least,
  • the expense.

Medicare is not onboard with our self-proclaimed psychological urgency to turn back the clock. My husband paid, out of pocket, about $8,500.

Before moving forward, my husband considered all of those negatives. But there was no contest when he weighed them against the single, ultimate deciding factor: he really, really wanted a face without eye bags.

“I don’t want to look like a hound dog anymore,” he announced. And me? Well, I did laugh.

“I can’t believe you’re this vain,” I responded. “You lost your hair before age 30, and that didn’t bother you. Now at age 69 you can’t live with this one sign of aging?”

He tried including me – if I couldn’t beat him, maybe I’d join him? While wisely assuring me that I looked the same as the day he met me, he reminded me how often I complained about my low-hanging jowls and loosening neck.

But after a lumpectomy for breast cancer, open-heart surgery for a valve repair, and wrist surgery triggered by a fall on black ice, I was not volunteering to hop a gurney into the operating room.

I just don’t care enough about my saggy face to do more than apply face creams. Plus, the money! No, thanks. But I decided that if his eye bags bothered him this much, I would support him in this post-midlife crisis.

You Have to Consider the Results

And I won’t keep you in suspense – it looks pretty great. The “you look rested” cliché is true. He needed zero pain medication; he experienced only discomfort from the tape strategically placed to continue uplifting the eye area for three weeks.

It gets even better. Essentially, he got a twofer – a free liposuction with his eye bag removal. While methods vary, this surgeon performed the lower eyelid fix by transferring fat from the body’s midsection into the sunken area below the eyes.

But, because my husband is an avid exerciser, he has barely a speck of fat anywhere on his body. So, after examining him, the surgeon informed us that the normally three-hour surgery would take longer, since she would have to spend time hunting for fat.

I raised my hand to donate my entire spare tummy, but she said his body would reject it unless we were identical twins. Darn.

The surgery ended up taking five hours, and he emerged with multiple incisions on his abdomen, hips and thighs, but the spot around his navel seems to have been the primary fat source. He now has the flattest stomach ever, and he loves that.

Are you interested? I don’t know about other cosmetic procedures, but here’s a little Q&A to share what I’ve learned from this eye bag journey.

How Did I Get Bags Under My Eyes?

Typically, the culprit turns out to be that familiar combo: aging + genetics. As we age, our skin loses elasticity and fat padding. On the lower eyelid, this appears as crinkly, puffy, baggy skin.

Look at photos of your parents at your age – the eyes probably will indicate that one or the other passed along this unfortunate gene.

What Does the Surgical Procedure Entail?

There are two methods for restoring youth to the lower eyelid – ironically, one method removes fat, and the other deposits fat.

In a procedure called a blepharoplasty, the surgeon creates an incision under the lashes or inside the lower lid, removes fat and excess skin through the incision, and closes the incision with tiny stitches.

In my husband’s case, the surgeon used fat harvested from his abdomen and thighs to fill out the depleted area below the eye that was creating the look of eye bags.

What Type of Anesthesia Will I Have?

If you’re getting a blepharoplasty, you may need only a local anesthetic. For his fat-transfer procedure, though, my husband was put under general anesthesia; not even a “twilight” type.

Will I Need to Stay in the Hospital Overnight?

This is usually an outpatient procedure. My husband arrived at noon, and we left the hospital at about 9 p.m.

Will I Have Stitches?

Having stitches is inevitable. My husband’s were removed after one week.

How Much Pain Should I Expect?

The intensity of pain really varies. “You will be very bruised,” my husband’s surgeon cautioned him before she began the surgery.

“I’ve had patients tell me, ‘This hurts. It really hurts, like a truck ran over me.’ Your belly and thighs will hurt, and that usually goes away in a week or two. Your face will hurt less, but it will be very bruised.” However, my husband reported only minimal pain.

When Will My Life Return to Normal?

After about three days, my husband began going outside. At the one-week point, when his stitches were removed but he still had tape around his eyes, he’d go out in public wearing sunglasses.

He did not exercise at all for two weeks. Then he gradually built up to his normal level, resuming intense running training a few weeks before competing in a 10k run seven weeks after surgery.

Make sure you have a surgeon who is experienced and will show you patients’ before-and-after photos. Then, if you want a nice, smooth under-eye, I say go for it!

What would you do to look younger? Would you do plastic surgery? In which area? Have you considered eye-bag surgery? Do you think it would be worth it? Please share your thoughts and experiences with our community.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor to get specific medical advice for your situation.

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The Author

Rosanne Ullman has a long freelance writing career. She is the author of the children's picture book The Case of the Disappearing Kisses, an admin for the Facebook group "Grammar Matters," and the creator and instructor of the Write My Memoirs Grammar and Writing Course.

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