As a Manhattan-based IT consultant for Fortune 500 firms, 39-year-old Lizette Stephens was constantly on video conference calls with CTOs from around the world. So were her chins. “I didn’t think I had a double chin—I never noticed anything when I looked in the mirror—but all of a sudden there they were,” she says. Stephens spent hours practicing different angles on video chat and even more de-tagging her chins as photos popped up on Facebook. “I had to look at myself all day long,” she says. “Soon, my double chin was all I was thinking about.”
The advent of virtual offices, and doing business by Skype, has brought saggy chins to the forefront—and has led to a boom in one segment of plastic surgery: chin implants, or “chinplants.” According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), chin augmentation is the fastest growing plastic-surgery category for both men and women and across all age groups, up 76 percent from 2010 to 2011—that’s more than lipo, Botox and breast implants combined. Manhattan plastic surgeon Darrick Antell, M.D., reports that a few years ago he’d perform maybe one chinplant a week. Now he’s up to three or four a day. “Patients are coming in and telling me they don’t like how they look on Facebook,” he says. “Until things like video chat and social media, we weren’t so used to seeing photographs of ourselves all the time or, for that matter, ourselves as others saw us.” And now that we are, we couldn’t be more horrified.
As we age, we collect fat and lose muscle; for many, the jawline is the first thing to go. Yet thanks to a culturewide phone addiction that has us looking down all the time, our chins, says Antell, are getting weaker faster. The ASPS reports that most chinplant patients are in their forties and fifties—with a strong showing from other-wise fit twenty-somethings. That’s because while diet and exercise might make a chin thinner, they won’t make it stronger. Aligning the jaw with the upper lip—what Antell likes to call a “little cleaning up of the jawline”—can make a person look younger and more attractive. It’s so subtle that most patients report that friends and coworkers can’t quite figure out what’s different. “A lot of people asked if I’d lost weight or started working out” post-chinplant, says Stephens. She even got a raise.
“We’re simply more attracted to people with forceful chins,” says Antell. A few years back, he had his staff collect photos of the country’s top CEOs: commanding jaws, all. “People with strong jawlines look more trustworthy and confident,” he says, pointing to former Hewlett-Packard chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina, whom he says has a model chin. “And these days, how you look is important. You carry your résumé on your face. Look at Mitt Romney: What a great chin that guy has!” Of course, there are exceptions, says Antell, like Bill Gates, who has a soft chin. But then again, Bill Gates didn’t really need anyone to hire him.
The best part, says Antell, is that the procedure is quick, clean and relatively cheap: Local anesthesia, a minor incision under the jaw or inside the mouth to insert a hard rubber implant and you’re home in a few hours—for anywhere from $3,500 to $7,000. Antell says most patients even go back to work in a few days. “It’s just so easy, yet it changes the profile completely,” says Antell. “You can literally take someone who’s a 6 and make them a 9. Do you know how empowering that is?”
Main image: “Lady with an Ermine”: De Agostini/Getty Images; iPhone: 2012 Future Publishing.