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'Chinplants': What's behind the new plastic surgery craze?

Forget flat stomachs and D-cup breasts — the hot new item in cosmetic surgery is a chiseled chin

When most people think of plastic surgery, they imagine nose jobs, breast augmentations, and tummy-tucks. But the hot new part of the body to try and perfect is the humble chin, according to data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "Chinplants," or cosmetic surgery to give people the chiseled jaw of their dreams, shot up 71 percent last year, making it far and away the fastest growing type of plastic surgery. Why the chin? Here, a look at the newest cosmetic craze:

How many chinplants are Americans getting?
Roughly 10,100 women and 10,600 men got chin implants in 2011, and the whopping 71 percent growth rate for chinplants since 2010 outpaced breast implants, liposuction, and Botox combined. Still, last year's 20,000 or so chinplants look pretty puny compared with the 307,180 breast augmentations and 5.7 million Botox treatments.

What's so bad about a weak chin?
Anecdotally at least, a strong chin is associated with leadership: Presidents Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, and Barack Obama have pronounced jaws, as do 90 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, according to New York plastic surgeon Darrick Antell. CEOs tend to be "tall, attractive, good-looking people," and they also "tend to have a stronger chin," he says. "As a result, people subconsciously associate a stronger chin with more authority, self-confidence and trustworthiness."

Why are chin implants gaining in popularity now? 
Plastic surgeons offer a few theories: TV shows like The Doctors highlight niche procedures like chinplants; we are being photographed constantly by Facebook-connected smartphones, and that's making us very image-conscious; and Skype, FaceTime, and other video-chat programs exacerbate weak chins and other cosmetic shortcomings. "I do FaceTime with my wife and kid and I'm shocked at how bad I look" on the iPhone, Michigan plastic surgeon Tony Youn tells NBC

How do chin implants work?
Generally, surgeons make a cut inside the lower lip or under the chin, then insert an implant into the soft tissue of the chin to create a jaw of the desired shape and size. The procedure takes an hour or more, can sometimes be performed under local anesthesia, and is relatively affordable, costing anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 for the entire operation. "Severely recessed chins" require more extensive surgery, involving moving bones around. But if you're unhappy with your profile — and many of us apparently are — "a strong chin is not something you can gain via diet or exercise," points out Dr. Antell. "You're either born with it or you see a surgeon to improve it." 

Is the procedure dangerous?
It isn't entirely risk-free. Dr. Oz tells NBC's Today there's a 5 to 7 percent chance your new chin will get infected, though Antell says the rate of complications from the surgery is "less than a half of a percent." Other possible after-effects include bleeding, numbness, three to four months of swelling, and shifting implants. Then there's the aesthetic danger of overreaching with your implant: "Nothing looks worse than one that is too large," says New York cosmetic surgeon David Hidalgo.

Sources: ASPC [PDF], Blisstree, Discovery News, Gawker, NBC Today, New York Daily News

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