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You may be noticing more wrinkles in the faces of the people you see. Though worries over the bad economy may be to blame for some of them, there could be another reason. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the number of Americans opting to undergo cosmetic plastic surgery fell to 6.6 million in 2002, down 12 percent from the year before. ASPS president Dr. James Wells says the decline is almost certainly the result of the ailing economy.

The rate of nonsurgical cosmetic procedures declined more than that of the industry overall. In 2002, 4.9 million people had a nonsurgical procedure, a 15 percent drop from the 5.8 million who had one performed in 2001. The popularity of chemical peels fell the most. Almost one-third (31 percent) fewer Americans opted for a chemical peel in 2002 than did so in 2001. Meanwhile, sclerotherapy, a procedure to remove spider veins, declined by 17 percent, laser hair removal dipped 15 percent and microdermabrasion fell by 13 percent.

Apparently, pinched purse strings didn't keep everyone away from the doctor's office. Even as all other nonsurgical procedures lost favor, Botox treatments soared in popularity. Due in large part to the FDA's approval of the drug in April 2002, use of Botox surged 31 percent last year, as more than 1.1 million people got their their furrowed brow lines zapped by the toxin.

Procedures that require people to go under the knife seem to have weathered the recession better than have the nonsurgical ones. In 2002, 1.6 million people opted to have a surgical procedure in the name of beauty, up 1 percent from the year before. Surgery is less likely to be an “impulse buy� than cosmetic procedures like chemical peels and therefore aren't as affected by recession-based decreases in impulse spending, explains Wells. “Some people are always willing to make an investment in themselves to achieve the look they want,� he says.

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