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Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession With Cosmetic Surgery

3.51  ·  Rating Details  ·  201 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
A star writer for the New York Times Styles section captures the follies, frauds, and fanaticism that fuel the American pursuit of youth and beauty in a wickedly revealing excursion into the burgeoning business of cosmetic enhancement.

Americans are aging faster and getting fatter than any other population on the planet. At the same time, our popular notions of perfect beau
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 1st 2006 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2006)
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Oct 28, 2008 Kirsti rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people considering Restylane
Appealing, well-researched, not very objective account of cosmetic surgery's history and future. While the author is highly intelligent, she seems to live in a rarefied world in which it is assumed that just about every normal person gets cosmetic surgery eventually. I was horrified to read that not only had the author had an eye lift, but her cleaning lady--a "Guatemalan grandmother"--had also had one. So maybe I'm the one living in a rarefied world, because if my friends and neighbors are gett ...more
Aug 13, 2007 Georgia rated it liked it
I've been thorough about posting every book I read in 2007 EXCEPT I FORGOT THIS ONE UNTIL JUST NOW when I read Alex Kuczynski quoted in the Observer ("you just can't keep putting stuff in your face and think it's going to look natural after five or ten years"). And then I remembered that I had read her book-length treatise on this very topic.

The point she made that stuck with me the most was that she, as a 5'10, 138 pound woman was considered to be pretty slender by New York standards, because h
Jul 13, 2007 Erin rated it liked it
interesting, but kind of fluffy.
Jun 30, 2008 Annie rated it liked it
Very interesting book. For me, the most interesting parts were the historical precursers to modern-day cosmetic surgery. I know there will always be people trying to find the proverbial fountain of youth, but breast augmentation for a high school graduation gift? Plastic surgery "safaris" to South Africa, where the price is right? What?
Jul 14, 2011 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
I am really, really starting to appreciate nonfiction. (=

Much like how I think that aspiring young actors would benefit from reading Secrets of My Hollywood Life and its subsequent series, it is imperative that anyone who is even remotely curious about cosmetic surgery (which, as I learned, is NOT the same as plastic surgery) should take the time to read this fascinating, horrifying, brutally sad commentary/memoir on what beauty has become in American society.

My heart ached many times over as I
Dec 16, 2009 Laurie rated it liked it
Sastisfies the craving for voyuerism.

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 m
Jan 30, 2012 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
I found this an interesting and, at times, horrifying, though rarely surprising, read. I expect some of the information is a little outdated now as it was written in 2004 -- new procedures and products have undoubtably come out on the market -- but the concepts are unchanged. There were a couple procedures I wasn't aware of, including cosmetic toe surgery and injecting fat into the soles of the feet to compensate for long-time high-heel use, but for the most part I think I'm pretty current on av ...more
Women who get foot facelifts to be able to wear their $500 Jimmy Choo shoes. Men who lie to several doctors in order to make sure they get Botox shots every eight weeks. Young women modelling themselves on porn stars. People willingly having themselves injected with corpse flesh and collagen derived from the stem cells of an infant’s foreskin to get Angelina Jolie-like lips. Makeover subjects who all end up looking the same, conforming to the same dull beauty ideal. Bel Air wives who spend all d ...more
Jul 30, 2007 Renee rated it really liked it
Beauty Junkies, by Alex Kuczynski, gives us the history of plastic and cosmetic surgery, the charlatans, the risks, the popularity especially in the U.S. and its ridiculous extremes. The story is told deftly, with humor and a sense of veritas: the author herself had undergone several procedures, including one that had the unintended effect of swelling her mouth to grotesque proportions (a severe response and fortunately for her, a temporary one). This last experience compelled her to wean hersel ...more
Oct 18, 2009 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
After reading this book, I came away with the impression that Alex Kuczynski may well be absolutely insufferable to be around. She writes this book from the lofty balcony of judgment about the women (and they are mostly women) who have vaginal rejuvenation surgery, yet then admits to having an amazing number of procedures herself (though not that particular one). And what type of world does she live in? After her surgery to correct her "puffy" upper eyelids, her cleaning lady likes the results s ...more
Feb 29, 2008 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: my sister, Sarah
This investigation of the modern obsession of cosmetic surgery reads like part magazine article, part personal blog. Kuczynski, a New York Times reporter specializing in all things beauty, is immersed in the world of Botox and breast augmentations ('BA's as they are called by the cognoscenti'). She interviews both doctors and patients, focusing mostly on the wealthy inhabitants of L.A. and the Upper East Side of New York (duh, only the wealthy can afford this obsession). Both share the triumph o ...more
3.5 stars

In this book, the author takes a look at the beauty industry. More specifically, she looks at cosmetic surgery.

I'm not sure why I decided to read this book, but I added it to my tbr quite some time ago. I've never had nor do I ever intend to get any type of cosmetic surgery (plastic surgery – if necessary – sure). However, this was kind of interesting. I especially liked the chapter the author talks about her own cosmetic surgery and how it might have become an addiction for her, unti
May 10, 2015 Mandi rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting read. We all have a warped view of beauty nowadays, but I guess if you can't beat em, you can try your best to meet the bar that nobody can really reach for this ideal of beauty.
Jan 21, 2009 Chana rated it really liked it
Shelves: health, beauty
This is a fascinating book. I appreciate that she gives detailed information on how to judge the credentials of your potential plastic surgeon. These are the things that I liked about this book: The writer is a reporter and has a skeptical, thorough and observant eye, she is also seduced by the idea of looking young and beautiful, tries some of these procedures herself and shares her experiences and feelings with us. In the past four years I have considered much of this myself, tried some of it ...more
Dec 29, 2010 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cultural-studies
An insightful look at the fixation Americans have with not just youth, but also maintaining an idealized, perfected, appearance. The author demonstrates the toll this quest takes and lengths people will go to in order to create a physical image that they think fits them better than what they have and how often this quest never ends. Cosmetic surgery is not just about combating the effects of again, of course; it is also about externalizing one's inner image or trying to create an image that camo ...more
Aug 09, 2007 Danica rated it it was amazing
Why 5 stars? Although the writing is funny and entertaining, what really cinched the deal for me was the fact that most of the women in this book...

apparently live around my high school. Am I surprised? No, not really - I made/make fun of them all the time. It just scares the bajeezus out of me realizing that the most relentless of my caricatures has not captured the full level of vanity (or neurosis) of some of these, well, beauty junkies.

Reading this in conjunction with "Food Fight" = one hell
Sep 07, 2008 Ashley rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: my mom, and anyone else
Recommended to Ashley by: Monte
Before reading this, I was naive to all the varieties of cosmetic surgery and to the billions of dollars American's spend annually for things like collagen injections for feet so they better withstand the pounding shock of high heels etc. Kuczynski is an intelligent blunt writer isn't afraid to try a number of these tactics on herself and she drags the reader right along with her. It's full of interviews with patients, doctors, and throws out a number of celebrity examples when explaining the re ...more
This was pretty good. The author uses her first-hand experience with plastic surgery to figure out why it's so popular. I must admit that the author admitting to Botox injections and liposuction made me feel, well, a bit morally superior to her; I was mostly battling with my arrogance while I read it (an advance reader's copy from the bookstore I worked at), and that's more of what I remember than any facts from the book. I mailed my mom a copy when she threatened to get a face lift and to my re ...more
Chandi Neubauer
Jul 18, 2007 Chandi Neubauer rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone fascinated by or considering plastic surgery
Alex Kuczynski has a wonderful narrative/journalistic style and this book, like US magazine is hard to put down. She tells many stories about successful and tragic plastic surgeries, and interviews several "junkies" and many doctors. She lays out the history of plastic surgery...which is fascinating, and chronicles the many factors that have led to its explosive growth. I have to say, I couldn't put the book down, and I learned a lot!
May 11, 2009 Kelly rated it really liked it
Alex Kuczynski is her own best rat! At once self-absorbed, shallow, and removed from the tethers that ground mere mortals such as myself (how else could she manage to spend $100,000 on mere cosmetic "maintenance"), Ms. Kuczynski is also one hell of a writer and possessed of a keen mind and a cold eye that she is not afraid to turn on herself, as she pursues her quest for everlasting beauty.
Mar 25, 2008 Rose rated it really liked it
Recommended to Rose by: found at the library
The second part about her personal obsession/experience (both good & bad) was the most insightful. However, I found the fact that ANY physician can set himself up as a 'cosmetic surgeon' with no additional training beyond a 'weekend seminar' and that there are very little resources for the consumer to find out about negative incidents or claims.
Oct 18, 2008 Amy rated it really liked it
Read this one a couple of years ago, could not put it down! Investigative journalist Kuczynski sheds light on the nation's focus on youth and beauty at any cost. She shares personal experience in addition to extensive research, giving a balanced perspective of the beauty industry. Every American woman should read this book.
Feb 06, 2009 Donna rated it liked it
Shelves: medicine, nonfiction
Thinking of getting breast implants or botox injections? You might want to read this first. Get the scoop on the positives and negatives of a host of beauty treatments including liposuction, stomach stapling, microdermabrasion, and more from a New York Times reporter who's been there and done that.
Dec 30, 2007 Sara rated it really liked it
This was fascinating reading, but the second half was even better because it got personal as she told of her own growing obsession with procedures and how she kicked the habit. The book makes you think about why we're so obsessed with beauty/youth and why people go to such extremes.
Feb 19, 2009 Christina rated it liked it
I learned that I never want to get breast implants or use botox. The maintenance and cost are not worth it. I would not rule out a mini-face lift down the road, but only from a very experienced and highly recommended plastic surgeon in a U.S. hospital setting.
Aug 01, 2013 Kaitlin rated it liked it
Very interesting book. I've used it as references for many essays... it's sad but all too true to think the society we live in today is so wrapped up with the ideal of material beauty, and will go at lengths to achieve it.
Sep 11, 2010 Hilary rated it it was amazing
Kuczynski describes in sometimes horrifying detail the ins and outs of the cosmetic surgery business. You will find yourself in shock and awe at the price people pay in order to indulge in the fountain of youth.
Jun 28, 2007 Erica rated it it was ok
Some good stuff but the author turns out to be as superficial as her subjects which is kind of disappointing, I would have preferred more of an attitude but her snideness is tempered by her buying into the whole thing.
Mar 19, 2008 Kristen rated it it was amazing
I cannot put this book down!!! Highly recommended, though beware if you are easily grossed out by descriptions of surgical procedures.
Oct 03, 2007 Kristi rated it liked it
Frightening at times in accounts of the history of cosmetic surgery, and the lengths people go to today to engage in it.
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