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Beauty Junkies: Getting under the skin of the cosmetic surgery industry

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  211 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
In this fascinating, sharply written insight into America's $15 billion cosmetic surgery industry, author Alex Kuczynski paints an incomparable picture of obsessive patients and the equally obsessive doctors who cater to their dreams.

From a group of high-maintenance New York City women who devote themselves to preserving their looks twenty-four hours a day and a podiatrist
Published March 1st 2007 by Vermilion (first published January 1st 2006)
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Oct 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 09, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
interesting, but kind of fluffy.
Jun 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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?
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
Dec 05, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 06, 2009 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
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 22, 2008 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
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
Sep 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Chandi Neubauer
Jul 10, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Apr 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 19, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Jun 26, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Beatrice Gormley
This is pretty horrifying and sad, but it's important information about an aspect of American society.
Jun 15, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer2007
Well written and often personal account by NY Times Style section author, but too frequently veers into irrelevant asides
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