Image: Joan Rivers
Stephen Chernin  /  AP file
Most celebrities deny they've had any work done to keep them looking picture perfect, but Joan Rivers proudly proclaims her love of plastic surgery.
updated 2/23/2007 5:36:07 PM ET 2007-02-23T22:36:07

When the stars step onto the red carpet Sunday, they'll talk about who designed their fabulous gowns, suits, jewelry and shoes.

But they're highly unlikely to mention the people who may have had the biggest hand in creating their picture-perfect looks — their plastic surgeons, cosmetic dermatologists and dentists.

With the recent wrapping of the Golden Globes and Grammy's, and with Hollywood's biggest night around the corner, it's busy season for California's cosmetic doctors. Their offices have been full in recent weeks with big-name actors and actresses willing to spend thousands to get rid of that new wrinkle, touch up their décolletage or just look 10 to 15 years younger.

"It may be good for a character to look a certain way, but when it comes to, say, going to a premiere for a movie, you want to look your best," says Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Nicholas Nikolov, who frequently treats working actresses. He, like most of the physicians quoted in this piece, would not divulge clients' names. "On the red carpet, you're supposed to look glamorous."

Can you keep a secret?
Most celebrities will deny they've had work done, but their doctors know the truth — and have the secret back entrances in their offices to prove it.

"They're very paranoid," says Dr. Renato Calabria, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. Calabria, who says his celebrity clients sometimes have a hard time saying hello to him in public, pioneered the new one-stitch face lift. For about $5,000, the procedure lifts loose facial skin and anchors it via one stitch under the hairline on each side of the face. The effect is more subtle than full face lifts and popular among clients in their late 30s, Calabria says. Recovery time is around four days, perfect for the kind of person who doesn't want to stay out of the limelight for too long.

Actresses who've already hit 40 but don't want to look it have been turning to Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, a plastic surgeon at the Beverly Hills Body practice. He uses the Volumetric Face Lift, which makes the face look young again by treating it like a deflated balloon.

After taking fat via a needle from a patient's abdomen, he inserts it under the eyes, in the cheeks or between the nose and mouth to sculpt full features. Ellenbogen sometimes also tightens the skin via small incisions around the ears. The procedure's starting price is $15,000. Ellenbogen recommends that people who are photographed for a living schedule the procedure four to six weeks in advance of an event.

Faster fixes
While some stars will plan major nips and tucks such as liposuction months in advance, most go for easy touch-ups like injections of fillers, which can give the skin a full, younger appearance, and which don't cause a lot of telltale swelling or bruising.

"In general, the non-invasive or [minimally] invasive procedure market has expanded rapidly," says Dr. Roxanne Guy, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "It started with the Botox boom, and it's just built upon that."

Today, Botox, which costs about $250 per treatment area, isn't used just for zapping deep forehead wrinkles, according to Nikolov. It also works to prevent stains around the underarms by stopping the glands from producing sweat. About eight to 10 injections of Botox in the area can do the trick.

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"When you're on the red carpet," he says, "you look great, and maybe you're a little nervous--no matter what, the last thing you want is to get perspiration on your gown."

To prepare for their close-ups, some stars turn to cosmetic dentists for power bleaching, says Miami-based cosmetic dentist Jorge Blanco. Patients pay $500 to $1,000 for the procedure, which is done two and a half weeks in advance of an event. Blanco applies whitening gel to the teeth, then sits the patient in front of a light that promotes absorption for about an hour. Sensitivity may be a problem for a day afterward. Some dentists send people home with teeth-whitening trays and solution so they can control color all the way up to an event.

On the mend
Buying beautyFor stars trying to speed their skin's recovery after a chemical peel or microdermabrasion, there's Dermacia MD's Lycogel, a triple silica gel treatment that heals while acting as a concealer. It sells for $78 per half ounce and is available at plastic surgeons' and dermatologists' offices. Product developer Barry Knapp says the key to Lycogel is its ability to increase the skin's oxygen intake, unlike most makeup.

"If you have a chemical peel, you're basically electing to have a second-degree burn," says Knapp, president of Dermacia MD. "You need something to heal it; you need the cells to repopulate very quickly. Patients are not interested in having two months out of their life taken."

The product also benefits skin that's healthy, according to Knapp, who says Lycogel is used on the sets of "Desperate Housewives" and "American Idol."

Of course, the desire to look good in front of all those cameras isn't singular to actors and actresses. Calabria says he's also had producers, directors, public relations people and even journalists come to him in recent weeks seeking a refreshed look.

After all, who doesn't want to look camera-ready?

"The main thing people look for is something that will make them look spectacular, but at the same time not stand out too much," says Blanco. "It has to be subtle."

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