When Pam Fry, a 57-year-old teacher from Owasso, Okla., had a tummy tuck and breast lift to tighten up her sagging skin after losing 127 pounds, the procedures had a huge impact on her life.
But they also had an impact on her daughter.
“I’d talked about getting a breast lift for years,” says Tami Fry, a 31-year-old single mother who also lives and teaches in Owasso. “[After giving birth], my chest just went flat and down. When I saw how beautiful my mom looked, I said, ‘That’s it. I’m doing it.’”
Mother-daughter “cosmetic duets” — such as the respective face lift and rhinoplasty Christie Brinkley and daughter Alexa Ray Joel reportedly had last month — are becoming more popular, according to plastic surgeons across the country.
Neither the American Society of Plastic Surgeons nor the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery collect statistics on “family” procedures, but Manhattan facial plastic surgeon Dr. Sam Rizk says the practice is “very common.” He sees at least one mom-daughter pair in for simultaneous surgery each month.
“I see it when there’s a wedding,” says Rizk. “The mother wants to have a little face lift and the daughter is getting a nose job. Or they both come in for Botox or fillers. I’ve even seen a daughter-mother-grandmother combo.”
Dr. James Koehler, the Tulsa surgeon who operated on Pam and Tami Fry, says he sees about 10 mother-daughter pairs a year. There are so many, in fact, he’s thinking about offering a family discount.
“It’s usually the mother that goes first,” he says. “And the daughter will be like, ‘Mom, you’re fine how you are.’”
Next thing you know, that daughter is calling Koehler for her own appointment.
The ‘family nose’
Other times, it’s the daughter who inspires mom to carve out a new look.
“I was nervous to tell my mom about it,” says Kim Doran, a 31-year-old travel writer from Chicago who had rhinoplasty on her “family nose” five months ago. “I thought she’d think I was being shallow, but she kept taking pictures and saying, ‘Wow, you look so good.’ Then she decided she wanted to do it, too.”
The double decision to go under the knife surprised both Doran’s husband and her stepdad. Neither had understood how self-conscious their wives were. In the end though, they came around.
“My stepdad told her that he thought she was beautiful the way she was but that if it made her happy, she should do it,” she says. He even doctored up a photo to show mom what she’d look like with new nose.
The rhinoplasty was what finally allowed mom and daughter to open up about some long-held hurts.
“We’d always joked about it — ‘Oh, the nose’ — but now I was able to really talk to about how self-conscious I was about it,” Doran says. “She talked about an incident that happened when I was a kid where some teenager went by on a bike and yelled ‘Hey lady — nice nose!’ She remembered that even though it happened 20 years ago.”
New York plastic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Yager says he often hears moms and daughters bemoaning shared body traits and the burdens that can come with them.
“I’ll hear, ‘Everybody in my family has big arms, everybody develops puffs under their eyes,’” he says. “I had a mother and daughter come in on the same day where mom got a neck lift and daughter got liposuction of her neck. They were both moving down the same path of anatomy and having the same problems.”
Camaraderie and coercion
While some moms and daughters schedule surgeries weeks apart so they can take care of one another, others recover together.
“We thought about separating our surgeries so she could take care of me and then I could take care of her, but we were too excited about it,” says Natalie Terry, a 31-year-old salon owner from Franklin Lakes, N.J., who underwent a breast augmentation two days before her mother had the same procedure plus a tummy tuck. “So we were phone buddies, checking in with each other, asking who was in more pain, comparing side effects.”
This camaraderie can be a positive aspect to mother-daughter plastic surgery, says Sara Corse, a clinical psychologist with the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia.
But there can be a sour undertone to the cosmetic duet.
“I think it gets really dicey when it starts moving into, ‘You’re too hippy, you’ve got too much belly fat’ either from mom or daughter,” says Corse. “I think you need to watch for coercion in either scenario.”
Mothering or smothering?
Dr. Hema Sundaram, a Washington, D.C., dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon says she’s actually witnessed some “stage-mothering” over the years.
Competitiveness — typified by TV shows like “Hotter Than My Daughter” — is another red flag, says Corse, who warns against scenarios in which criticism or one-upmanship come into play.
For Tami and Pam Fry, though, it’s more about bonding — and perhaps a mother’s timeless ability to make dreams come true.
“I knew my daughter wanted her breasts done, so I bought her that for her birthday,” says Fry. “And it’s been great for both of us. We don’t have anyone to show them off to — I just teach and go home and take care of my father who has Alzheimer’s — but we have each other. Sometimes we’ll just stand in front of the mirror and compare them and laugh.”