The billboard rising up in the distance along the interstate looks enticing at first. Hard to tell exactly what it’s advertising, but you can make out a great swath of bikini-clad flesh from a mile away. Your attention perks up in anticipation of some provocative treat amidst all the signs showing fast-food options and diesel prices at Truckland Truckstop ($2.93 a gallon; up a little from last week).
Soon you can see more detail on the billboard and there are actually two scantily clad torsos, the first trim and sexy and the second — whoa! — it’s got a huge sagging appendage where the abs should be. I’m repulsed, and that’s apparently the proper reaction, because it’s an ad for The Refine Institute, a Charlotte-area plastic surgery practice, trolling for patients along I-77.
The tagline reads “Changing the shape of Charlotte one person at a time,” which sounds like it’s going to take a while, if you’ve ever seen the line for biscuits at Bojangles. The “REFINE” logo is graphically intriguing too; the “R” is extra bold, the “E” a semibold, the “F” merely bold, the “I” roman, the “N” light and the “E” extra light, a progression from fat to thin type suggesting how you too could stand a little font change after all that cake you ate.
All of which makes me want to learn more about plastic surgery and leads me to the subject of today’s Website Review, RefineInstitute.com.
The home page is a simple affair, a black center square containing the company name and four shaded squares surrounding it, suggesting perhaps how the surgically improved will be the center of attention among her fading friends.
The box on the left tells about “Technical Expertise,” how the surgeons of the practice bring a “sharp” eye to their craft, using “cutting-edge” technologies, subconsciously setting you up for the scalpels that will inevitably follow. The bottom box, conversely, promotes the “High Tech/Less Invasive” nature of the work, including laser-assisted liposuction and something called “fractionated CO2 skin resurfacing,” in which I’m guessing they remove some fraction of your skin, probably using a carbonated beverage. The right box is “Core Consultation,” about holistic wellness and treating the “whole person,” not just the sagging parts.
It’s the top box that has the pulldowns going into more scintillating detail: body contouring, facial sculpting and “breast aesthetics” (hubba-hubba.)
But first, of course, we want to hear about the institute’s philosophy before we learn about the expensive fees, the pain and, ultimately, the slight enhancement of your frankly disgusting eyelids. Refine believes that cosmetic surgery is “rooted in gentle precision and polished elegance.” They offer a “unique 360° approach to restoring your image,” so much better than that earlier business model where only 180° of you was fixed, and you constantly had to triangulate and shift positions so people would only see your front.
We read about surgeon Dr. Ralph Cozart, who did much of his residency in Minnesota, where it seems the extreme cold would give any tightening efforts a nice boost. In his current practice, Dr. Cozart uses Vectra 3-D technology to take “before pictures” of your troublesome body part, then he does NOT — I repeat, NOT — put these on Flikr, then he creates a three-dimensional image of your projected outcome. It’s not mentioned whether your husband will have to wear Avatar glasses after your procedure, though you’ll probably have to go to an IMAX theatre to be fully appreciated.
This is also the area of the website that features “summer specials.” I was fully prepared to make a joke about buy-one-get-one-free, but Refine beat me to it with their SmartLipo offer for “50% of an additional area after first at regular price.” It really does say “of,” not “off.” I hope that’s just a typo and not a special to fix all of one breast and half of another.
Under the “Body Contouring” section, we learn about the various liposuction techniques. “LipoSculpture” is good for small stubborn areas of fat that resist exercise and diet. It’s laser-assisted and only requires “tumescent anesthesia,” which I hope isn’t what it sounds like. “SmartLipo” uses twenty-first century technology to remove fat and tighten skin, so much better than the eighteenth-century technique some surgeons use that involves lopping off as much as a flank. There’s also the “tummy tuck,” requiring your navel to be moved (can you put it on your forehead?) and the “minituck,” wherein your navel stays put.
Special mention is worthwhile here for the “Brazilian Butt Lift.” Developed deep in the Amazon and expected to be an exhibition sport in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Brazilian Butt Lift takes fat from a part of your body where you don’t want it and transfers it to your bottom. The fat can be harvested “from any place” — I’d choose the Food Lion meat department — and can create a very natural look and feel. You can’t sit down for a week, not all the fat will “take” and it could require more than one visit, but an increase in gluteal volume is virtually assured.
Under “Facial Sculpting,” you can get a “blepharoplasty” to fix your eyelids, the “SmartXide DOT Laser” to resurface your skin with the help of the Department of Transportation, or the “FineLift,” using “fillers to restore lost facial volume.” There are also fat transfer options for the face. You can use that saggy neck to enhance your lips, or you could simply run into a door. Aesthetic services are mostly facials, massages and relaxing acid peels.
Obviously, it’s the “Breast Aesthetics” pulldown (ouch) that you’ve all been waiting to hear about. Augmentation uses silicone or saline implants that can be shaped, much like balloon animals, into any style you like. These are somehow “adjustable” and I’d be glad to volunteer for that. The Breast Lift doesn’t involve any insertion of foreign objects and instead focuses on tightening to create a youthful profile. The website’s use of terms like “droop,” “sagging” and “pendulous” struck me as a little insensitive but I guess it does get the point across (ha-ha). Breast Reduction services are also offered, including a special procedure for men suffering from what Dr. Cozart describes as an ”emotionally devastating” condition I’ve rarely thought about, though now that he mentions it, maybe I’m a candidate for “complete removal of the breasts.” On second thought, no.
The final section is “Patient Information” and contains some handy Q&A. You’re told to look for board certification in any doctor you choose, so as to avoid those amateurs in the mall kiosks. “Does this surgeon care about the rest of me or are they just selling a procedure?” you should ask, and if they don’t care, avoid them too. A forum writer asks if saline implants are subject to evaporation and it turns out they are, but usually not condensation or precipitation.
This is also the area that offers online consultation, in which you can chat with Dr. Cozart and send him your picture. Though he maintains a strict “no fatties” policy, the doctor will give you a free initial estimate of how much work you might need. Financing is also discussed in this part, including a gentle reminder that it’s standard to require payment up-front, and that you’d be better off turning to a firm called SurgeryLoans.com rather than waiting for Obamacare.
There’s also a list of products the practice sells that must be effective, or they wouldn’t have names like Skinceuticals and Glominerals. One of these is a skin lightener with the following explanation: “The enzyme tyrosinase converts the amino acid tyrosine into melanin. Hyperpigmentation can result. Ingredients such as arbutin, kojic acid and thymol can suppress tyrosinase.” The only part of that I understand is the “kojic acid,” which I believe Telly Savalas used in his TV cop show of the 1970s to maintain his smooth baldness, and is now available for home use to remove unwanted hair.
All kidding aside, RefineInstitute.com is a well-constructed website providing valuable information about a service for which there’s a legitimate need. It would be easy to make fun of plastic surgery and tummy tucks and boobies, and forget how many women and men are helped by these practices. I hate to be shallow or superficial and think of beauty as only skin deep.
But I did it anyway.