Final touch: A cosmetic lift for your funeral?
Just as the living are having more work done, so are those who’ve died
By Diane Mapes
msnbc.com contributor updated 6:00 a.m. PT, Tues., Dec. 9, 2008
The recent boom in cosmetic procedures has raised the bar for many of us when it comes to appearance. And, it turns out, the dead are no exception.
As the population has become increasingly sophisticated about procedures to enhance their appearance, so have their requests, morticians say, for smoothing lines, plumping lips and even boosting sagging parts for that last big special occasion ”” their funeral.
Morticians have always performed a bit of cosmetic magic when it comes to recapturing the lifelike appearance of a person who’s passed on. What’s happening now, however, is some people are making advance arrangements for these final touches and in ways they never used to even think about.
“I’ve had people mention that they want their breasts to look perky when they’re dead,” says David Temrowski, funeral director of Temrowski & Sons Funeral Home in Warren, Mich. “Or they’ll say, ”˜Can you get these wrinkles out?’ It’s all in humor, but I think people do think [more] about what they’re going to look like when they’re dead and lying in a casket.”
Typically, the mortician’s craft, termed restorative art, involves everything from setting a peaceful facial expression (which has to be done before the embalming fluid enters the body’s circulatory system and “sets” the tissue) to erasing the ravages of age, disease, or trauma (using tissue filler, wax, stitches, or even Super Glue in the case of broken bones) to recreating the deceased’s individual style with regard to hair, nails and makeup.
Considering the similarities between their restorative techniques and today’s trendy cosmetic procedures, you might even call them the plastic surgeons of the dead.
“My brother’s a plastic surgeon and I joke with him all the time that funeral directors were doing Botox long before any doctor thought of using it,” says John Vigliante, owner and manager of the Branch Funeral Home in Smithtown, N.Y. “Or at least we use a material that’s similar. We”˜ll inject tissue fillers into the lips, the nose, the cheeks, above the eyebrows, the chin, and the hands. It’s the same concept as Botox and dermal filler.”
While advanced cosmetic work is needed for those who’ve suffered traumatic deaths such as in a car accident, even “everyday” deaths require a fair amount of restoration in order to bring the person back to a recognizable state.
Lips are plumped, cheeks are filled and contoured, and hollowed hands are injected with filler to give them what Vigliante calls “a nice fuller appearance.”
These recent cosmetic concerns come as no surprise to Dr. Anthony Youn, a Michigan-based plastic surgeon who’s practiced in Beverly Hills, Calif., and appeared on the television show “Dr. 90210.”
“Society is unfortunately getting more and more vain as time goes on,” says Youn. “Fifty years ago, no one would have thought about how good they’re going to look when they die, but now that’s probably something the ”˜Real Housewives of Orange County’ talk about. If they die, they want to look good in their casket. It’ll be one last time to show off their new outfit and their plumped lips.”
Some are so concerned over their final appearance, they’re foregoing a funeral altogether.
“We do a lot of the movie stars and they usually don’t want anyone to see them dead because they can’t control their appearance,” says Noelle Potvin, a family service counselor at Hollywood Forever, a 109-year-old funeral home and cemetery in Hollywood, Calif. “They just want a private ceremony.”
“People used to say, just throw me in a pine box and bury me in the back yard,” says Mark Duffey, president and CEO of Everest Funeral, a national funeral planning and concierge service. “But that’s all changing. Now people want to be remembered. A funeral is their last major event and they want to look good for it. I’ve even had people say, ”˜I want you to get rid of my wrinkles and make me look younger’.”