These past few months, we’ve been forced to take a long, hard look at ourselves — literally, in what aesthetic doctors have dubbed the “Zoom Effect.” As a result, a surprising number of us found solace this summer in an unusual place: the cosmetic surgeon’s office. “When you spend the majority of the workday on video conferences, it’s only a matter of time before you begin to wonder what a lift here or a tweak there could do,” says Carolyn Jacob, medical director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology. Then there’s the boredom and, at the most basic human level, a desire to make ourselves feel better. “People are desperate for mood boosters right now, and when you look good, you feel good,” says plastic surgeon Steven Dayan.
Indeed, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons recently surveyed Americans’ attitudes toward cosmetic and reconstructive procedures during the pandemic. Forty-nine percent of those who hadn’t had any work done said they were open it. Botox has been the most asked-for procedure during this time: 65 percent of plastic surgeons report getting requests.
As COVID-19 cases surge, some hospital systems we spoke with are considering cutting back on any elective procedure that requires hospitalization — say, cosmetic breast augmentation (though surgeries tied to crucial medical procedures, like a breast reconstruction that’s performed as part of a mastectomy, might still potentially be a go). The crunch now is different than the one hospitals faced this spring: They’re running low on space rather than personal protective equipment. That means some physicians will probably decide to continue in-office procedures such as injections or laser treatments that don’t take up precious hospital beds. If you’re ready to proceed, the overwhelming majority of offices require masks and temperature checks; most have installed HEPA filters in air-circulation systems; and many are taking additional measures, such as using nasal sanitizing mists after facial injections.
All that said, dreaming about smoother skin and less-tired eyes — especially during a pandemic — is the easy part; finding a doctor who can bring the vision to satisfying fruition is where things get complicated — there’s the research, the vetting, the fretting. We’ve done the hardest part for you, combing through hundreds of Chicago-area pros to arrive at the best in every cosmetic category, so you can have your game plan ready for when it’s time to set foot in a doctor’s office for something less than critical.
Acne and Rosacea
Some magicians have magic wands; others, like Croasdell, have lasers. In a single treatment with the BBL Hero, the newest and most powerful intense pulsed light device on the market, she begins to clear acne and rosacea and delivers full results in just three treatments. Lest you think Croasdell draws the line at blemishes, lines and wrinkles suffer the same fate under her spell. A skin care sorceress, indeed.
From $500 per treatment. 1656 N. Wells St., Old Town, 312-643-1333
There are two types of frustration in this world: the regular kind, and the Lady Macbeth kind, the inevitable result of a spot on the skin — be it from sun exposure, cystic acne, or hormones — that Just. Won’t. Go. Away. If you’ve experienced the latter, you know that regardless of how they appeared in the first place, no amount of scrubbing will make them fade. What will, however, is a visit to this derm. Known for her careful consideration of the relationship between ethnicity and pigmentation, Kaminska formulates hypercustomized plans that pair prescriptions with in-office treatments. If only she’d been around in the 11th century.
From $150. 3808 N. Lincoln Ave., North Center, 773-677-4300
Unless you happen to be the world’s biggest cartography nerd, there’s nothing particularly pleasant about watching your legs turn into a topographic map. The good news? One of the country’s leading vascular surgeons — a distinction that sets her apart from the pros at strip mall vein clinics — is right around the corner. Woloson, whose technique and bedside manner have earned her a stellar reputation, specializes in minimally invasive treatments for everything from spider veins to painful varicose knots.
From $400. 1614 W. Central Rd., Arlington Heights, 847-577-5814
Back in the day, a brow lift was one of the most effective ways to prep for your own surprise party. Today, it’s one of the most effective ways to turn back time — especially in the hands of Mustoe, whose work graces the forehead of many a beautiful Chicagoan. Whereas most doctors use an endoscopic technique, a surgical procedure that involves heavy sedation, a painful recovery, and telltale bruising, Mustoe has perfected a lateral lift technique that typically combines an incision in the temple with another in the upper eyelid. It can be accomplished under oral sedation in — surprise! — a single office visit and results in a major improvement of sleepy-looking peepers.
From $5,600. 737 N. Michigan Ave., Streeterville, 312-788-2560
This long, sneezy-sounding word is just fancy talk for eyelid surgery. And it describes two types of procedures: one that repairs droopy upper lids, and another that removes the crescent-shaped pads of fat underneath. Phelps, an oculofacial plastic surgeon, is the only pro in the metro area who can combine both with a laser treatment that also reduces wrinkles and sun damage. Translation: You’ll look even more refreshed than
you would after a traditional blepharoplasty, and with far less bruising and recovery time.
From $3,500. 2050 Pfingsten Rd., Glenview, 224-251-2020
Tear Trough Filler
People say a lot of vitriolic, hate-filled things to each other, but few produce as sharp a sting as “You look tired” — especially when the recipient is a well-rested woman with chronic dark circles. A visit to Szatkowski-Pritikin, an ophthalmologist with a specialty in oculoplastic surgery (the only kind of needle-wielding person you should ever trust around your eyes), is the best revenge. Sixty minutes and a vial or three of filler later, you’ll leave her office looking as fresh as you feel — and will remain that way for the next 12 to 18 months, thankyouverymuch.
From $750. 111 N. Wabash Ave., Loop, 312-332-4296
In the beauty world, anything that sounds gimmicky raises more than a few eyebrows. This treatment, which combines three tactics in one, could have easily gone in that direction — except Aquagold is, we’re told, the stuff that #glassskin dreams are made of. And though Patel is known as a master injector — her filler skills are reportedly unparalleled — Aquagold doesn’t even require a shot. Unlike standard injections of botulism toxin, which penetrate deep enough to weaken the muscle, this treatment employs a sterile, single-use tool made of tiny 24-karat gold needles (the purity of the metal reduces inflammation and swelling) to stamp a serum containing microdoses of Botox, filler, antioxidants, and growth factors into deeper layers of the skin than topicals. Results are usually visible the next day, last three to four months, and are worth their weight in, yep, gold.
From $650. 1315 S. Michigan Ave., South Loop, 312-825-1122
If Botox is cosmetic surgery’s gateway, a nonsurgical lift is the main event. Done well, it’s nearly half as effective as its surgical alternative — and Sweis does it well. After treating the vertical neck bands with Botox, a technique that relaxes the muscles, speeds up healing, and boosts results, she turns back time using FaceTite (a radio-frequency treatment that improves laxity around the face and neck), Morpheus8 (a combo of microneedling and radio frequency that melts fat, smoothes wrinkles, and kick-starts collagen production), and liposuction if needed. It’s all done in the office under local anesthesia, and there’s minimal downtime. But be warned: A nonsurgical lift is not something to dabble in. Results last two to four years, and as any Sweis patient will tell you, once you go liquid, you never go back.
From $5,000. 1535 Lake Cook Rd., Northbrook, 847-291-3200
The bald fact is that while any doctor can offer hair restoration services, only a hair restoration specialist should be trusted to transform the top of your head. Enter Yates, the first doctor in Chicago to perform follicular unit extractions, which involves moving grafts of hair from fuller areas to thinning spots, and one of the first in the country to offer exosome therapy, a brand-new stem cell treatment that revives damaged hair follicles and regenerates growth. He’s a specialist in every sense of the word, and his clients have the manes to prove it.
From $3,500. 2425 W. 22nd St., Oak Brook, 312-646-4937
Cellulite, amirite? OK, sure, there are women who consider those delightful dimples merely a natural part of the aging process, meant to be embraced and appreciated along with silver hair and smile lines. But for everyone else, there’s Jacob. Not only has she dedicated the bulk of her career to its treatment, but she was also part of the clinical research team behind Qwo, the first-ever FDA-approved cellulite-smoothing injection that will be available early next year. Can’t wait that long? Head to Jacob for Emtone, which levels skin with a combination of radio frequency and acoustic shock waves.
From $3,000. 515 N. State St., Near North Side, 312-245-9965
The 2000s were the decade of the overblown boob job, and the 2010s were the decade of megalips. As for the 2020s, beauty psychics say, subtle is the trend — and it’s one Cheung is doing her part to inflate. Clients seeking barely there enhancements line up at her door for injections of Restylane Kysse, one of the newest and most natural-looking fillers. It leaves lips smooth, glossy, and a shade or two pinker for six to nine months, thus restoring our faith in the art of the “tweakment” — and putting the trout pouts of the Real Housewives to shame.
From $600. 545 Plainfield Rd., Willowbrook, 630-455-0140
There are good reviews, and then there are borderline insane reviews, like this one of Dayan: “I looked like an actual garden gnome, and he turned me into Angelina Jolie.” We dug deeper (how could we not!) and discovered that Dayan’s work is indeed jaw-dropping. Using microinjections of dermal fillers including Juvéderm Voluma XC, Radiesse, and Restylane, he sharpens curves, defines cheekbones, and builds volume with the precision of a sculptor, accomplishing with a needle what other docs can only do with implants. Aim higher, gnomes.
From $600. 845 N. Michigan Ave., Streeterville, 312-335-2070
Liquid Nose Job
According to poet Anne Sexton, “saints have no moderation, nor do poets.” By that definition, Casas, who’s known for her incredibly conservative approach to nonsurgical rhinoplasty, is neither saint nor poet. To her patients, that’s a good thing — because when it comes to this procedure, moderation is crucial. An imprecise stick to the schnoz can cause serious damage, so Casas won’t mess with the sides, where there’s a high risk of disrupting blood flow. Nor will she use permanent, large-particle fillers, which can cause irreversible damage. But if you give her 15 minutes, what she can do — perk up a droopy tip or send a bump on the bridge into hiding — is truly incredible. The bottom line? If someone promises surgical results with the squirt of a needle, run — don’t walk — to Casas, the Patron Saint of Nonsurgical Nose Jobs (sorry, Sexton).
From $500. 2050 Pfingsten Rd., Glenview, 847-657-6884
Facial Fat Transfer
Peter D. Geldner
The next time you see someone looking impossibly young and vivacious, take note — it could be the thigh fat in their cheeks that you’re coveting. Although if they went to Geldner, a specialist in facial fat transfer, you won’t be able to tell. Chicago’s freshest faces flock to him for three things: an absolute proficiency in what is a niche area of cosmetic surgery, a less-is-more approach, and an artist’s eye — all very important when you’re talking about relocating fat from your thighs, stomach, and sometimes even knees to your face.
From $2,000. 12 Salt Creek Ln., Hinsdale, 630-315-5699
If an outpatient tummy tuck sounds too good to be true, pinch yourself in the FUPA: It’s possible. Galiano’s lipoabdominoplasty procedure combines surgical fat removal with liposuction-based ab sculpting, resulting in a naturally toned look — and though an overnight stay is occasionally necessary, most patients are able to return home the same day. Even better, he’s done extensive research in scar prevention, making him a favorite of anyone seeking fab abs on the DL. (So everyone.)
From $6,000. 675 N. St. Clair St., Streeterville, 312-926-4382
No, you can’t turn back time — but Byun can make you look like you did. Dissatisfied with both the outcome and the longevity of the traditional face-lift, Byun developed an endoscopic method that hikes not the dermis itself but the midface muscles underneath. Ten thousand patients later, his process is nothing if not precise. The procedure entails tethering two sets of dissolvable sutures from incisions in the hairline and temples to the cheek and jaw muscles. Once the sutures are in place, Byun gently tugs at them to coax the muscles upward, thus tightening the sagging skin on top. Patients can expect to look like younger, fresher versions of themselves, with a major reduction in the appearance of jowls, nasolabial folds, and sagging in the upper cheek and lower eyelid area. Most impressive, though, is the procedure’s reported longevity: 15-plus years, versus the 10
of a traditional lift.
From $30,000. 1 E. Erie St., Near North Side, 312-397-9600
Most would agree that the best nose job is one that looks like no nose job at all. But as anyone who’s ever dabbled in so-called effortless beauty (no-makeup makeup, wide-awake bed head) can tell you, subtlety is an art form — and one that is not easily mastered. Unless, of course, you’re Few. Understated rhinoplasty isn’t just something the doctor is good at; it’s something he’s perfected. Few has built his reputation on balanced, natural-looking noses that preserve the ethnic nuances of his patients. What truly sets him apart is a proficiency in revision rhinoplasty, a complex surgery performed to correct another surgeon’s less-than-stellar handiwork. Though people seeking this procedure often present with complications such as scar tissue or heightened anxiety, everyone breathes easy in Few’s care.
From $15,000. 875 N. Michigan Ave., Streeterville, 312-202-0882
If you have an Italian grandmother (like me), it’s likely you’ve scored the following: the memory of a hundred thousand cheek pinches, a killer marinara recipe, and flappy upper arms that no number of triceps dips can touch. Nonna needed those arms for rolling pasta, but we have Monteverde — and for that, Placik, esteemed for his arm lifts with practically invisible scarring, is very, very grateful.
From $8,000. 880 W. Central Rd., Arlington Heights, 847-398-1660
Brazilian Butt Lift
In 1992, Sir Mix-a-Lot dropped the hit single “Baby Got Back,” an ode to the beauty of the booty. Though he couldn’t have known it at the time (those were the Kate Moss years, after all), he’d set the Brazilian butt lift trend into motion. Three decades later, the BBL is one of the most fastest growing cosmetic procedures — and Shifrin is the surgeon behind some of the best buns in Chicago. If you’ve been squatting your way to the perfect belfie (that’s influencer-speak for a butt selfie), Shifrin’s most popular procedure — fat transfer combined with a surgical lift — could be just what you need to get over the hump.
Price upon consultation. 2335 S. Michigan Ave., South Loop, 312-502-6200
Wish you could take a pill to make yourself look jacked? Same, same. For now, though, we’re happy to settle for a TruSculpt Flex treatment with Dreyfuss, the first cosmetic doc in the area to master the muscle-toning system. The nonsurgical paddles use electrical stimulation to trigger deep contractions in the muscles of the thighs, buttocks, and abdomen — and unlike similar systems, 100 percent of the energy it outputs is absorbed by the targeted muscle (with EmSculpt, for example, that number is more like 40 percent). After the recommended four 45-minute treatments, patients of Dreyfuss report as much as a 30 percent increase in muscle mass, making us wonder why we even bother going to the gym.
From $2,400 for four treatments. 9721 165th St., Orland Park, 815-806-9400
Male Body Contouring
Teplica may be an MD with an MFA, but his reputation has earned him a far more impressive title: creative genius. Specializing in male body contouring (roughly 80 percent of his patients are men), he has carved out a career by sculpting some of the city’s best abs. The secret to his success comes down to a unique body-as-canvas mapping process that ensures the surgery goes precisely as planned. And then there’s the operation itself, an anatomically based circumferential suction lipectomy (read: Teplica’s own hypercustomized liposuction and fat-grafting techniques that remove fat in some spots and add volume in others in a single stage).
From $20,000. 803 W. Hutchinson St., Buena Park, 773-296-9900
Loren S. Schechter
Schechter, the medical director of the Center for Gender Confirmation Surgery at Weiss Memorial Hospital, is a true pioneer in his field. He specializes in the full range of trans-feminine and trans-masculine procedures, each of them consistent with World Professional Association for Transgender Health guidelines. People travel from around the globe for penile inversion vaginoplasty, zero-depth vaginoplasty, breast augmentation, body contouring, facial feminization, metoidioplasty, phalloplasty, and chest contouring, not to mention a range of trans-positive cosmetic procedures. It’s Schechter’s world, and we’re just proud to live in it.
Price upon consultation (often covered by insurance). 9000 Waukegan Rd., Morton Grove, 847-967-5122
Vaginas are like flowers, each of them beautiful and unique — that is, until an eight-pound baby comes tornadoing through the garden. If your tidy tulip is starting to resemble a fully bloomed rose (thanks, kid), look no further than Onispir-Kafali to restore it to its youthful glory. For starters, she’s one of a handful of doctors who have trained with world-famous vaginal surgeon Adam Ostrzenski (the guy who discovered anatomical proof that the G spot does, in fact, exist). Add to that the fact that she’s known for her incredibly precise Alter labia contouring, a technique that removes excess skin from the labia minora while preserving their natural color and contour, and it’s official: She’s the best damn gardener in town.
From $4,000. 3000 N. Halsted St., Lake View, 773-281-6333
BEST IN BREAST
Anyone who desperately chanted her way through the Judy Blume years (“I must, I must, I must increase my bust!”) can breathe a sigh of relief: In 2020, less is best. Women are still seeking implants, of course, but the coveted look is breasts so natural, no one will know they’re not homegrown — a stark contrast to those beach balls of the Baywatch era. The trick to getting it right is singling out a surgeon capable of adding volume without a dramatic increase in size. Did-she-or-didn’t-she Chicagoans will point you in the direction of Fine, who is celebrated for his command of the transaxillary breast augmentation, in which implants are inserted through a scar hidden in the armpit. Who can top that?
From $12,000. 676 N. St. Clair St., Streeterville, 312-266-6240
Boobs are good at a lot of things, but defying gravity is not one of them. They sag after breastfeeding, they sag after weight loss, and they sag when they’re left to their own damn devices. And while a quick scroll through a breast butcher’s “after” gallery will reveal what a bad lift can look like (spoiler alert: undercooked eggs, sunny side up), Horn’s work is far from runny and shapeless. Guided by his artistry, patients can expect to emerge from surgery with their nipples front and center, a scar that isn’t scary, and, most important, peak perkiness.
Price upon consultation. 60 E. Delaware Pl., Gold Coast, 312-202-9000
Sad but true: Implants do not last forever. While most bust boosters can be expected to do their thing for 10 to 20 years, unforeseen circumstances — a change in aesthetic preferences, a slow leak, or, at worst, a full-blown rupture — necessitates an early dismissal. Removing them requires serious skill in both excision (in addition to the implant, there’s a capsule of scar tissue to remove) and reconstruction (breasts usually do not bounce back to their pre-implant shape). Mussat is well versed in both, and she’s also certified to perform the delicate and meticulous en bloc procedure, a technique that allows for the removal of the capsule and the implant as a single unit.
From $8,500. 680 N. Lake Shore Dr., Streeterville, 312-751-9000
Ahn-Tuan N. Truong
If you’ve ever had a screaming child pulled out of a gaping incision in your lower abdomen while lying fully conscious on an operating table in a surgical cap, you deserve one thing and one thing alone: whatever the hell you want. Then and only then, consider paying a visit to Truong for a C-section scar removal. His name is whispered at every playground, beach, and book club in the city, and for good reason: the mini tummy tuck. Quick and drain-free, his procedure restores the postpartum stomach to its prekid state, removing not only the scar but the excess skin around it. Don’t want the tuck or the scar? No problem — he’s an expert in laser skin rejuvenation, too.
From $1,500. 310 W. Superior St., River North, 312-846-1529
Skin Cancer Reconstruction
Amy Forman Taub
If you go to Taub for a skin cancer excision, was the cancer ever there in the first place? Truly, it’s a mystery you’ll never be able to solve. Known in the dermatology world for her exhaustive body scans and uncanny ability to seek out precancerous cells where other doctors see pores, Taub also happens to have the suturing skills of a couture seamstress. Not only will she find and remove every last trace of questionable pigment on your body, but she’ll stitch you back together so meticulously, it’ll look like nothing ever happened. Or did it?
Price upon consultation (often covered by insurance). 275 Parkway Dr., Lincolnshire, 847-459-6400
Anyone who suffers from blemishes knows how completely and utterly maddening it is to deal with the stubborn scars they leave behind. With patience, the right products, and lots of SPF, dark marks can be improved at home — but resolving atrophic scars (characterized by their indented appearance) requires the help of a derm. This is where Bhatia comes in. He is one of the first doctors in the U.S. to use Fraxis PRO, a new laser treatment that combines fractional carbon dioxide with radio frequency microneedling (a skin-resurfacing triple threat), he specializes in darker skin tones, and he has successfully treated patients who were previously considered untreatable. (We’d keep going, but you’re already scurrying to his office.)
From $750. 550 E. Devon Ave., Itasca, 864-625-3376