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Lifestyle Lift Under Fire from AG

Lifestyle Lift, as portrayed in TV and online ads, sounds nearly miraculous.

It’s fast, pain-free and inexpensive, the ads say, and your friends will be amazed at how much younger you look. Before-and-after pictures show impressive results.

The Florida Attorney General’s office isn’t so sure.

Since May of last year, that office has been investigating Lifestyle Lift for potential violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, based on more than 60 complaints. 

Many of those complaints say that claims in the ads were false. Others detail overcharges on credit cards. Still others say the procedure left them looking no better than before, or even worse.

Susan Bradley of Sarasota, for example, said the ads promised “10-20 years off your face and return to work the next day.”

But her Lifestyle Lift left her unable to open her mouth for three days, she said, and the procedure “actually added years to my face.”

The Michigan-based company employs doctors in centers around the country to perform facelifts without general anesthesia.

In most cases that includes a tightening of the patient's jawline by way of incisions behind the ears. The company also offers liposuction and laser treatment for wrinkles.

The Florida investigation is not the first involving the company.

In 2009, Lifestyle Lift paid $300,000 to the state of New York to settle charges of illegal advertising, including posting testimonials from patients who were actually employees.

Then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said at the time that Lifestyle Lift was “duping” consumers, and that its marketing practices were “cynical, manipulative and illegal.” 

The company released a statement noting it had changed management and promising “authenticity and fairness” in its communications.

Steve Hanson, the chief of marketing for Lifestyle Lift, said the company has changed some of its advertising because of the Florida investigation.

The company uses larger type in its disclaimers and has revised some older ads to identify patients who are also employees.

Hanson said there were only two Lifestyle Lift employees in ads, and they were patients before they were employees.

Complaints to the Florida Attorney General’s attorney general’s office represent a minuscule percentage of more than 10,000 procedures the company performs in Florida each year, he said.

Indeed, some patients report that Lifestyle Lift delivers exactly what its commercials promise.

“It’s like going to the dentist,” said Deborah Orth of Florida City, who said she returned to her waitress job at an Italian restaurant eight days after the surgery and was showered with compliments from coworkers. She went to Dr. Michael Rodriguez in Fort Lauderdale.

“I asked him, ‘Am I getting a Lifestyle Lift or a Dr. Rodriguez lift?’ “ Orth said. “And he said ‘You’re getting a Dr. Rodriguez lift.’ ”

The bulk of the complaints to the attorney general’s office concern procedures from two or three years ago, though complaints have been received as recently as this year.

Four Hillsborough County patients-- a married couple and two of the couple’s female friends-- filed suit against Lifestyle Lift after procedures they had in 2007.

They were “inadequate and ineffective,” the suit alleges, and the patients are all likely to need more surgery.

Stephen Spaid, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that they had pain, bruising and scarring beyond what the commercials led them to expect.

The handful of doctors interviewed for this article said some of those results are not surprising.

Dr. Stephan Baker of Coral Gables, a spokesman for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said the company isn’t careful enough about what physicians it uses and “stands for everything I’m against.”

Lifestyle Lift has more to do with marketing than medicine, he said.

“It’s a referral service,” he said. “They sign up people … all over the country, and then (the doctors) get the benefit of all that advertising. They’ve approached me many, many times, but it’s the last thing in the world I’d ever sign up for.”

Choosing the right doctor is critical, Baker said, for any patient considering any kind of cosmetic surgery.

“It’s your face,” Baker said. “It’s important, and every case is different. There’s just so much that can go wrong. To choose the person who’s going to do surgery on your face on the basis of a TV commercial is insanity.”

Lifestyle Lift spokesman Hanson said the reaction from plastic surgeons is little more than sour grapes.

The company has come up with a procedure that’s faster and less expensive than a traditional facelift, he said, and it’s taking business away from high-priced surgeons.

It’s inevitable that some patients will be unhappy with any surgery, Hanson said.

That’s why Lifestyle Lift offers its patients a chance to come back and have any problems taken care of by the same doctor or a different one. About 25 percent of Lifestyle Lift patients do so, he said.

-- Marty Clear is an independent journalist in Tampa. Questions or comments may be sent to Health News Florida Editor Carol Gentry: