ALLURE MAGAZINE on Prestige Surgical Aftercare
After Plastic Surgery, More Patients Are Opting to Recover in Luxury
First-class hotels, with their privacy, around-the-clock services, and ultraplush surroundings, are the perfect place for plastic surgery recovery. And business is booming.
You slide into a car with tinted windows and are whisked off to a discreet service entrance at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. Up you go in a private elevator, then slip behind a curtain, and finally, undetected, you enter a suite with dramatic city views. You are not a celebrity. You are not a reclusive tech billionaire. But you are entering a very private — and very pricey — world: the high-end plastic surgery recovery scene that seems almost as common as face-lifts in Los Angeles.
"It's very VIP, very anonymous… you ring a bell and people bring you fresh smoothies," says Olivia Schiff*, who works in fashion and spent $4,500 for three nights of recuperating at the SLS after having a corrective tummy tuck, liposuction, and a lower face-lift. She booked the stay through a company called Prestige Surgical Aftercare, a one-stop agency that does everything but give you the face-lift. They book your hotel room, staff it with nurses 24/7, and consult with your surgeon on your aftercare, which might include pain medication (like IV-administered acetaminophen).
"If you're spending an insane amount of money to have plastic surgery, it seems like a great way to treat yourself on the other end of it," says Schiff. "I added an extra night, figuring I'd get the Amex points. You know that you’re safe. You know that they're going to take care of you." Nurses taught Schiff how to cleanse her skin post-op, applied cold compresses and Aquaphor, and they made her "the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had," she says. "I highly, highly, highly recommend going to a post-op hotel. I was living my best Kardashian life."
We don't have any actual intel on the Kardashians. We can tell you, though, that these post-op services — there are several companies in L.A. that book rooms for patients at boutique hotels and prestigious resorts such as the Fairmont and the SLS — cater to people who have saved up to use them, as well as "actors, producers, musicians... We've had it all," says Endora Capri Jones, director of nursing at Prestige Surgical Aftercare. (Prestige is not part of the SLS hotel, but it does have a block of rooms there.)
Lymphatic massage, compression boots, and trips to the drugstore (no scrunchie? no problem!) are all on the menu. "We're big on the concierge side," says Amy Dunfrund, director of operations at Prestige. "One patient had a specific vegan restaurant that she wanted food from. Another needed makeup to be picked up at Saks Fifth Avenue, and it was right before the store was about to close, but we were down the street, so we met her makeup consultant to get the products."
These service providers do not function as arms of the hotels, but they do have deals with them, some including discounts on rooms, designated blocks, and accessible IV drips. Patients pay for the room, plus the cost of staffing it with a nurse for 12 or 24 hours a day, with total costs ranging from about $750 to $3,000 per night. Most patients opt for a two- or three-night stay, though some shell out for a month or more.
"It's probably saved some marriages," says Julius Few, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Los Angeles and Chicago, whose Chicago patients have the option to stay at the Four Seasons, The Peninsula, or the Waldorf Astoria. "It's intimidating [to take care of someone after surgery], and obviously their partner wants to make sure they do everything right. And the patient is kind of suffering with the initial phase of the [recovery] process," he continues. "It creates a lot of emotions and that extra layer of stress can impact the whole recovery process. Being in a plush environment that is nurturing and nonintimidating takes a lot of the stress away."
While many recovery services in L.A. are independently contracted, Dr. Few's practice handles its own, staffed with nurses he employs. He checks on patients staying at the Four Seasons, in-room IVs are available to alleviate nausea, and room service is left in the hallway for nurses to grab (an extra level of discretion appreciated by patients). Dr. Few also employs "runners" who will pick up prescriptions or comfy loungewear for patients. "They've gone to Neiman Marcus to pick up lingerie or bras, especially after a breast augmentation, or athletic leisurewear," he says.
Dr. Few has been providing ritzy recovery care for the past 15 years, after patients began flying in from as far away as Hong Kong for breast augmentations and face-lifts. They often traveled alone and, since you can't fly right after surgery, "we had to put together a process to make it easy for them," he explains. He started floating the idea of staying at the Four Seasons, which is in the same building as his surgery center, where his nurses can wheel patients right to their rooms, and then help with everything a partner might, like bathroom visits and post-op drains (we will spare you the details). As more patients flew in, more rooms were booked. "The management at the Four Seasons reached out to me and said, 'Hey, can we take you out to lunch?,'" says Dr. Few. "That's really how it started. They said, 'We want to facilitate this.'" Now, his patients book over 50 nights a year for post-op care.
"There has always been a strong relationship between the post-surgery industry and the hotel industry," says Philip Barnes, general manager of the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles. “I have worked in hotels all over the world and have had a lot of guests who come in post-op and while receiving treatments. A member of the Saudi royal family stayed with us in Australia for the better part of a year. And at the Four Seasons in Houston, we worked closely with nearby hospitals.” When the hotel staff knew a patient was staying with them, they were available to go to the drugstore at 3 a.m., for example. Today's more formalized post-op recovery services are a natural extension, says Barnes, and having nurses care for you in a suite with an ocean view feels more nurturing than clinical.
"It used to be that you could stay overnight in a doctor's office, but there were legislative issues where you had to have at least two RNs on call and it became financially untenable," says Steven Teitelbaum, MD, a plastic surgeon in Santa Monica. "The hotel recovery industry has been underway here since at least 1995, and it has grown proportionately with the growth of plastic surgery."
Most of his patients stay after tummy tucks, benefiting from nurse assists with bathroom trips, next-day catheter removals, and motorized beds and pillow placements that all make recovery more palatable. There are times when [clinical] recovery services are a great fit for patients, says Dr. Teitelbaum: Nurses can administer complicated medication schedules, oxygen can generally help you feel better, leg compression devices can prevent a blood clot.
"Then there are some face-lift patients who just don't want to see anybody. The kids not seeing them, that's a big thing for a lot of people," he adds. "They'll stay a whole week. Recovery's fine, but I mean, it's a lot of money. I'll say, 'You don't really need all of the services of recovery. You could stay in a suite at The Peninsula with a friend for less, order room service, and watch movies and have a memorable time.'"
The trend is clearly good for business — some places book more than 100 nights a year. Of one hotel in Beverly Hills, says post-op hotel guest Schiff, "I've had friends who stayed there, and they're like, 'Oh, my God! I was on the plastic surgery floor and you see these women walking around with bandages on.' These hotels are all over the place! Who knew?"
This story originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of Allure.
Photo Credit to Collage Eements and Getty Images