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Posted at 10:48 AM ET, 01/28/2008

Celebritology 101: What Price Beauty and Bulk?

By Liz Kelly

Sly Stallone brandishes an HGH-enhanced veiny forearm at a 'Rambo' appearance today in Spain. (Reuters)

Last week, perhaps in a bid to drum up interest in his 20-years-on "Rambo" reboot, 61-year-old Sylvester Stallone defended his use of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) to bulk up, saying, "HGH is nothing. Anyone who calls it a steroid is grossly misinformed."

Okay Sly, maybe so. But HGH -- a hormone that can stimulate growth and cell reproduction but also possibly cause hypertension, extreme aggression and even a form of diabetes -- is only the latest addition to a growing list of artificial enhancers helping to keep our sports stars superhuman, actresses non-saggy and aging action heroes properly ripped.

Just to name a few:

- In December the sports world was rocked by the outing of several prominent -- and record-setting -- baseball players who got their edge by juicing, throwing their records and baseball's very history into disarray.

- Blondie's Debbie Harry last year touted her own use of sheep embryo injections to keep her skin smooth.

- Britney Spears is rumored to have undergone several LipoDissolve sessions last spring to aid in a sudden weight loss.

- Teen stars like Ashlee Simpson and Ashley Tisdale going under the knife at a young age to correct, ahem, deviated septums.

- Kanye West's mother Donda West paid the ultimate price in her quest to overcome nature when she died of heart disease following complications from multiple plastic surgery procedures, including liposuction.

Only a few pure souls among us can truly claim to never have passed judgment on the looks (or performance) of our idols -- be they the matinee or baseball diamond variety. So, how much artificial enhancing are we willing to tolerate to keep our red carpets and silver screens free of pesky real life irritants like age and wrinkles?

Rank the enhancements below in order from best (1 -- No big deal) to worst (6 -- Dangerous):
Tanning, hair extensions, toupees
Regular Botox or collagen injections
LipoDissolve and other non-invasive slimmers
Light plastic surgery (nose job)
Major plastic surgery (think Joan Rivers)
Steroids, Human Growth Hormone and other experimental therapies
Click below to see submit your vote and see the results.

By Liz Kelly  | January 28, 2008; 10:48 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Celebritology 101  
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I don't mind a nose job here and there but I just don't buy that SO many stars claim the deviated septum which just happens to totally reshape their nose.

Posted by: sjcpeach | January 28, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Can women in their 20s be called teen stars? Tisdale is 22, while Simpson is 23. They may have teen fans, but they fully grown women. It isn't like they had this done when they were 14.

Posted by: Usdi | January 28, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I ranked major plastic surgery as number 4. Invasive as hell, sure, but the effects are known, and limited.
All that crazy hormone stuff, and regular injections of botox (hello! botulism!)... that stuff is scary. I wonder if in a few years, we're going to see people's faces start melting off, like in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Posted by: WDC | January 28, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I cannot believe that so many people think that tanning is not a big deal. Clearly, the melanoma people are not getting their message out. Tanning should be grouped with taking steroids and using HGH - it is BAD for you and your skin. All of these stars - and regular people - who use it to the degree that they do will see it backfire on them - maybe not in the short-term, but 20-25 years down the road, they will look MUCH older than they would if they hadn't done it. It does the same thing to your skin that cigarette smoking does to your lungs - it will give you cancer - and melanoma is only curable if it is caught in the extreme early stages. It is an exceedingly dangerous cancer.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I am the poster from 11:32 - I do not have this cancer nor do I know anyone who does, but I do know people who have lost husbands and wives to the disease. Just to clarify.

Posted by: 11:32 | January 28, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

[ahem] You should reorder the list at random - right now it's in the order of heinousness you think it should be, right?

Posted by: h3 | January 28, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Kelly, I am totally impressed by the polling program and results display today! Especially as I haven't seen you or Gene use this particular format before and is right up there with the song snippets poll as my favorite. I certainly hope WaPo has agreed to start paying for it as it is worth the $$.

Is it ok that I feel somewhat dorky to be so impressed by this?

Posted by: PGM | January 28, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

In the post surgery photos of Ashley Tisdale is looks like she had some work done on her eyes as well. Too bad, I thought she was attractive even with her less than perfect nose.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, Liz...

It wouldn't let me rate everything after "Tanning, etc." a 5 or 6. Duplicate entries are forbidden, apparently.

So I'll make it a Pompous public decree:
Everything you listed, except for the first option, is silly and/or dangerous. Be happy with what you've got.

...maybe that's the next Friday list: hot stars who haven't gone under the knife/needle/lamp.

Posted by: Pompous Magnus | January 28, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Liz, Tanning shouldn't be lumped together with hair extensions and toupees. They're very different things. Tanning leads to skin cancer--extensions and toupees just lead to looking like a dork.

Posted by: Arlington | January 28, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Darn you Sylvester Stallone, why couldn't you leave Rocky and Rambo alone? Come up with something new.

That being said, I think all of the enhancements with the exception of hair extensions and toupees(which happen to provide me with a lot of humor, as I see many of them during my lunch break) rate a 5 or 6.

Posted by: petal | January 28, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Did you hear about the Brazilian model who already had numerous plastic surgeries who now want metal strands implanted in her eyefolds to make her look Asian? And the doctor is doing it? At what point do medical ethics kick in and the doctor says "No more, you have a body image problem, not a plastic surgery problem?"

Some tweaking of mother nature is one thing -- hair coloring to hide the gray. But, radically changing your looks is over the line, injecting deadly diseases in your body to prevent sagging, messing with your body chemistry to stay strong, ick.

Posted by: ep | January 28, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

What about starving yourself? So many of these stars radically alter their bodies by ceasing to eat. That to me is as dangerous as surgeries and it results in long term effects like fertility and or death.

Posted by: Can We Add to the List | January 28, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

ooohhhh our surveys have gotten high tech. we have a bar graph and everything. very fancy. i like.

Posted by: melissamac1 | January 28, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

As someone who had a nose job in her early twenties, I can understand the self esteem issues that lead to The Ashleys (Simpson and Tisdale) to have the procedure.

Posted by: Lisa1 | January 28, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to Liz Kelly for a very thought-provoking topic. I think nearly anyone with an interest in health and beauty or Celebritology has a line in the sand they would not cross personally, and their individual rationales span the full spectrum.

I do wish the WaPo folks who set up the poll would have allowed identically numbered ratings for two or more categories, as there are several that I wanted to give 3s or 4s.

Posted by: niceFLguy | January 28, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I agree about wanting to give the same rating to more than one entry. I ended up rating some as worse than I really thought they were.
I think Liz was thinking of the spray tanning that is now the norm for the rich and famous. I wasn't thinking of tanning beds or old fashioned sun when I scored it a 1.

Posted by: Witchy | January 28, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I want to point out that not all plastic surgery is unnecessary, in some cases people have it for health reasons, even the major stuff.

Posted by: MGC | January 28, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

tanning should NOT be in the same category as hair extensions/toupees! Tanning is notorious for causing melanoma and other forms of skin cancer and is incredibly dangerous.

Posted by: mc | January 28, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I ranked tanning, etc. 2 and gave Botox and collagen injections a 1, just because IMO the tans and hair stuff looks worse than the injections. Although there are those collagen-plumped duck lips, so it was a difficult decision.

How many of the Hollywood tans are sun-induced and therefore dangerous, and how many are sprayed on? I thought more were the latter, and therefore not a health concern.

Posted by: e | January 28, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I have to second the assumption that Liz meant the kind of tan akin to airbrushing one's van and not the sort where one is sizzling in the sun.

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | January 28, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Can someone tell me for sure: What kind of plastic surgery did Sly have? His eyebrows really bother me.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Are all these health concerns about tanning related to spray-tans? That's what everybody is doing nowadays? Are spray tans dangerous?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I too assumed that Liz was referring to some sort of spray-on tanning technique. In youth-obsessed Hollywood, even those with the lowest IQ's know that sun exposure is harmful.

Posted by: musicgeek | January 28, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, even if they don't care about skin cancer, they should know (and care) that sun exposure will make their skin all wrinkly and nasty.

Also, just in case anyone's interested, the link between sun exposure and melanoma is weak - it's pretty clear that sun exposure causes the other two kinds of skin cancer, but the relationship between sun and melanoma is much less clear. The other two kinds (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) are way more common and way less deadly. I'm not saying you want to get them, either, but they're also not a death sentence.

Posted by: h3 | January 28, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

"Darn you Sylvester Stallone, why couldn't you leave Rocky and Rambo alone? Come up with something new."

Posted by: petal | January 28, 2008 12:00 PM

Probably because Stallone has outlived his usefulness as an actor & everyone's afraid to tell him for fear of 'roid rage.

Posted by: jes | January 28, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I concur that tanning is not in the same risk category as hair extensions- unless you're talking spray on.

Posted by: Liz D | January 28, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I saw a show on DiscoveryHealth (what will become Oprah TV next year) about parents who allowed their 12 year old to have liposuction, having that done, she wanted more work (I don't remember what), but no American doctor would do it, so they went to Mexico. The girl was maybe 15-20 lbs overweight, so now all of her self-esteem is based strictly on her looks. Parents of the Year.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I have a cousin, a surgeon, who calls cosmetic surgery "psychiatry with a scalpel".

Posted by: WDC | January 28, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I think the Ashleys are old enough to make their own decision about what they want to do with their bodies. They are adults after all. Although I think the Simpson one should have laid of the nose job more than the Tisdale one. The Simpson one looks REALLY creepy now.

I kind of wish that neither of the Ashleys had gotten nose jobs. It would have been nice to see them tell the press that they are happy with their looks and they don't need to conform to what the press calls "perfection" by getting plastic surgery. That would have also been a nice role model for young girls as well. But like I said, they are adult sand they can think for themselves.

And whats this about the Discovery Health becoming the Oprah channel? Say it aint so! ;(

Posted by: VAtoLA | January 28, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

If Sly wants to experiment with HGH that's fine with me. That's one less pumped up bunny to contend with in the lab.

Speaking of which, isn't it interesting that those who support animal rights the most (no animal research) appear to be willing to do similar and worse experiments on themselves? (I'm lookin at you, Pam Anderson.)

Posted by: ex cap | January 28, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Of course, ex cap, all I can think of now is a bunch of very well endowed bunnies. Thanks.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

the rankings section was poorly created. taking hgh and the like and major plastic surgery are both equally dangerous. yet one could not assign the same level to both. stupid. ditto w/some of the other categories. did peewee herman create it?

Posted by: janisr | January 30, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

You're going good job...Please keep it up to inform. Thanks..

Posted by: Jennifer Mianoor | August 16, 2008 8:27 PM | Report abuse

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