Is 84 too old for laser skin tightening? What do you do about breast implants that shrink? What about those lunchtime face-lifts — do they work?
These are among the questions plastic surgeon Antonio Gayoso has been fielding for years at his St. Petersburg office — and now on one of the Tampa Bay area's most popular radio stations, WFLA-AM 970.
Gayoso has been giving listeners an Inside Look at Plastic Surgery, as his Sunday afternoon show is called, since mid December. There's nothing else like it on a weekend talk-radio slate filled with shows about gardening, politics and personal finance.
Tampa Bay radio is no stranger to talk of breast implants, but Gayoso, who is head of plastic surgery at Bayfront Medical Center and St. Anthony's Hospital, isn't giving away breast jobs on the air as others have done.
Instead, he says, he's fighting what he sees as a disturbing trend in his field: cosmetic procedures by doctors who are not board-certified in plastic surgery.
"For people who have spent years in the trenches, it doesn't feel good," said Gayoso, a board-certified plastic surgeon of 13 years.
"There's a lot of misinformation, with procedures that are new and easy and quick," he said. "I want to represent my specialty well.''
His one-hour program — it's quite literally his, as he pays about $1,000 an hour for the airtime — is part promotion, part education, and part defense of his profession.
Host Sharon Taylor regularly gives listeners Gayoso's website address, and praises "his expert, artistic work," as depicted on the site in photos.
Gayoso had been promoting his business through billboards, but says that vehicle doesn't offer the educational opportunities of radio. He's hoping to recoup what he spends on airtime in increased business.
Not so long ago, doctors who advertised were frowned on by the leaders in their profession. Not now, said Dr. Stephan Baker, a Coral Gables plastic surgeon and Florida spokesman for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Programs like Gayoso's can help "balance out the information that's being put out there." Of most concern to him: heavily marketed procedures such as "Lifestyle Lifts," a controversial face-lift procedure that has drawn lawsuits around the country, and "Smartlipo," a method of liposuction that uses a laser.
It may seem surprising that Gayoso, a surgery chief at two well-regarded hospitals, finds marketing necessary to his practice's success. But people don't have as much money to spend on plastic surgery these days.
The number of cosmetic surgery procedures has decreased 12 percent, from 1.83 million in 2007 to 1.6 million last year. At the same time, less-expensive minor procedures, such as Botox injections, have increased by 23 percent, from 9.9 million in 2007 to 12.2 million last year.
So in November, when an advertising firm approached Gayoso about doing a radio show, he was ready to listen.
"I thought it would be unique,'' said Bob Guckenberger, of Guckenberger 'N Partners, of Tampa.
"We did a dry run in the studio, and we were all amazed at how good Dr. Gayoso sounded,'' Guckenberger said. "Like he had been doing it for years."
Though health is an increasingly popular topic on talk radio, most such programs are devoted to natural remedies like herbs and vitamins.
There are a handful of cosmetic surgery shows around the country and on the Internet, among them What's Your Wrinkle? in New York and Polished Appeal in Atlanta.
Gayoso answers callers' questions about issues such as:
• Lifestyle Lifts, a kind of mini face-lifts pitched by singer Debby Boone: "I don't know if it's really truthful to say that you're going to get these full face-lift results with a one-hour mini face-lift. … If it sounds too good to be true, it may be."
• Loose skin left after dramatic weight loss: "There's some good solutions that have been refined in the age of bariatric stomach surgery. The techniques have improved."
• Fat that accumulates around the aging male midsection, despite diet and exercise: "That's where liposuction may be able to intervene for you."
But he also says that surgery is not for everyone. A caller from Palm Harbor, who described herself as a "youthful 84," asked him about the wrinkles around her cheeks that developed after she lost weight. His reply: "Skin care might be your best bet."
Gayoso said a few new patients have mentioned hearing him on the radio, but he thinks it's too soon to tell whether the show will generate enough business to be financially viable in the long run.
But in the meantime, he's enjoying his gig.
"It's a very low-key horn-tooting," he says. "I'm not looking for fame."
Richard Martin can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3322.