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Bay Area docs decode Renee Zellweger's new face: A step too far?

Author: Carolyne Zinko
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It’s the face that launched a thousand quips: Hollywood actor Renee Zellweger has stepped out looking very different than usual, and everyone’s talking about her new look — mostly unkindly. It’s the kind of cosmetic work that Bay Area doctors would likely discourage, because it does not hew to the natural aesthetic that prevails in Northern California.

Pictures of the star, who appeared in “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Chicago” and won an Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role in “Cold Mountain,” began appearing on the Internet on Oct. 21 after the 2014 Elle Women in Hollywood Celebration and immediately caused a sensation — and comparisons to the face-changing work done on Jennifer Grey, the actor in “Dirty Dancing,” who had surgery on her previously pointy nose that trimmed it down and changed her look entirely.

The website MoviePilot.com said of Zellweger, “The Academy Award-nominated actress is virtually unrecognizable.”

SFUnzipped’s Tony Bravo and I asked Bay Area doctors to decode the changes in Zellweger’s face, and asked other aesthetic specialists to weigh in with opinions.

The 45-year-old was previously known for a certain apple-cheeked freshness, with pouty lips and eyes with a sparkle — even if the eyes weren’t all that visible under a heavy brow line and a bit of excess tissue over the crease. The new Zellweger looks almost completely different, from the nose up.

“It’s hard to tell exactly what she did, because the ‘before’ pictures are all so much older, but I think the most dramatic changes are in the upper third of her face,” said Dr. Carolyn Chang, a San Francisco plastic surgeon (who, like all doctors interviewed for this blog, has not treated Zellweger).
“If you cover her eyes and just compare the lower face, her look is more similar to before than when you compare only the top parts. I think she’s actually had both a brow lift and upper lids done. I don’t think Botox alone can account for this much change in her eyebrow arch, although it might be contributing to it. I think the changed eyebrow shape is the most prominent reason why she looks so different. Her upper lids have less skin as well and are more open. As for the bottom part, she may have had a lower face lift but I can’t tell since I don’t have recent pictures. But at the very least, she has had some fillers in the mid-face area. “Renee is a perfect example of what happens when you change one element on the face too dramatically, just as in the case with Jennifer Grey. Renee still looks good; she just unfortunately looks different. If you want to stay under the radar, every element must stay natural.”

Dr. Corey Maas, another San Francisco plastic surgeon, agreed. “When you’re treating a beautiful woman, you really want to enhance their features, not dramatically change them and make them look like a different person.”

Maas said the biggest change he sees is in her eyebrows. “She used to have a very nicely arched brow, and now they’re nearly flat and almost cover her eyelids and it appears some of the fullness of her eyelids has been reduced.” He speculated she had not only blepharoplasty, or eyelid surgery, but also injections with Botox or a similar product was used in her forehead to relax the muscles that cause wrinkles, which would also flatten the brows. “Finally, most dramatically, I think she’s had an extensive amount of filler along her jaw line and the area below her cheeks which made her face very round and puffy” versus the defined chin she used to have. “She has gone from a really angular face to a totally round face with very low eyebrows and less fullness above her lids.”

San Francisco dermatologist Dr. Seth Matarasso, when told Zellweger was attributing her transformation to healthier lifestyle choices, quipped “If it’s all due to healthy living than I’m blond, blue-eyed and 6’4.” (He is dark-haired, brown-eyed and just shy of 5 foot 8.)  He said that when the performer was arguably at her fittest in the musical “Chicago” “she still had the cherubic, fuller face. There’s no question this is surgical.” Matarasso suspects Zellweger underwent “some kind of eye surgery, maybe a brow lift, obviously some Botox and other fillers,” since the changes are concentrated in the upper part of her face and “possibly some Botox at the jawline,” but warns that for the moment “only she and her surgeon know for sure.”

While Matarasso thinks the transformed Zellweger looks “great” he also points out the once highly recognizable star committed a cardinal sin with her new look.

“Why is everyone up in arms?” Matarasso said. “There’s nothing subtle about this amount of work on a famous face, which defeats the purpose.”

Fellow dermatologist Dr. Lavanya Krishnan of the Pacific Plastic Surgery Group specifically referred to the new shape of Zellweger’s forehead as likely a form of “brow ptosis,” a possible result of too much Botox which “causes the brows to drop and lose that natural arch she had before.” Krishnan sees it as a part of one of the biggest changes in her overall appearance: “It’s caused her eye shape to change from a more almond shape to an oval.”

Krishnan also found the look to be out of step with the Bay Area approach to plastic surgery and dermatology.

“Most patients in my office want a refreshed, natural and rested look. They don’t come in to look different or ‘done.’ The change is shocking.”

When it comes to what role makeup may have played in the transformation, Roxie O, lead makeup artist at San Francisco’s Dream Girl Makeup Institute commented,  ”Her jawline is definitely more round. Contouring could have played a role in the change in her jaw and cheeks.” However, she noted, makeup can only go so far:  ”It doesn’t rearrange your face. Renee now looks like her own sister.”

Down south, there’s a different view.

Former Mountain View dermatologist Dr. Jason Emer, who now works in Beverly Hills with Dr. David Amronand Dr. Paul Nassif (Nassif appears on E TV’s cosmetic surgery reality show, “Botched,”) had this take on Ze;lweger’s look: While he, too, believes she had eyelid skin removal, Botox injections in her forehead and skin treatments such as light laser resurfacing or peels and radio frequency-tightening procedures to keep her jawline contoured and her eyebrows lifted, he thinks she also lost weight through diet and exercise, which may be why her neck and face look longer and thinner. “Botox and radio frequency treatments on the neck along with lasers for texture and tone can do amazingly well at fighting off the signs of aging without anyone knowing —  if you start early enough!” he said by email. “Kudos to her.”

Bottom line: Zellweger must have been unhappy about the way she looked, or she wouldn’t have sought changes. Zellweger has reportedly called the attention to her look “silly,” and said she appears the way she does due to “healthy living.”  It’s a bit disingenuous of her to call the attention to her new look “silly” when Hollywood is an industry based largely on how people look on the big screen, but she is entitled to do what she wants to herself.


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