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Is plastic surgery really for me?

Posted December 10, 2018 in Board Certification, Plastic Surgery Advice

I have heard quite a few misconceptions both in my practice, on TV, and at the “water cooler” concerning the basic motivations and perception of plastic surgery. I thought I would spend a moment or two giving my perspective, albeit biased, about 3 of them today.

Plastic surgery is just for vain people that need to feed their egos.

Many of us have watched the television shows depicting plastic surgery clients as out-of-touch-with-reality and self-absorbed annoyances who just can’t be satisfied with what they see in the mirror. They tend to have way too much money to know what to do with and seem to use their plastic surgery and surgeon as a means to feed their narcissistic personality. These people do exist. Clearly, they make great TV and boost the ratings of the network time slot. But this is so far away from the reality of what I see day to day in my practice. My typical patient is the everyday mom from a middle class family who is bothered by something that is either completely out of her control or something that she has little control over. The fact is that patients seeing me for tummy tucks typically are women that have had a few pregnancies, have done all they can to regain their pre-pregnancy bodies, and simply can not fix the loose skin and weak abdominal walls that come with having beautiful children. Breast reduction patients did not ask to have back and neck pain associated with wearing the equivalent of 5-10 lb weight around their neck. And believe it or not, most breast augmentation clients simply don’t have much or any natural breast tissue. They are not egocentric women who can’t be happy with their natural bodies; they just want to have the confidence of feeling feminine and comfortable in their own skin. Very few people criticize others for buying clothes that fit properly, wearing makeup that looks tasteful, or even buying a car that happens to match their personality. In my opinion, treating yourself to botox or fillers is no more narcissistic than spending your money on getting a massage or treating yourself to nice dinner for a special occasion.

Plastic surgery in social media and our culture is causing great harm to our society’s psychological health.

I have recently heard criticism about plastic surgery being at fault for society’s obsession with “body perfection” and for feeding unrealistic expectations about body image to both our youth and adult population. After all, shouldn’t we all just be happy and satisfied with the body that God made for us without feeling the need to alter what is natural? In some ways, I can understand a bit of this logic, but not completely. It is true that God has given us the DNA and genetics that control much of how we look, feel, think, and believe. But much of how we end up “looking” is based on decisions that we make and how we use the body given us. Over-eating and under-exercising will result in a different outcome than healthy diets and a daily jog around the block. Is it more righteous to just be happy with our natural skin and is it “sinful” to take advantage of retinol products and sunscreen? Most would say that putting on some makeup and using some cleansing products to enhance your skin is clearly within society’s acceptable limits. But where do you draw the line? Are teeth whiteners wrong? They aren’t natural by any means. What about haircuts and tattoos? At what point does it become wrong to want to look and feel your best? The fact is that attractive people are more likely to get the job or the raise. Younger people are more likely to get second glances from others at the gym or club or even church. Those two facts are a somewhat unfortunate reality of our culture. It would be refreshing if how you look (especially if you can’t control how you look) didn’t matter in society. But they do. The fact is that plastic surgery has nothing to do with the ads that are selling our food, clothes, cars, and well…everything. The advertisements are going to sell with or without your local plastic surgeon. The refreshing thing that many nay-sayers of plastic surgery don’t know is that more often than not, patients undergoing plastic surgery procedures become more healthy after their procedures than they were before their consultation. I have seen countless patients quit smoking, quit drinking, and maintain healthy diets and exercise either in preparation for their surgery or with the goal of maintaining their results. They almost invariably become more healthy physically and emotionally. Before and after photos don’t just demonstrate an improvement in body shape or form. They are clear proof of an improvement in posture and purpose. I do not coach facial expressions during photo sessions. But faces after surgery are almost invariably more happy than before surgery. I do not view my profession as perpetuating an evil narrative detailing that everyone needs to be thin and beautiful and if they are not, they should be ashamed and embarrassed. Rather, I see my work as an opportunity to assist many people to achieve their goals, boost their confidence, and help them finish work they have already started in trying to become as healthy and happy as they dream to be.

The risks of elective plastic surgery are just not worth taking. 

I see many patients (and their spouses) that talk with me about wanting to have a procedure, but just not feeling that the risk of surgery is worth taking. The fact is that surgery is indeed surgery and there are certainly risks associated with any procedure. But the risks are often misunderstood. The odds of dying during a plastic surgery procedure are drastically lower than those for dying in either an airplane or car accident. Very few people decide not to get in their car to drive to their vacation destination, but many are almost petrified of going to the operating room. I believe that if patients could fully grasp the relative safety of surgery with a board certified plastic surgeon operating in an accredited facility, there would be almost no anxiety before surgery. This, of course, does not mean that there are things to consider before deciding to have a procedure. Scars are real. Complications do happen. And there are absolutely risks that need to be explained and fully understood. But if you are a qualified patient with a fixable problem and realistic expectations, you are almost always going to realize that the benefits outweigh the risks.

I love my job and I love my patients. I wouldn’t trade either of them for the world (maybe my wife and kids), but little else. I hope that reading this may help you or others to see things a little more clearly and with a different perspective.