"Always remember that true beauty comes from within— from within bottles, jars, compacts, and tubes."
Dr. Laurence J. Peter published that oft-quoted quip over 30 years ago. Not much has changed since then, except today Dr. Peter might have added one more option to his list of resources: cosmetic surgery.
Decades ago elective cosmetic surgeries were generally limited to face-lifts, nose jobs and breast enhancements. They were expensive, complex and very private procedures, the exclusive domain of the rich and famous. Well, not any more. Cosmetic surgery has come out of the closet.
Today there are scores of affordable fixes for every self-perceived imperfection imaginable -- collagen and Botox injections, eye-lifts, liposuction, tummy tucks, dermabrasion and more. They are less invasive, recovery times are shorter, and collateral damage (like bruising) is minimized.
Just how common is it for Americans to 'have a little work done'? According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), there were13.8 million cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedures performed last year. Clearly, cosmetic surgery has been mainstreamed and become very big business.
Any elective surgery carries risks, and plastic surgery is no different. Even a simple Botox injection, which is not required to be administered by an MD (ever been invited to a 'Botox party'?), can go very wrong. Plus not all doctors who perform plastic surgery have been trained to, and those that have been trained are not necessarily specialists in every procedure.
Bottom line: If you're considering any sort of cosmetic procedure, surgical or otherwise, do your homework. Here's some help on how to make sure you're safe and satisfied with the results.
Before you go under the knife, ask yourself these two questions:
All medical procedures come with the potential for complications, some quite serious and even life-threatening. Your doctor should explain to you what these risks are well before you've committed to the operation. Is what you're gaining – or hope to gain – worth the gamble?
“I like to listen to my patients,” says Craig Vander Kolk, MD, plastic surgeon with the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery center, Weinberg Center for Women's Health & Medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD. "A patient who says something like, 'I look in the mirror and see a 50-plus woman, but I feel like I did when I was in my 40s...' Okay. But someone who is a size 6 and says, 'I'm hideously fat and I need to get rid of these bags around my hips...' Not so much."
Regardless of what you look like after plastic surgery, your life is not going to do a complete 180. If you think it will, you may want to rethink. “It's okay to want to look and feel younger for your pick of jobs, or to look better for friends," says Vander Kolk."But surgery doesn't always lead to better things.”
Once you have decided cosmetic surgery is the right way to go, do your due diligence selecting the right doctor.
Make sure he's board certified.
Plastic surgeons who are certified by the American Board of Plastic
Surgery (ABPS) have earned a degree from an accredited medical school,
have completed at least three years of general surgery, and completed
two to three years of plastic surgery residency
training with supervision in an accredited program in the US or Canada.
To be certified the surgeon must complete extensive written and oral
examinations where he is tested on the entire field of plastic and
reconstructive surgery of the entire body, head to toe. American Board
of Medical Specialties has a free resource for the public to see if a
doctor is board certified. That website is CertificationMatters.org. Or
call toll free to 1-866-ASK-ABMS.
Research his record.
Check with your state's medical board to see if the doctor is in good
standing, if he's had any complaints filed against him, or whether he
has a history of disciplinary actions.
Find out if he has hospital privileges.
“Doctors who have their own offices don't have any peer review of what
they're doing,” says Dr. Vander Kolk. Having privileges at a hospital
gives you more assurance that the doctor's on the straight and narrow.
Leslie Pepper is a freelance writer based in Merrick, NY who specializes in diet and health. Her work has been published in print magazines such as Real Simple, Woman's Day, and Parents, as well as online publications such as WebMD.com and Everydayhealth.com.