4 Essential Steps to Take Before Getting Cosmetic Surgery

Learn everything you can about what you’re about to do and who you’re considering as your surgeon.

If you’re considering cosmetic surgery, you’re probably researching surgeons and procedures. You’re scrolling through before-and-after pics on cosmetic surgery websites and looking for solid information on what to expect in terms of procedure, recovery and outcome. You’ve probably seen some lovely transformations, along with a few fearsome pics of surgeries gone wrong, which, by the way, are few and far between. They will add to your list of questions to ask, and that’s probably my strongest recommendation: Inform yourself.

Here are four essential steps to take as you plan for cosmetic surgery.

1. Start with credentials

In some provinces, physicians can call themselves cosmetic surgeons or plastic surgeons when, in fact, their training may not be up to the title. Check with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada for a surgeon’s certification as a plastic surgeon or facial plastic surgeon (otolaryngology surgical training). Those who are certified as plastic surgeons have received training in general surgery and plastic surgery and passed a rigorous set of oral and written exams. The more training, the better.

My associates at Toronto Plastic Surgeons and I trained as oncological head and neck surgeons, which means that we know facial anatomy and tissues exceptionally well. Be sure to seek out a specialist in the procedure you desire. If you’re looking for a breast enhancement or tummy tuck, find a surgeon who does body procedures all day long.

2. Check the ratings

Sites like RealSelf, Yelp, RateMDs and Google+ provide patient reviews. A busy, experienced surgeon will have a lot of reviews, but, unfortunately, even surgeons who are consistently excellent will have a mediocre or bad review. Even if you choose an excellent surgeon, it’s still possible to have staff miscommunications or complications, though most are easily corrected, or a clinic that falls a little short on the service side. As anyone who has ever had their work publicly reviewed knows, there are those who sometimes give bad reviews for unfathomable reasons.

3. Be prepared

If I had a slogan, it might be “Patient, know thy face!” or even “Be prepared.” The closer you get to knowing what you want, the clearer we’ll both be on what can be done for you. Go through photos of yourself over the past 10 years, noting what you liked then, what you like and don’t like now and what you’d like to change if possible. Bring them with you and lay them out. Sure, if there’s a celebrity who has a feature you like, bring those pics, too, but you are you. You have beautiful, unique features of your own that I’d much prefer to revitalize and enhance. (Plus, learn how to cultivate a healthy self-image.)

We never really see ourselves as others do – we have favourite angles or often only see what we don’t like. While you talk to me, I’ll look at you three-dimensionally, see the totality of your face and, since I don’t know you, view you objectively. We’ll look in a mirror together so that you can point out what’s bothering you. Then I’ll show you what I can improve and how you’ll look after surgery.

4. Ask questions

From my point of view, the longer your list of questions, the better! You’ll want to know everything about what can be done and, if you decide to go forward, what will happen during and after the procedure. Those before-and-after pics on cosmetic surgery websites are important because they show you the kinds of changes we can make and demonstrate what we consider to be good work. Ask to see additional before-and-after pics and have the surgeon or patient coordinator point out what each patient wanted, how their face had aged and what was done. Ask for all the post-procedure details, including how long before the swelling and bruising diminishes and when you can go back to work. As for complications, you’ll want to know what they might be, if your surgeon has ever experienced them and, if so, how they deal with them. (Psst: Here’s the truth about cosmetic procedure pain.)

Having cosmetic surgery is a big, exciting, life-changing decision, and you’ve got to get it right. For more information on what questions to ask, check out my website at torontoplasticsurgeon.com.

Dr. Stephen Mulholland is a cosmetic plastic surgeon and founder of SpaMedica, a full-service cosmetic surgery and medical spa in Toronto.

Next, learn the best non-surgical options for body enhancement.

Originally Published in Best Health Canada