Cosmetic surgery: Is it right for you?

Posted on: 10 June 2011 by Rhian Mainwaring

Antonia Mariconda weighs up the pros and cons of going under the knife

Cosmetic surgery is a constantly developing field of medicine dedicated to improving and rejuvenating the face and body.  Unlike reconstructive surgery, which is concerned with the correction of birth defects or others caused by illness/accidents, cosmetic surgery is largely about aesthetic enhancement.

Some say, falsely, that such enhancements are “pure vanity”. In fact, cosmetic surgery has incalculable value for patients who are made deeply unhappy by their looks, for example those who have been teased from childhood for an oddly-shaped nose or sticking out ears. Some people may avoid ordinary social and sexual contact because they believe their acne scars or body flaws, such as asymmetric breasts, make them unacceptable to others.

Not least, in this competitive world, patients of both sexes seek surgery to look younger and avoid being considered “too old” for their work. Ageism may be frowned upon, but it is still a very real threat to older employees.

And, of course, many patients simply want to improve the freshness and smoothness of skin, plumpness of lips and general “uplift” of face and body, which has been lost over the years.

Up until fairly recently, such surgery was largely viewed as an eccentric luxury and carried a stigma to the extent that people often went to great lengths to conceal their surgical self-improvement efforts. Today, however thanks to the social acceptance of cosmetic surgery, it is not uncommon to overhear a cosmetic surgery patient telling anyone who will listen about her brand new breasts, or new improved nose.

Much of the growing popularity of cosmetic surgery is due to the excellence of modern techniques and equipment, and to the high standards of the surgeons and professional practitioners.

Surgeons should be accredited by BAAPS, or BAPRAS. These include a good degree from an accredited medical school, the completion of at least three years of general surgery, two to three years of supervised plastic surgery residency and two years of professional practice.

The first US medical text about cosmetic procedures was written just over 100 years ago, when Dr Charles Miller wrote about “The Correction of Feature Imperfections” in 1907. At that time, almost every aspect of cosmetic surgery was viewed with suspicion by the general public, and surgeons were accused of being “quacks”.

But as the years went by and techniques and procedures developed, the importance of this branch of medicine became evident. Procedures which are particularly popular worldwide are: liposuction; breast augmentation (mammoplasty), eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty), and face lift (Rhytidectomy), nose reshaping (rhinoplasty) and tummy tuck (abdominoplasty).

The Encyclopaedia of Surgery has listed procedures which improve the complexion in their “top10”, this is largely due to significant advances in laser treatments and chemical peels. Skin disfigured by scars and pitting, or by sun damage can be smoothed, freshened and resurfaced. 

As well as the best-known cosmetic surgery applications, medical, technical and scientific advancements mean that new techniques are being developed all the time. A buttock augmentation – informally known as a “butt implant” uses silicone or the patient’s own fat to lift and improve the shape of the bottom. Arms and necks can be firmed and lifted, and there is even a dramatic procedure which involves lifting the torso to eliminate sagging!

Fillers of collagen and other substances can be used to pump up the lips, while cheeks and the chin can be given more definition with carefully moulded implants. And another interesting advance is that an increasing numbers of men are opting for facelifts, tummy tucks, man-breast reduction and hair follicle implants.


Cosmetic surgery is usually a great success, but as with any other medical procedure, there are risks.  Cosmetic surgeons always say that the most-informed patients are the best patients, as they have a clear idea of what their procedure involves and clear expectations. Potential patients must ask themselves questions, such as:

  • Are your expectations realistic?
  • Do you feel fully informed about the risks and the specific considerations for the procedure?
  • Will the cost of the procedure add too much financial stress to your life?
  • Do you have a support network to help you through recovery?
  • Good candidates for cosmetic surgery are non-smokers, close to their ideal weight and emotionally stable – are you going into this procedure healthy?

A crucial factor is finding a doctor certified by the General Medical Council and on the specialist registrar, which means he has the highest possible knowledge and skills in the cosmetic surgery field.

Other important considerations include asking the chosen surgeon for before and after pictures of patients who underwent the same procedure, it’s also worth asking if you can speak with the patient for their own account of their experience.

A surgeon should also be questioned about the expected length of the recovery period, and whether they offer satisfactory follow-up care. Your questions should include; when can I hope to return to work? How long will the results last? What is your complication rate? And of course, what are the costs and payment terms and will insurance cover the costs? These are all essential questions.

All good surgeons will not only have the answers to all the patient’s questions, but will welcome the opportunity to offer not only information but reassurance.

 There are people with very different views of cosmetic surgery.  Is it for everybody? Absolutely not. Are there some people whose lives are significantly improved by it? Absolutely.

Antonia Mariconda is the Cosmedic Coach, she is also a health and beauty author and newspaper columnist.

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What do you think of cosmetic surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is a constantly developing field of medicine dedicated to improving and rejuvenating the face and body. It is becoming more and more acceptable - which begs the question - would you consider having cosmetic surgery?

  1. 42% Absolutely not, we should grow old naturally!
  2. 30% Perhaps in the future
  3. 15% No, I can't imagine altering my face
  4. 11% Yes, I already am
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