You don’t need a plastic surgeon to tell you that cosmetic surgery is incredibly popular. You just need to pick up one of those magazines at the grocery store checkout counter. Cover stories about who had great plastic surgery sit next to ones about cosmetic surgery disasters. And those tabloid covers pretty well sum up the state of cosmetic surgery – incredibly popular and wonderful but potentially dangerous.
Recently, you might have read stories about airplane grade silicone used in French PIP brand breast implants. That’s an example of corporate irresponsibility that has resulted in women getting sick. And you read about nutty mothers assaulting their prepubescent children by pushing botox and other procedures on them. And you read about the woman who strove to have the largest breast implants on the planet ... until they got infected, were removed, and she attempted suicide. It’s no wonder that some people have said, “Enough is enough” and called for the ban of cosmetic surgery.
Well, hold on a minute. Ban cosmetic surgery? What about all the good that cosmetic surgery does? Like it or not, self-esteem is linked to body image. And so teenagers who have the shape of their noses surgically improved can evolve from introverts to extroverts. And women who have breast augmentations can better fill out clothing. And those who have enormous breasts know that breast reductions decrease symptoms of back and neck pain, and improve exercise tolerance. And tummy tucks can improve posture and decrease back pain. And eyelid lifts can actually improve vision and decrease symptoms of dry eye syndrome. And the list goes on.
A while back, I published a study that documented an improvement in happiness and a decrease in depressive symptoms following all sorts of cosmetic surgery. That study has been corrorborated by many others. These reports should not be taken lightly. Our society spends billions on improving quality of life, on things as diverse as entertainment, spas, and yes, cosmetic surgery.
The truth about cosmetic surgery is that every person has different needs and can tolerate different levels of risk. And it is up to a sensible, non-greedy plastic surgeon to explain the types of procedures that are available, from skin care to noninvasive procedures, to real surgery. The risks of each procedure need to be honestly assessed and explained. And finally, surgeons needs to be able to turn down patients who are either not realistic or have medical or psychological risks that exceed the benefits of the chosen procedures.
Cosmetic surgery provides wonderful benefits, improving appearance and psychological well-being. And recipients of cosmetic surgery span all aspects of society – from blue-collar workers to clerical workers, to chemists, to celebrities and even politicians. Successful cosmetic surgery relies on the responsibility of surgeons and companies that provide the drugs, implants, and devices that fuel the specialty. And, finally, cosmetic surgery requires that both the surgeon and the patient exercise some common sense.