The hardest part of deciding to undergo plastic surgery is “fear of the unknown.” Plastic surgery teams often find that the most important responsibility to make sure each patient knows what to expect every step along the way.
We’ve gathered for you our top ten “do’s and don’ts” of plastic surgery. Beyond choosing your plastic surgeon wisely (which is a given!) the below is the carefully curated short list of the things we wish every plastic surgery patient knew. We hope sharing our knowledge helps you with your journey to a new you!
DO #1 | HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
You may want to have Kim Kardashian’s nose or Angelina Jolie’s lips, but it’s unrealistic to think that you’re going to end up looking exactly like your dream celebrity. There’s a science behind what makes each of us “beautiful” and it could very well be that Angelina’s lips wouldn’t look good on you, given your unique facial anatomy. A skillful plastic surgeon will be able to give you the general characteristics of the celebrity’s feature you desire, however, no two faces are ever the same so always maintain realistic expectations post-op. In the end, the goal of good plastic surgery is to have natural-looking results that enhance your overall appearance without looking fake or out-of-proportion with the rest of your face.
DO #2 | MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT BEFORE SURGERY
If plastic surgery is part of a more ambitious plan to a healthier, slimmer new you, make sure any planned weight loss happens before surgery. Fluctuations in weight after surgery can cause unanticipated volume changes, which can negatively impact the surgery results. For the same reasons, maintaining a healthy weight after surgery will maximize results.
DO #3 | CONSIDER YOUR CARETAKER
You’ll need someone to take you home and care for you directly following surgery, so keep the availability of your “caretaker” in mind, too, when discussing surgery dates. Plan for this person to take care of you at least until the morning after your surgery. Also keep in mind that you can’t drive while taking pain medications, so you will need someone to drive you to and from any appointments you have. How long you stay on pain medications depends on your pain tolerance. Some patients are off the pain meds in a day or two while others prefer to continue using for about a week afterwards. It’s worth noting that some plastic surgery teams, like us, partner with a caretaker service where a nurse takes you home from surgery and cares for you overnight.
DO #4 | PLAN TO TAKE APPROPRIATE TIME OFF
While it is certainly possible to go back to work after a long weekend of recovery, the large majority of facial plastic surgery patients prefer to take one to two weeks off work. After the first week, any stitches and bandages will be gone, but it can take up to two weeks before you’re “restaurant ready” – meaning if you were to go to a restaurant, the person at the table next to you wouldn’t be able to tell you had anything done.
DO #5 | WAIT AT LEAST SIX MONTHS BEFORE JUDGING YOUR RESULTS
We all want instant gratification, but recovery from plastic surgery is a journey not a race. Sure, you’ll look “restaurant ready” after two weeks, but the final results may take up to a year to fully materialize. For example, residual swelling can take many months to dissipate. Acquaintances won’t notice the swelling or small imperfections, but you will! The body’s healing process is not only complex and involved, but it also is unique to each person. Trust in yourself and in your plastic surgeon, whom you spent so much time choosing.
DON’T #1 | DON’T MAKE COST YOUR PRIMARY DECISION FACTOR
Sure, there’s a general ballpark that most plastic surgery should fall within, but price alone should not be your primary factor when choosing who to go with. If you want cheap, go to Mexico, but beware! There are a number of patients with botched jobs from other countries that need revisions. Plastic surgery is an investment in yourself and you should invest wisely.
DON’T #2 | DON’T LET YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY DO “ARM CHAIR” DOCTORING
Everyone has an opinion, and during the recovery process your close friends and family will be sharing theirs whether you want to hear them or not! Usually by the time a patient shares the concerns their friends and family have raised, they are in a near panic. Swelling, asymmetry, tightness and numbness are all normal parts of the recovery process. How many recoveries from plastic surgery have your friends and family observed? Remember, if you’ve picked a good plastic surgeon, he or she has at least eleven years of formal academic training under their belt. For goodness sake, reach out to your surgeon’s office when you have a concern or fear. Don’t let comments by your friends fester in the absence of professional guidance.
DON’T #3 | DON’T LOOK IN THE 10X MIRROR EVERY DAY
After surgery, the recovery process is understandably the most important focus of your daily life. Every day, you’ll get up and look at yourself in the mirror. Avoid the temptation to get out the 10X magnification mirror and start nit picking. Think about this: you’ll see the most dramatic results when you avoid looking too closely at yourself every day. When you are closely examining every little detail on a constant basis, it’s hard to see any changes. If you want a more objective perspective of your progress, take a photo once a month and try to go easy on yourself in between photos. The recovery process is a journey, not a race and it’s unique to each person. The final results won’t appear overnight and often you’ll look worse before you’ll look better. That’s just the way the body heals.
DON’T #4 | DON’T ATTRIBUTE OLD FLAWS TO YOUR RECENT SURGERY
It happens so often – patients ignore our Don’ts #2 and #3 and show up at a follow-up visit demanding to know why the surgery has caused wrinkles, or some other perceived change, in another area of their face.
Take a photo and put it side by side with the photo taken before surgery. Sure enough, the patient sees that the flaw was there before the surgery and it’s just because he or she is looking at every nook and cranny during the recovery process that they notice it now for the first time. Similarly, now that one part of your face is looking amazing, you may start to notice other areas of your face that don’t look so amazing. For example, patients who undergo upper eyelid (blepharoplasty) surgery may start to notice the bags or dark circles under the eyes more after surgery than they did before. The solution to this, as you might imagine, is lower eyelid surgery and this is why it’s always wise to get your plastic surgeon’s professional opinion on what surgeries he or she would recommend doing together, all at once, instead of going to your consultation with one specific surgery in mind.
DON’T #5 | DON’T DRINK ALCOHOL, SMOKE OR TAKE BLOOD THINNERS IN THE 2-3 WEEKS BEFORE AND AFTER SURGERY
It might seem like a good idea to unwind with a nice glass of wine once the bandages are off after your surgery, however, it’s best to abstain for from drinking any alcohol for two weeks before and after plastic surgery. As you may know, alcohol dehydrates the body, which can actually cause extra swelling, and it also acts as a blood thinner, increasing the risk of bleeding.
Ibuprofen and aspirin are also blood thinners – you’ll want to avoid those, too. Aspirin is a common ingredient found in over-the-counter pain medications, so be sure to read the label carefully before taking anything not prescribed by your surgeon.
Finally, anesthesia and smoking is obviously not a great mix, so smoking within three weeks before and after plastic surgery is a big DON’T! Smoking impairs the ability of blood to carry oxygen so it can influence how your body reacts to the anesthesia. Also, smoking can decrease blood flow to the operated area, preventing proper healing. If you want to ensure the best recovery possible and maximize your surgery results, then it’s time to quit smoking.