Know your surgeon and do your homework

Cosmetic surgery coach Wendy Lewis offers a guide through the sometimes tricky process of choosing the right procedure and finding the right practitioner for you


With so many doctors and clinics offering lifts, lasers and tucks, the task of choosing the right ones for you can seem daunting. You should approach the quest of finding the right doctor strategically, with an action plan in place.

Collect referrals from multiple sources; ask friends if they know any great doctors, ask your GP, dentist or makeup artist, and read up on doctors online. Referrals from people who have had cosmetic surgery can be helpful, but everyone’s experience varies and the doctor who did your friend’s breasts may not be ideal for your neck.

Most people go online to find a doctor, but the internet is loaded with often contradictory information that is rarely policed by any official source. Check out doctors’ and clinics’ websites to learn about their training and expertise. Many commercial websites offer referrals to doctors and financing programmes, and some stoop to all sorts of gimmicks to lure patients.

Bulletin boards and forums are not always ideal sources for recommendations, as the posts are anonymous and hard to qualify. Online ratings and reviews carry a lot of weight, however, some sites tend to post more negative reviews and bury positive comments. If you read a dozen good reviews and there are a few neutral or bad ones in the mix, that is not necessarily a reason to avoid that doctor. If the reviews are overwhelmingly negative with similar comments, check another source to find out more.

Once your list is narrowed down to a handful of practitioners, schedule several consultation visits. See several doctors before making a decision about a surgical procedure and expect to get varying recommendations. For non-surgical treatments, such as fillers or peels, one or two may be sufficient.

The consultation process is a two-way street. Although you may think you know what you want because you saw it on TV, it may not actually be right for you. Your skin type, bone structure, age and medical history will affect the result you can expect. Describe what you want to achieve and be open to what each practitioner recommends.

It is important to study what is available and what may be right for you. Prepare a list of questions in advance, so you do not forget anything important, and take notes. The initial visit may be with a nurse or clinic manager; however, your evaluation should be with the actual doctor who will be performing the procedure.

Learn about the basics of the procedure and how they apply to you specifically. Understanding what the procedure can and cannot do, as well as the limitations, is critical to avoid disappointments.

The doctor or his staff should explain the risks and what is involved in terms of incisions, anaesthesia, recovery, results and aftercare. Ask to see photographs of other patients to gauge his aesthetic skills and what you can expect, although there is no guarantee your results will be the same.

Be wary of doctors who are unwilling to answer your questions satisfactorily or clinics where the staff appear rushed and unprofessional. Red flags include doctors who pressure you to have additional procedures that are unrelated to the reason for your consultation; for example, if you came for a tummy tuck and he offers to take the bump off your nose at the same time. You should not feel pressured into adding extra procedures, making a decision on the spot or be squeezed in quickly if you pay right away.

Communication with the practitioner and clinic staff, as well as the confidence and trust they inspire, are vital to the success of your procedure. At the end of the day, you should go with your gut feeling. If you feel uneasy, the doctor is probably not the one for you. Cosmetic surgery is a very personal decision and you should take your time to consider all of your options.

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British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons: www.baaps.org.uk

British College of Aesthetic Medicine: www.bcam.ac.uk

British Cosmetic Dermatology Group: www.bcdg.info

British Association of Cosmetic Nurses: www.cosmeticnurses.org

International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: www.isaps.org