11 Questions To Ask If You’re Considering A Cosmetic Procedure, According To The Experts

cosmetic procedures

by Arianna Chatzidakis |
Updated on

Thinking of having a cosmetic procedure? Whether you're considering a non-surgical procedure like Botox® or laser treatments, or cosmetic surgery such as breast implants or liposuction, it's important you do your research beforehand to minimise the risk to your physical and emotional health. To give you a helping start, we've quizzed two surgeons and a registered nurse on the questions you need to ask yourself before committing to a procedure.

1. What Am I Hoping To Gain From My Procedure?

It's really important to take some time to think about what you're hoping to gain from undergoing a cosmetic procedure. Plastic surgeon Paul Harris comments that 'most people are simply looking for a correction of a problem that they perceive they have. It can be life-enhancing for such patients but they need to understand how this fits in with the rest of their lives - it won’t make them a different person.' Speak to a professional about the aesthetic outcomes you can expect to help you think carefully about whether a cosmetic procedure is right for you before committing.

2. Am I Having a Cosmetic Procedure For The Right Reasons?

Harris believes that 'there are some wrong reasons to have a cosmetic procedure, including thinking that it will improve certain aspects of your life like helping you get a promotion or saving your marriage. At the end of the day, it is an individual decision that you must make after considering all the benefits and risks, weighing up the options and doing all of your research.' Be sure to get all of the information you need about a procedure, the practitioner and products being used before you commit to anything.

3. Where Can I Find A Cosmetic Practitioner And What Qualifications Should They Hold?

For any cosmetic procedure, it's important to choose a reputable, safe and qualified practitioner who is trained in the selected procedure. Don't be lured in by practitioners who advertise on Instagram or through celebrities - remember that they will usually be receiving payment or free treatments in return for promoting the service. Instead, you should search for a practitioner who is registered with a body overseen by the Professional Standards Authority, as this will ensure that they meet set standards of training, insurance and proficiency.

If you're considering a surgical procedure, only doctors who are registered with the General Medical Council are permitted to perform surgery in the UK. It's also important to research the clinic or hospital in which your surgeon will be performing your treatment. In England the hospital or clinic must be registered with the Care Quality Commission. The CQC inspect providers of cosmetic surgery and, once an inspection has been completed, a quality rating will be published online. Providers must ensure that staff have the appropriate qualifications, competence, skills and experience to safely perform their job.

Procedures such as fillers and the injection of toxins like Botox® are safest when the practitioner has a high level of qualification, training and experience in injectable procedures. If your practitioner has only completed a couple of days of training in your chosen procedure, approach with caution.

4. What Questions Shall I Ask My Practitioner During My Consultation?

You should feel comfortable enough to ask as many questions as you want during your consultation, so be sure that it takes place with the practitioner who will be performing your procedure, and not another member of their team. In your consultation, you should ask about the following questions:

  • Am I a good candidate for this treatment? Will this procedure achieve the outcomes I want?

  • What are the potential risks of the treatment?

  • What are the signs of complications and procedure for aftercare?

  • If there are problems, how do I get aftercare advice and support? Will I be treated by the same practitioner or will you refer me elsewhere? Will aftercare involve any additional cost?

  • Where will the procedure be performed?

  • Can I see some before and after pictures of similar procedures you’ve undertaken?

  • Are there other ways to get the look want?

  • What is the recovery period?

  • How much does this treatment cost and what are the payment methods?

  • How often will I need to repeat the procedure to maintain the look?

  • Do you have some information that I can take away to read and consider?

Other things to gauge during your consultation are your practitioner’s bedside manner and rapport - do you feel comfortable around them and confident that they will be able to deliver what you're asking for? Do you feel they are being honest and also realistic with you? Do you trust them?

Fillers practitioner Andrew Rankin notes that 'the consultation should take at least 30 minutes and longer if necessary, and at the end you should feel confident that your practitioner has a real understanding of what you want from the procedure, you are clear what your practitioner can achieve, and you understand all the risks in such a way that you can make an informed decision, weighing up the benefits against the risks. If you don’t feel confident, then you should ask whatever questions will give you that confidence, or walk away.'

5. What Are The Risks Associated With My Procedure?

All cosmetic procedures have risks and can affect both your physical and emotional health. You should always ask about the specific risks during your consultation. Serious complications of cosmetic procedures can include infection, nerve damage, blindness, blood clots, scarring, and in rare cases have resulted in death. But, you can reduce your risks by making safe, informed decisions about your care, like extensively researching the treatment you're interested in and the practitioner and hospital or clinic where it will be carried out.

Rankin advises that 'there are a number of risks with dermal fillers. The most serious is where the filler is placed in such a way as to block blood supply. If not managed immediately this can cause scarring and tissue loss, permanent disfiguration and even blindness.’ Choosing a qualified, registered practitioner reduces the likelihood of complications occurring.

Bum enhancement is one of the most risky procedures out there, and Dr Harris says, 'Buttock enhancement can be achieved in one of two ways - the first is with silicone implants and the second is by using fat injections from elsewhere on the body. Silicone implants have been available for many years and, of course, have been used in the breast extensively. There is slightly more risk when using them in the buttock with a higher infection rate, higher rate of severe pain and very commonly they can move around producing an unsightly and uneven result. Fat injections are often known as the Brazilian Butt Lift, and this procedure is potentially lift threatening with a death rate of around 1 in 3000 patients. This is likely to be due to an embolus of fat travelling along the veins to the heart and lungs. More commonly infection and sepsis can happen which can also be life threatening.'

Liposuction also carries risks, as lipo surgeon Mo Akhavani tells us: 'some of the more common risks include superficial skin infection, fluid accumulation, uneven lumpy contour, deep venous thrombosis or cardiac complications, and changes in skin pigmentation or sensation.'

6. How Can A Cosmetic Procedure Affect My Emotional And Mental Wellbeing?

Undergoing a cosmetic procedure can really affect your emotional and mental wellbeing, especially if your expectations of how you will look and feel after a cosmetic procedure are not met, or if you're having a procedure hoping it will help you achieve certain things like making new friends or finding a partner. During the pre-treatment consultation you should expect a thorough assessment from your practitioner and to be asked about your motivations and aesthetic expectations of the treatment. This will minimise the risk of disappointment and dissatisfaction after the procedure.

7. Are My Expectations Realistic?

Social media - and especially Instagram - can provide unrealistic expectations of the look you can achieve from certain cosmetic procedures. Before and after pictures aren't always as real and honest as they seem - it's important to remember these images could have been photoshopped or retouched before being shared online.

Harris says that 'patients can have unrealistic expectations and they can also become obsessed with their body image and may need to be assessed by a psychologist in the first instance before going forward with surgery.' Before you agree to have any sort of cosmetic procedure, make sure you're absolutely clear on the expectations of what your practitioner can achieve.

Rankin adds, 'the effort, risk, expense and disappointment of trying to attain the unattainable will only highlight existing self-esteem and mental health problems, or even create new ones. This is particularly worrying in the younger generation who are trying to achieve a different version of themselves rather than making the best of what they have.'

8. Am I Ready For The Recovery Process?

Harris advises, 'an operation is like an injury and will take time to recover from. The length of the recovery will depend on the extent of the injury. However, all patients should factor in time away from work and exercise in the immediate post-operative period. Investing time in yourself early on to recover well will reap benefits later on. For surgical procedures, the recovery takes about 4 to 6 weeks for most patients, with a gradual build up in activity and exercise. It can take 12 to 18 months for scars and numbness to settle.'

Rankin warns, 'be careful about having treatment too close to a special occasion, a holiday or if it may mean missing work. You don’t need the added anxiety of "what if". A useful maxim to follow is "if in doubt, don’t".'

9. Is It Safer To Have Cosmetic Surgery In The UK Or Abroad?

If you intend to have cosmetic surgery abroad research the standards and qualifications that apply in the country you are travelling to. Holiday packages including cosmetic procedures trivialise what should be a major decision. If you do travel abroad for treatment think carefully how you will access and pay for aftercare and ensure appropriate insurance arrangements are in place.

Ultimately, the choice to have cosmetic surgery in the UK or abroad comes down to personal preference, but Harris comments that 'it is much safer to have surgery in the UK for many reasons, including being aware of the systems in place in their own country so they know where to go if they need help. Being alone in a foreign country and trusting your health to unknown individuals without a support network can have catastrophic consequences. I commonly see patients asking for corrective surgery after being left scarred and injured from surgery abroad which costs them much more in the long run.'

You shouldn't be lured into having cosmetic surgery abroad because it may cost less than having it done in the UK, because as Harris expressed, if there are any complications, this can end up being more costly than anticipated.

10. Are There Alternatives To Undergoing Cosmetic Surgery?

In a nutshell: yes. There's always other options that you can explore. 'Cosmetic surgery is a choice and never a necessity', states Harris. 'There are always alternatives including non-surgical treatments.' Similarly, Akhavani adds, 'in some appropriate situations emotional counselling is a valuable tool to help patients feel empowered about themselves. Non-surgical treatments should always be offered where applicable. A good cosmetic surgery provider will use all these tools to obtain the best outcome for their patients.'

11. Have I Considered What Will Happen If Things Go Wrong?

With any cosmetic procedure, there is the possibility of things going wrong, such as your final result not being how you imagined it, or the risk of infection. Harris states that 'if something does go wrong, then the treating surgeon or hospital should always look after the patient. This is especially true in the first month following an operation. Patients should ask about packages and what is covered in terms of corrective surgery before they agree to go ahead with any surgery.

'The problem comes after several months if patients are dissatisfied with the outcome. This is much more about managing expectations before surgery. It is important to recognise, however hard it sounds, that patients pay for an operation or service and not a specific outcome', he added.

All cosmetic procedures carry some level of risk and can affect both your physical and emotional health. You can reduce the risk by making safe decisions about your care. For more information, head to the NHS website.

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