The plastic surgery explainer: What to expect, ask and know, according to a surgeon
You won’t go from Dora the explorer to Kylie Jenner in one shot
The words ‘plastic surgery’ conjure up images of heavily botox-ed, wax-faced folks at your father’s golf club struggling to sip cocktails through a straw.
It’s a controversial choice, no doubt. Celebrities and influencers setting unrealistic standards with undisclosed enhancements are increasingly being called out on social media. Plastic surgery is tagged as being fake, a procedure to hide and feel embarrassed about.
But there’s a lot we also get wrong about plastic surgery, explains Dr. Yash Mehta, principal surgeon and founder of Aesthetic & Cosmetic Surgery Clinic.
If you choose to opt for plastic surgery there are a couple of things that we should clear up first.
Cosmetic vs. corrective and reconstructive plastic surgery
Specialising in face and neck surgery, Mehta uses an example of a blepharoplasty (surgery of the eyelids) to explain the differences.
“It’s the patient’s intent that determines how you view this surgery, as aesthetic or corrective.” A 60-year-old whose droopy eyelids are obstructing vision and chooses to get upper eyelid surgery to see clearly would be considered corrective surgery, he says.
My 35-year-old neighbour may visit the doctor because they don’t like the way their eyes are shaped or eyelids look. This is the cosmetic angle, with no impairment in function. The same neighbour could have had a bike accident that badly scarred their eye area. Wanting to go back to the way it was would perhaps require reconstructive surgery.
The procedures for all these situations would be a blepharoplasty — it’s all plastic surgery at the end of the day.
What you should look for in a plastic surgeon
Mehta stresses that you should never agree to surgery on the first day you meet a doctor.
“You might not be in the right emotional state at that moment and you think that this is a quick fix for that,” he adds. If the surgeon agrees to it after just one meeting, you should be questioning that too.
Go back home, research your options with a calm mind and ask the surgeon for information. You need to understand the procedure and the final outcome.
They should be listening to you to fully understand where you’re coming from and what you want. When the doctor seems distracted and uninterested, there could be miscommunication down the line.
“If the doctor keeps you waiting and is always in a hurry, then there is a problem.”
Is the surgeon giving you options? Mehta says that they should explain alternative ways that the same treatment can be done, including recovery and final outcomes.
Seek out a doctor who specialises in your area of interest. “Don’t go to a jack-of-all-trades who does liposuction, abdominal along with breast implants and so on,” Mehta advises.
It’s not that they aren’t good, but certain specialised procedures require refined skill set and training under ace mentors.
The questions you should be asking
Enquire who will be performing the surgery on you because the person you consult with may not be the one who ends up doing it.
Mehta explains that the doctor you meet may handover the actual surgery to another person, or have a team of surgeons working with them.
How many times have they performed the procedure that you’re looking to get? You want a seasoned professional that knows what they’re doing with customer satisfaction.
View this post on Instagram
South Asian Beauty Vlogger Anchal speaks candidly about her two rhinoplasty experiences in her Instagram stories and YouTube videos.
Ask about possible side effects and complications of the procedure and whether they themselves can correct it. Complications can occur in the simplest surgeries, you don’t want something to go wrong and then get bumped off to another doctor to have it corrected.
Request a computer modified image of how your face is going to look like after the surgery.
What you visualise in your head can be drastically different, and you don’t want to go through weeks of recovery and aftercare, only to regret your decision. “Ask yourself about the amount of satisfaction going through with the procedure will give you.”
Make them spell out the finances of it all. From each consult to the cost of plastic surgery, anaesthesia, items required for recovery and required follow-ups. Is the cost they give you all-inclusive and will it be covered by your insurance?
How the surgeon will evaluate you
Like any other medical procedure, you’ll have to share your complete medical history with the doctor. Your current fitness levels and age can determine whether they agree to take you under their knife.
For example, Mehta says that the general age for people wanting facelifts is 55-65. If someone in their 30s comes in asking for one for cosmetic purposes, they would ideally be declined on ethical grounds.
Another is financial stability — your ability to cover costs, whether independently, using medical insurance or a medical loan. The latter two require authorised paperwork.
A very big factor is the patient’s motivation. That can reveal an underlying mental illness that the patient may not be aware of.
Ailments like body dysmorphia, depression and addictive tendencies get further enabled. An ethical surgeon would turn you down or suggest you seek counselling to address it.
After speaking to your psychiatrist, perhaps, they would conduct the surgery if you still request it.
“If a patient tells me about multiple things that they don’t like or lists most of their features, that is a major red flag for me,” he adds.
Rest and after-care
The procedure itself is just the beginning. You’ve embarked on a long journey of healing before you get to see the results.
It doesn’t matter which surgeon you go to say, says Mehta, the healing process, downtime and after-care is the same.
The time and patience required is the most important factor when considering plastic surgery. The post-operation process is rarely talked about — those initial few weeks of bandages and swelling.
“In a rhinoplasty, for example, you will have to wear bandages on your nose. After a week there might be slight swelling on the tip of the nose. It might go down by the end of the month. Sometimes, the final result shows only eight months after surgery,” he adds.
A majority of after-effects settle down in the first few weeks post-op, but complete healing does take that much time
When he talks to people about the after-care involved, a lot of them shy away from the procedure.
“Expecting no consequences post-procedure is like asking someone to change your floor tiles without breaking the existing ones. There will be dust.”
Mehta charts out the emotional and physical process for his patients.
First week post-op: You will be angry at yourself. There will be moments of regret, you’ll question why you put yourself through this. You will be anxious.
3-4 weeks post-op: The week of getting your stitches removed is when you’ll see the swelling start.
“The most amount of swelling comes by the 3rd or 4th week. That’s when you will start really questioning your decision.”
After 4 weeks: Most of the bruising would have settled down and the worst part of your healing process is over.
“During the healing, you have to pamper yourself, take that time and relax at home. After the 4th week, you will be done with the worst of it.”
There will be follow-up sessions after your operations for the doctor to chart your progress.
The entire thing sounds scary, but Mehta says that such information needs to be shared so people know what they’re getting into and understand what their body is undertaking.