Is a Cosmetic Procedure Right for You?

Skin care and more generalized personal care products are used on a daily basis by the vast majority of people, and certainly women. Although public opinion is changing quickly, for many people, cosmetic procedures like Botox or injectable fillers are still thought of as “extreme” and many people still hesitate to consider these options. We bust some myths and talk about how to think clearly about whether these are right for you.

Medical and Cosmetic Dermatology

People will often make a distinction between cosmetic dermatology, and medical dermatology. That is, there is an expanding field of dermatology that focuses on cosmetic or elective procedures that range from Botox and soft-tissue fillers, lasers, to cosmetic surgeries that focus on enhancing appearance. Many doctors who perform cosmetic procedures also practice medical dermatology as well. Naturally some will focus more on one or another side. From the patient perspective what does this mean?

  • Insurance coverage/costs
  • Focus on patient desire/importance of communication

The first distinction is that the vast majority of insurance will not cover cosmetic or elective procedures except in special circumstances (accident or other unexpected trauma) although this will vary widely on the individual plan, country, or jurisdiction. As the procedures are privately paid, it can be quite costly. Secondly, medical concerns like acne, or psoriasis have a “standard” treatment plan, guideline, or protocol that is generally followed. The dermatologist will have seen many similar cases, and generally will know what is likely to be the best plan, taking into account your personal medical history. In the case of elective procedures, you need to take initiative in the sense that you have a specific desire (or something you don’t like) and this needs to be communicated clearly so the dermatologist can suggest a plan to fix it. The cosmetic dermatologist can’t look at you, diagnose you, and suggest a smorgasbord of elective treatments.

Common Questions and Concerns:

Do these procedures make my face look plastic and fake like the spammy internet pop-up ads?

Almost never. This is a stereotype from decades ago.

Are all procedures surgical?

No. True cosmetic surgery is much less popular than the “soft procedures” like Botox or soft-filler injections, lasers, often called lunchtime procedures that allow the patient to go straight back to work with no recovery time. These aim at soft, subtle improvements. Again, elective procedures are patient directed, so they need to let the dermatologist know what they want.

Aren’t the costs prohibitive?

They aren’t cheap, as the procedures are privately paid, and need to cover the cost of the filler, performing doctor, assistants, and other costs of operating a clinic, but they also aren’t restricted to Hollywood stars as may have been the case a few decades ago. Soft procedures can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand depending on various factors like the cost of the injectables (its quantity usually), performing doctor, and whether it’s at a major clinic in a populous city.

Are the changes permanent? If not, how long do they last?

This depends on the procedure. As a general rule of thumb, Botox, fillers, and injectables will last from 3 to 12 months. There are some fillers that are permanent, but these are less often used. Surgical procedures have a more lasting effect, as they alter the positions of various facial structures. They will not stop the aging process however.

Do people get addicted to cosmetic procedures?

Body dysmorphic disorder is a real mental disorder that should not be taken lightly, but it is not caused by undergoing a cosmetic procedure. Undergoing multiple surgeries may be a symptom in some cases of an underlying problem, but these cases are extremely rare. Much more commonly, patients simply like the improvements of an injectable filler or Botox, and want to maintain their look. As these fillers only last for 3-12 months, they require retreatment again.

Where do I Start?

At the end of the day, these procedures are elective. That is, only you have the right answer, and the motivation should come from you, rather than outside pressure. If you are interested, however, it pays to be informed.

  1. First, learn a bit about cosmetic procedures in general, and what they address.
  2. Research more into the specific procedures that can address the specific concern that you have. This should give you some background so that you talk specifically about various options with a cosmetic dermatologist.
  3. Do some research about potential dermatologists that perform the procedures that you may be interested in.
  4. The consultation should be about discussing your concerns, and available treatment options, as well as expectations, typical outcomes, and cost. At this stage, it shouldn’t be about high-pressure sales tactics. If you feel uncomfortable, simply opt for a different dermatologist. Like any medical procedure, getting a second opinion should not offend the doctor.

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