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Choosing Cosmetic Surgery

Patients choose cosmetic surgery for many reasons and often know a friend, family member, or a coworker who has undergone a procedure. Cosmetic surgery poses risks, so the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS) is committed to your safety – patient safety – through excellence in cosmetic surgery education.

The most important decision you make will be the careful selection of a provider. The AACS is pleased to provide you with resources that will guide your search for a qualified cosmetic surgeon, because we believe that informed patients are the best patients.

However, the AACS is not a physician’s office and cannot dispense medical advice. Any reputable cosmetic surgeon will welcome your questions and want you to be completely comfortable with their qualifications.

You can use the “Find a Cosmetic Surgeon” search engine to locate a cosmetic surgeon in your area and schedule a consultation. Only then can a physician give you personalized treatment options to meet your needs. Any questions of a medical nature sent to AACS will not be answered.

Procedural Information
You may have seen the TV shows, but not all reality TV is real. Learn the facts about the procedures that you have seen on TV. Read our list of Reality Vs. Myth.


Choosing a Qualified Physician
There are important things to consider when choosing a cosmetic surgery provider. Read our guidelines for choosing a cosmetic surgeon.

What is cosmetic surgery?
Cosmetic surgery is often performed by physicians from many types of medical specialties and backgrounds. Learn more about what training is needed to be a cosmetic surgeon and what that means for your decision. Read our patient FAQs.

Myth vs Reality

Cosmetic surgery is becoming a bigger part of our culture. From reality television shows to magazine covers and documentaries, the public has never been more aware of the ways that cosmetic surgery impacts patients from head to toe. Here’s the truth behind some common misconceptions about cosmetic surgery. See if you can what’s fact from myth!

1. Cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery are one and the same.
Myth. The terms "plastic surgery" and "cosmetic surgery" are not interchangeable. Confusion about the terms has led to public misconceptions about the two specialties. Cosmetic surgery is the surgery of appearance. It is elective and focuses on the aesthetics of beauty.

2. Cosmetic surgeons are qualified to conduct cosmetic surgery.
Fact. Cosmetic surgeons are dedicated to the art of cosmetic surgery. Their strong knowledge base, high level of training and practical experience make them among the most qualified physicians to perform cosmetic procedures. In fact, Botox®, laser technology and tumescent liposuction (widely regarded as the best type of liposuction) were developed by ophthalmologists and dermatologists.

3. Cosmetic procedures such as Botox®, microdermabrasion and liposuction are increasingly popular among men.
Fact. More and more men are seeking cosmetic surgery. According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery's 2005 Procedural survey the top five most popular procedures among men are Botox, hair transplantation/restoration, laser hair removal, microdermabrasion and liposuction, in that order. Our members report that they continue to see more and more men visit their offices. And the recent Consumer Survey conducted by the AACS shows that 12% of men plan to have cosmetic surgery at some point in the future.

4. A majority of men believe that personal appearance affects their ability to succeed professionally or get promoted.
Fact. According to the recent Consumer Survey conducted by the AACS, 83 percent of men believe that personal appearance plays a role in their professional success and advancement.

5. Breast augmentation will fix droopy breasts.
Myth. Breast augmentation will not lift droopy breasts. This is best addressed by having a breast lift.

6. It's safe to breast feed if you have breast implants.
Fact. According to the Mayo Clinic, breast-feeding with implants is safe. While your breast milk could absorb some of the silicone from breast implants the amount is not considered harmful to your baby. Because breast milk is the best thing you can feed your baby, the Institute of Medicine encourages women with breast implants to breast-feed if they're able to do so.

7. Breast implants increase your risk of getting breast cancer.
Myth. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) found evidence that breast implants do not cause breast cancer or the recurrence of breast cancer. However, it's still essential to undergo routine screening for breast cancer — breast self-exams, mammograms and clinical breast exams — just as you would if you didn't have breast implants.

8. Liposuction is an easy way to lose weight.
Myth. Your cosmetic surgeon will ask you to lose as much weight as you can first. The results will be better if you are as healthy as possible prior to surgery.

9. Liposuction removes cellulite.
Myth. Because tight bands of fibrous tissue cause cellulite, extracting the fat layer that resides just under the skin may actually worsen the dimpled look. Your cosmetic surgeon will be able to discuss expected results from liposuction and whether the procedure makes sense for you.

10. Fat comes back after liposuction.
Myth. Fat does not come back after liposuction. At birth, the body stops producing fat cells, but they do get bigger or smaller depending on your weight. Liposuction reduces the amount of fat cells in targeted areas. Once the fat cells are removed they're gone forever.

11. Tumescent liposuction (widely regarded as the best type of liposuction) was developed by a cosmetic surgeon.
Fact. Tumescent liposuction was developed by a cosmetic surgeon — in this case, a dermatologist.

12. Botox® can cause droopy eyelids.
Myth. If your Botox® treatment is administered properly, the risk of suffering from droopy eyelids is lower than 2%. As with any potential side effect, the condition is temporary and should resolve itself within a few weeks.

13. Botox® will leave you expressionless by freezing your facial muscles.
Myth. There is a balance between the muscles of the face. If too much Botox® is injected, one can easily lose the action of muscles of expression. However, if this muscular balance is maintained, by only injecting small doses into specific muscles, one can have a natural softening of unwanted lines and wrinkles without compromising facial expressions. Patients interested in this procedure should select a physician based on his or her training, education, experience and demonstrated practice history.

14. Botox® was developed by a cosmetic surgeon.
Fact. Botox® was developed by a cosmetic surgeon — in this case, an ophthalmologist.

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Choosing a Cosmetic Surgeon

Cosmetic surgery is a major decision. You should give careful thought to choosing a provider.

Credentials: Don't hesitate to verify a physician's medical license, certifications and professional society memberships and ask what the requirements are to be a member or to be board certified in that specialty.

Demeanor: Credentials are important, but make sure you are comfortable with the personal rapport between you and your surgeon. You should feel at ease with the staff, as much of your communication will be with them. Your concerns should always be addressed. Do not be satisfied with an incomplete answer.

Experience: Ask about the surgeon's medical education and training specific to cosmetic surgery and the procedure which you are considering. How many procedures of this kind has the doctor done and how often does he or she perform them?

Referrals: Keep in mind that physicians specialize in different areas of cosmetic surgery. Most are not experts in every area. The surgeon who did a fantastic facelift on a friend may not be the most experienced to perform breast augmentation. Before-and-after photographs can give you some indication of a surgeon's ability, although you must realize that they cannot guarantee the result you will achieve. Each patient is different and the surgeon can help determine what kind of results you should expect.

Options: Don't be afraid to consult with more than one cosmetic surgeon to discuss your desired outcome. There may be more than one technique available with varying risks, benefits, recovery time and results.

Ask where your surgery will be performed: Cosmetic procedures are performed in various facilities such as hospitals, surgical centers and office settings. An accredited surgical facility must meet certain minimum standards to obtain and maintain its accreditation. Facilities may be accredited by the Accreditation Association of Ambulatory Healthcare or the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

Beware:
  • A doctor who is impatient and rushes you to make a decision on your surgery and/or an environment that is not sterile.

  • A doctor who is willing to combine several major surgeries into one operation. While this may save on anesthesia and surgical facility fees, safety must be the primary concern. Not only is surgery traumatic on your body, but the surgeon and staff tire out as well. Discuss the timing of surgery with your physician and inquire about the safest method of achieving your desired results.

  • A doctor that refuses to answer questions or provide you with requested information.

Find a Local Surgeon

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About Cosmetic Surgery

Frequently Asked Questions About Cosmetic Surgery

Q. What is the difference between cosmetic and plastic surgery?

A. Cosmetic surgery is a unique discipline of medicine focused on enhancing appearance through surgical and medical techniques. Cosmetic surgery can be performed on all areas of the head, neck and body. Because treated areas function properly but lack aesthetic appeal, cosmetic surgery is elective.

Plastic surgery is defined as a surgical specialty dedicated to reconstruction of facial and body defects due to birth disorders, trauma, burns, and disease. Plastic surgery is intended to correct dysfunctional areas of the body and is reconstructive in nature.

Q. How does the education differ between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon?

A. Because the procedures and outcomes of each are quite different, the training of cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons is also very different. As there are no residency programs specifically focused on cosmetic surgery, physicians pursuing cosmetic surgery have backgrounds that include medical school, a residency and/or fellowship program, preferably in a surgical specialty, usually followed by attaining board certification in that specialty, and post-residency training specifically in cosmetic surgery. This can be done through a cosmetic surgery fellowship program, as well as through workshops, seminars and lectures. Physicians with significant experience in cosmetic surgery become certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS), which has established a strict set of criteria to ensure experience and proficiency specifically in cosmetic surgery.

Plastic surgeons follow a similar path as many cosmetic surgeons. However, after finishing medical school they complete a residency and/or fellowship in plastic surgery, and then may become certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. At this point, a plastic surgeons additional training in cosmetic surgery is optional. If they choose, they may take steps to gain experience in cosmetic surgery through a fellowship training program, workshops, seminars and lectures, and then become certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery after having completed the necessary requirements.

Board certification is extremely important in determining a surgeon's qualifications. Each of the aforementioned certifying boards has very different requirements and measures a physician's education and experience in different fields. It is important that the public as well as healthcare professionals understand these differences so patients can make informed decisions when choosing a surgeon for a specific procedure, whether it is a cosmetic or plastic surgeon. Education and patient safety are at the very core of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS) mission to advance the specialty of cosmetic surgery and quality patient care. As the only Academy for providing continuing medical education to cosmetic surgeons, AACS believes adhering to these principles provides the public with reassurance of the formal training and advanced education of cosmetic surgeons.

Q. What does it mean to be "Board Certified"?

A. Board certification is one of the many yardsticks in determining a surgeon's qualifications. It is important to ask your doctor about his or her credentials and study them carefully. Each certifying board has different requirements and measures a physician's education and experience in different fields. Check your doctor's board certification and professional society affiliation(s) and call the board or society to find out what the requirements are for membership.

All Fellows of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery are certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery and/or have their initial board certification by one of the member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) such as the American Boards of Dermatology, Otolaryngology, Ophthalmology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Plastic Surgery. This provides some assurance of formal training in the fundamentals of cosmetic surgery. All of these specialty boards require at least four years of residency training in plastic and/or cosmetic surgical procedures and provide a solid base for the doctor's skills.

Many of these board-certified physicians will then go on to complete the requirements to undergo the rigorous oral and written testing and scrutiny to become board-certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, which has established a strict set of criteria to ensure experience and proficiency specifically in cosmetic surgery.

Q. What is the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery?

A. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is the only certifying board exam devoted to examining a surgeon's skill in cosmetic surgery of the face and body. It is an independent sub-specialty board that examines and certifies physicians in general, facial and dermatological cosmetic surgery.
Eligibility requirements include:
  • Being certified in one of several ABMS Boards (including the American Board of Plastic Surgery, American Board of Surgery, American Board of Dermatologic Surgery, or the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery)
  • Completing an AACS-approved fellowship, or
  • Being in practice a minimum of six years and having performed at least 1000 cosmetic surgery cases
  • Passing a stringent two-day oral and written examination
  • Being of good moral character
You can learn more about the ABCS and find physicians board-certified in cosmetic surgery at www.americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org.

Q. Where can I find out if a doctor has had malpractice suits against him/her? Where can I file a complaint against a physician?

A. Each state has its own Medical Board that licenses physicians and tracks complaints and disciplinary actions taken against physicians of all disciplines. Most states have online systems to quickly look up doctors by name. Contact your state's Medical Board or Department of Health to find the correct office. A listing of State Medical Boards may be found at www.fsmb.org under "Board Directory."

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