Take one scroll through Instagram and you’ll no doubt agree that the number of people getting cosmetic procedures, and even plastic surgery, is on the rise. If you’re tempted, or you’re looking to become more informed in order to tackle conversations you may need to have with your kids in the future, there are a few things you should know.
Dr Naveen Somia is a plastic surgeon and the immediate past president of the Australian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS). Knowing that the demand for aesthetic cosmetic procedures is higher than ever (blame it on the ‘Zoom effect’, or the extra disposable income we have with travel off the cards) we asked him to lift the lid on the wide, wild world of aesthetic procedures.
Plastic surgery vs. cosmetic procedures: What’s the difference?
“First and foremost, it’s important to note the difference between plastic surgery and a cosmetic procedure,” says Dr Naveen. “Plastic surgery is invasive and can reverse the effects of aging, while a cosmetic procedure is non-surgical, either minimally invasive or non-invasive, and requires regular top-ups.”
There is a difference, too, between plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons – in fact, according to ASAPS, ‘cosmetic surgeon’ is a fake title.
“Are they one and the same? No, and knowing the difference is essential to help you make an informed choice.”
Plastic surgeons have undergone accredited surgical training, maintain a lifelong commitment to Excellence in Cosmetic Surgery and are registered as specialists in plastic surgery by Australia’s National Medical Regulator AHPRA. Cosmetic surgeons are doctors without accredited surgical training, who aren’t recognised as specialists by AHPRA.
“I urge all patients to educate themselves and learn the difference,” says Dr Naveen. “The latter is an expert who is appropriately qualified to perform that surgery, the former is not an official title for a specialist surgeon in Australia.”
Why are these procedures on the rise?
Dr Naveen has also noticed an increase in the number of people wanting plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures, and credits this to a number of factors.
“Rapid advances in science and technology mean these procedures are now safer and can deliver good results with low risk and minimal downtime,” says Dr Naveen. “There’s also been an increased societal acceptance of plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures, with celebrity endorsements, the social media boom, and regular reporting in the media.
“Plus, increasing levels of prosperity and discretionary spending means more people are willing to pay, while medical tourism has made surgery both more affordable and more aspirational.”
The current most popular plastic surgery procedures are breast augmentations, liposuction and eyelid surgery, while anti-wrinkle injections, dermal fillers and hair removal are the leading non-surgical cosmetic procedures.
“The main reason my patients pursue plastic surgery is to look good and feel good by restoring a more youthful appearance, or reverse changes brought on by aging, childbirth or massive weight loss,” says Dr Naveen.
Where should you start if you’re considering a cosmetic procedure or plastic surgery?
Research is key, and thankfully, there has never been more information available – provided you know where to look.
“Consumers are increasingly making decisions based on the aesthetic results they see on others without researching the surgeon’s qualifications ahead of time,” says Dr Naveen. “It never hurts to do more research about both the procedure and the practitioner.”
The overexposure and trivialisation of plastic surgery could lead many to see it as risk-free and a quick and easy lunchtime fix. Nothing can be further from the truth.
“Plastic surgery is real, invasive surgery that should only be performed in a hospital licensed to provide it, with all the necessary safeguards to ensure patient safety and good results,” says Dr Naveen. “Unfortunately, when patient safety is compromised things can go horribly wrong.”
While Dr Naveen agrees the deluge of information and made up titles have made the market complex and confusing, failure to research could mean missing out on the safety and skill needed to deliver high-level results. Before any procedure, thoroughly research the risk, benefits, expected outcomes, downtime and costs.
“While there is usually plenty of information about the procedure, there may not be enough information about the practitioner,” says Dr Naveen. “The only place to find out if your chosen practitioner is a registered specialist surgeon via the AHPRA website. In Australia, a comprehensive list of plastic surgeons who specialise in cosmetic surgery is found on the ASAPS website.”
When shouldn’t you undergo plastic surgery?
“If it becomes evident that a patients’ expectations cannot be adequately met by a plastic surgical procedure, I will always communicate this,” says Dr Naveen. “On the other hand, if a non-surgical cosmetic procedure will achieve what they want, then I’ll suggest they consider that avenue.”
If a specialist plastic surgeon feels the patient has unrealistic expectations, the wrong motivations or is battling with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, their screening tool will identify these issues and the patient may be asked to seek psychological support.
“That ‘overdone look’ is due to the combination of a willing patient who is unable to define the limit of what is normal and a poorly skilled practitioner who is unable to appreciate normal, balanced and proportional human form and aesthetics,” says Dr Naveen.
When it comes to children or young people, while some plastic surgery can produce life-changing results (when used to correct birth defects like cleft lip and hand deformities, for example) cosmetic surgery is a different story.
“The risk of cosmetic surgery on the very young is that it may not be necessary, and there may be non-surgical options that could offer similar, if not better, outcomes,” says Dr Naveen. “There is also the risk that the patient may not have had enough time to make an informed choice.”
Again, research is key – and parents have an important role to play in this. Only by becoming informed about the risks, rewards and realities of plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures can you help your children make the right decisions. Know also that the plastic surgery industry has taken measures to help young people.
“There are numerous safeguards in place to prevent young people from accessing cosmetic surgery, including a mandatory cooling off period and additional medical oversight from a GP or psychologist,” says Dr Naveen. “I’m never afraid to advise against surgery if it’s not appropriate to the situation.”