The desire to become fitter, "more attractive," younger versions of ourselves has fueled a multibillion-dollar-a-year cosmetic surgery industry. But whether cosmetic surgery is right for you depends on what you hope to gain from having a procedure. While cosmetic surgery can do a lot for you, it cannot solve everything.
What it can and can’t do
Cosmetic procedures primarily address two things: skin issues like wrinkles, sagging skin, and spots, and the shape of the face or other body parts. Cosmetic procedures aimed at improving skin quality can change skin tone, texture, pigmentation, firmness, or a combination of these things. Other procedures are designed to fine-tune a particular body part—for instance, trimming down love handles, straightening the nose, or enlarging or lifting the breasts.
Whatever your goals, it’s important to go into cosmetic surgery with realistic expectations. One of the most common reasons people are dissatisfied with the result of a procedure is that they expect too much from it. It isn’t reasonable to expect that a procedure will provide perfect symmetry, make you look like your favorite celebrity, or restore your face or body to that of a 20-year-old. Although it can improve your appearance, it can’t create perfection. And while plastic surgery can boost confidence and rejuvenate the face and body, it cannot fix bigger life issues, for example, a broken marriage or unhappy partnership.
As you think about what you hope to achieve with a cosmetic procedure, keep in mind the following cautions from experts in the field:
- Do not expect magic. Every procedure has its limitations and disadvantages. A perfect body is not a realistic expectation.
- If you decide to have a procedure, make sure you’re doing it because you want to, not because your partner, family members, or friends are urging you to do it.
- Tell the doctor the specific problem you want to solve or what area you want to enhance. Ask how realistic your expectations are.
- Do not seek cosmetic surgery to look like someone else, especially a famous person. The following are more realistic reasons for seeking a procedure:
- You want to look younger or feel more confident.
- You are so uncomfortable with a feature that you avoid doing things you would like to do.
- This feature makes you feel uncomfortable or leads to teasing or cruel remarks that affect your emotional well-being.
- You have tried lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, and they have not worked.
For more information on what to expect and what to avoid with cosmetic surgery, read Your Consumer Guide to Cosmetic Surgery, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
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