Seeing more of our faces
Since the pandemic began, many people have been sent home to work and now spend a significant portion of their day staring at their own faces, whether on a video call or in the mirror. For some, this provides ample opportunity to zero in on perceived flaws or to begin considering undergoing a cosmetic surgery procedure.
“We’re all guilty, including me,” says Dr. Stacy Chimento, a board-certified dermatologist with Riverchase Dermatology in Miami. “I didn’t realize I had a ‘turkey neck’ until I started telehealth appointments during COVID,” she jokes.
Couple that near-constant exposure to one’s own visage with the fact that many people are no longer going out in public very much, and when we do, much of the face is covered by a mask. This means that it’s now more possible to have a procedure done without anyone else realizing it, says Dr. Susan Massick, a board-certified dermatologist with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
“For some, this is the perfect time to pursue that cosmetic procedure you had passed on before because you were worried about potential downtime or were self-conscious about anyone noticing,” Massick says.
A surge in cosmetic procedures
Dermatologists around the county have reported a sharp increase in demand for a variety of cosmetic procedures ranging from simple Botox injections to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles to more complex surgical procedures that may result in a more drastic alteration of how you look.
No matter which type of procedure you’re considering, you shouldn’t rush into booking an appointment. Instead, it’s best to do your homework and ask a lot of questions to be sure the procedure is a good choice for your goals, safe and being administered by an experienced practitioner.
9 questions to ask before your cosmetic procedure
If you’re considering getting Botox, lip fillers, a chemical peel or a more invasive procedure, such as a face lift or a rhinoplasty, asking these nine questions of your plastic surgeon or dermatologist ahead of time may help you determine if moving forward is a good idea and a smart use of your time, energy and money.
1. What bothers you about your appearance, and what would you like to change?
First off, you should consider carefully whether you truly need the procedure you’re considering, or whether you’re focusing on your appearance to avoid something else.
Massick notes that “cosmetic surgery may not be the appropriate solution for mental health issues, and it’s important to seek out mental health professionals when needed.”
2. What’s a reasonable expectation for the outcome of this particular procedure?
Dr. Lucy Chen, a board-certified dermatologist also with Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, recommends finding out what a reasonable outcome might be for the intended procedure. Consider what your goals are and what you’d like to see happen, then find out whether your expectations are realistic.
Chen adds that starting small is better than going all in for a big procedure straight away. “Less is more with cosmetic procedures, especially if it’s your first time. You can always add more if it’s not exactly what you expect.”
And be sure to talk with your doctor about when you can expect to start noticing a change after the procedure, as it may take a few days or a couple weeks for your face to fully heal. “Don’t plan to have a procedure right before a big, important event if effects won’t set in for a week,” Chen says.
She also recommends discussing what to do if you’re not satisfied with the results afterwards. Can an injection be redone or corrected? For example, if a lip filler doesn’t look right, can it be dissolved, and how would that process work?
3. What are the risks of the procedure and potential side effects?
From bruising and swelling to a serious infection, there are potential risks with any cosmetic surgery procedure. Be sure to talk through all of them with your doctor before committing to any surgery or procedure. And consider whether the potential risks may outweigh the hoped-for benefits.
4. Who is best suited to help me with this procedure?
Massick says she recommends working with “board-certified dermatologists or plastic surgeons,” and notes that selecting the right doctor isn’t about “who has the flashiest website or the trendiest social media profile.” It’s more about “who has the experience, the appropriate training and credentials, the bedside manner, the professional staff and the ability to handle complications” should any arise.
Chimento agrees that working with an experienced doctor is best. “While there can always be unforeseen complications, even among the best providers, it’s wise to have these treatments performed by professionals who’ve had years of extensive training. The reason being, if there’s a complication, they’ve been trained on how to treat it.”
The number of cosmetic centers, spas and studios that have popped up lately has increased around the country, and while some of these places have experienced clinical staff on hand, some of them employ primarily aestheticians.
These individuals have been trained in some skin care procedures, such as administering facials and other treatments, but they aren’t licensed to perform injections without supervision by a medical professional, such as a physician or a dentist.
Be aware of who will be administering the actual injection if you’re thinking about having Botox or a similar procedure. In all cases, be sure to fully vet anyone you may be considering working with and check whether there have been any complaints to local licensing or certification bureaus.
5. How much will the procedure cost?
Cosmetic surgery procedures are rarely covered by health insurance plans, and as such, are typically paid for out of pocket. “Knowing the price for these procedures is important,” and you should find out exactly what you’ll get for that money, Chen says.
Massick adds “be careful of lowest prices, Groupons or high-pressure sales tactics. Cheapest is never best.”
It’s also critical that you ask what products will be used, Chimento says. There are a variety of drugs on the market that can be used to smooth wrinkles or fill lips, and each one is a little different. Be sure your doctor explains what you’re getting and why that’s the best choice for your face.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked patients what they’ve used in the past and they can’t recall,” Chimento adds. “This is very important information to have in case there are long-term complications.”
6. What COVID-19 protocols will I have to follow?
Early in the pandemic many elective procedures were suspended, but recently, many providers have resumed offering such services with special safety precautions. Be sure you know and understand what you’ll be expected to do before your procedure, such as getting a COVID-19 test or being vaccinated.
7. How should I prepare for the procedure?
Many procedures require patients to skip tanning or avoid sun exposure before the procedure. You may also be instructed to use certain skin products to prep the area or to make some other adjustments to get ready, such as avoid exercise.
You may also be told to avoid blood thinners, alcohol and any supplements that can increase your risk of bruising prior to a procedure. Follow your doctor’s pre-procedure advice.
8. What should I expect after the surgery or procedure?
Massick notes that you may be told to continue limiting sun exposure after a procedure and to always use sunblock. You may also need to lay off exercise for a period of time to allow full healing. Ask about after-care to ensure the best possible outcome and limit risk of infection or other complications.
It’s also worth noting that injectables like Botox and Restylane don’t last forever. Discuss with your doctor what to expect in terms of the durability of the treatment and when you might need to have it done again to maintain the results.
9. How long will recovery take?
Depending on the procedure, your recovery time might be a few hours or a few weeks. “There’s typically very little recovery time for Botox,” Chen says. “Fillers and lasers may have a longer recovery time as there is a greater chance of the skin needing time to heal or recover.”
After laser resurfacing treatment, for example, your skin will be very dry and peel for about five to seven days, and optimal healing takes about 10 to 21 days. For lip and cheek fillers, you’re looking at about a week to 10 days for any swelling and bruising to subside.
If you’re looking to enhance your appearance in advance of a big event like a wedding or an important meeting, give yourself enough time to fully recover. “It can take a few days for neurotoxins (like Botox) to take effect,” Chimento says. As such, she recommends having the injection two to three weeks prior to the big day.
With laser resurfacing — which can result in a fair amount of skin peeling — or skin-tightening procedures, you may need even more time to allow swelling to abate and the final results to emerge. Be sure to discuss with your doctor what to expect and how to make sure your recovery is as swift and successful as possible.
These are elective procedures.
Lastly, Massick notes there’s no reason you have to undergo the procedure if, upon reflection, you decide you don’t want to. “Elective procedures are just that — they’re elective. It’s OK to change your mind.”
And, she notes that “there’s still a pandemic going on. Your overall medical and mental health are more important than any cosmetic procedure.”
9 questions to ask a dermatologist or plastic surgeon before your cosmetic procedure:
— What bothers you about your appearance, and what would you like to change?
— What’s a reasonable expectation for the outcome of this particular procedure?
— What are the risks of the procedure and potential side effects?
— Who is best suited to help me with this procedure?
— How much will the procedure cost?
— What COVID-19 protocols will I have to follow?
— How should I prepare for the procedure?
— What should I expect after the surgery or procedure?
— How long will recovery take?