Your part in choosing your plastic surgeon starts before the consultation. Before you decide to go through with a plastic surgery procedure, it’s very important to know and understand your motive.

Here’s a list of the most common motives for plastic surgery:

  • To restore a more youthful appearance.
  • To replace the natural curves of the body, eliminating fat stores.
  • To look stunning or more striking.
  • To normalize a part of the body that was congenitally abnormal.
  • To look fit.
  • To look like a celebrity.
  • To enhance how you look right now.

Knowing your motivation for the procedure and relaying this to your doctor is an important part of the process of finding the ideal surgeon for your next cosmetic procedure. In fact, plastic surgeons are doctors that are a lot more astute at listening to what their patients say.

Guess What...Doctors are Screening You, Too!

They must screen patients to make sure the patient’s motivation for the procedure is reasonable. For example, according to Dr. Jonathan Sykes, M.D., patients who have any of the following characteristics will be told they are not a candidate for a procedure:

  • Overly demanding.
  • Highly critical.
  • Have a poor self-image.
  • Those with anatomical malformations in the body such as breasts that are not symmetrical.

An overly demanding patient or one who is highly critical will often not be happy with results, no matter how good the surgeon is. Those with a poor self-image are often depending on the surgical procedure to totally transform their life but thinking starts within the brain, not on the skin!

You might be thinking, “Well, that’s nice to know, but I’m not demanding or critical and my self image is good. What else should I consider? I want a good doctor!”

It might be helpful for you to know how medical school program directors and doctors in charge of plastic surgery programs accept students into their programs. This may help you relieve any anxiety you might have regarding having a disastrous experience with a plastic surgeon.

In a study that surveyed 295 doctors and professors in charge of admittance at five top schools found very interesting results on how applicants were screened for acceptance:

  • Tufts University School f Medicine in Boston.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital Plastic Surgery Department.
  • Center for Surgery & Public Health, Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.
  • University of Southern California Plastic Surgery Department.
  • University of Florida Plastic Surgery Department.

They found that the most important factor was qualified letters of recommendation from professionals practicing in the field. Character evaluations identified honesty as the most desirable trait; dishonesty was the most despised.

Maturity, commitment to patients, a strong team player and no hint of narcissistic tendencies were traits that were predictive of successful and productive plastic surgery residencies and careers.

What You Need in A Plastic Surgeon

All that is good and well, but what do other studies tell us about how to select the best plastic surgeon?

A study done at the University of California at Irvine surveyed 100 patients aged between 19 and 72 to find out what was really motivating them to select a plastic surgeon. The patients were asked what factors played a role in their choice of plastic surgeons and the answers that came back that were quite interesting:

  • Board Certification status 39.7% gladly rated this as most important.
  • Method of referral 23.5%.
  • Travel distance 13.2% said yes, this was most important.
  • Office décor 9%.
  • Number of years in practice 7.5%.
  • Procedure cost 7.2%.

What About Preferences Between Male and Female Doctors?

Stanford University researchers found that of 200 female patients in the beginning phases of choosing a plastic surgeon, only 1% of them requested a male doctor. 26% requested a female surgeon.

Yet, when it was considered whether or not patients would request a particular plastic surgeon by name, 53.7% requested a male surgeon by name and 46.3% requested a female surgeon by name.

How Do I Choose a Plastic Surgeon?

1. What are the plastic surgeon's specialties?

Look at the doctor’s website and see if there’s a match of procedure that you want with their list of specialties. Generally speaking, a plastic surgeon will either specialize in the face OR the body. If you’re seeking a facial procedure, you need a pro in this area.

If you end up with two different looking eyes from a blepharoplasty, you’ll end up needing a revision. According to Dr. Julian De Silva from the UK, the human eye can see a difference between eyes of less than 1 mm. Attention to the smallest of details has to be one of your screening points when selecting the best plastic surgeon.

Another tip to consider is to choose a plastic surgeon that specializes in cosmetic versus reconstructive surgery.Reconstructive surgery is surgery for rebuilding an area, such as what is needed in tumor repair. It’s not what you need in most cases because the look is secondary to the tumor removal or the actual reconstruction.

2. Look at reviews of the doctors you are considering

No one can ever expect a 100% satisfaction rate but look for the majority of opinions headed in a good direction. Who do you know that had an experience with this physician? What were his/her comments?

3. Cosmetic surgeon or a board-certified plastic surgeon qualification

A cosmetic surgeon could be one of various types of physicians, such as a family practice doctor, an OB/GYN, or an anesthesiologist. A board-certified plastic surgeon is actually one of these fields – dermatology, plastic surgery, oral maxillofacial surgery, oculoplastic surgery, or facial plastic surgery.

These disciplines involve very extensive training of 5+ years, continuing education, and careful scrutiny of competence.

Additionally, are they a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons or the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons? This second association makes it mandatory for physicians to show proof that they perform a certain number of procedures each year.

4. Before and after photos

When before and after photos are plentiful, then it’s obvious that the surgeon really is quite competent. 5,000 rhinoplasties is much more of a qualified surgeon than someone who has only done 100.

5. Does the surgeon fix surgical mistakes from other cosmetic surgeons?

A surgeon who does make revisions is capable of thinking in multi-dimensions about the type of surgeries they do.

6. The surgeon’s personality

Use your social discernment skills. What’s the doctor like? What’s the staff like? How they treat you before the surgery is an example of how they will treat you after the surgery. You want someone that will be there for you post surgical care. (Read Your Guide to Rhinoplasty Recovery.)

The doctor that you select for your procedure should understand your preferences – and not necessarily try to steer you in a new direction. They should give you options for treatment but let the choice be yours.

7. Fully accredited and certified operating room in the office

Some doctors will have hospital privileges while others work in their own operating room within their office. Having hospital privileges is the best scenario because otherwise, if something happens during surgery, you will be transported to the Emergency Room.

8. Constantly training and learning

We’re in an age of many new plastic surgical procedures that have already totally transformed how you could look. If your doctor is constantly learning new techniques, these new ideas will be passed along to you. The new techniques are ones that decrease downtime and recovery time and result in enhanced looks. They increase your options.

For example, in a blepharoplasty, there may be several different procedures that you need. For example, there are procedures called Asian blepharoplasty, male blepharoplasty, upper blepharoplasty, lower blepharoplasty, hidden incision blepharoplasty, fat transfer, fat transposition, and CO2 laser.

The more the physician knows, the greater the likelihood you will get the best look. You don’t want revisions; you want the procedure done right the first time.

The bottom line question is this: Can they achieve what you need? If not, strive higher and keep looking.

9. Low revision rate

You don’t want to go under the knife twice. 20% of all rhinoplasty patients end up getting a revision. You don’t want this!

10. Their answers to your questions at the consultation

At your plastic surgery consultation, tell the physician your past surgical history, health history, and what you are thinking.

Ask them what will be done during the procedure, how long recovery time is, and will there be scarring? Read Considering Rhinoplasty? Here Are 5 Things to Ask Your Doctor.)

Come in prepared with a complete list of questions. As long as you do your due diligence, you'll be sure to find your best plastic surgeon.