Choosing Cosmetic Surgery

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on October 02, 2021
3 min read

People get cosmetic surgery for many reasons. Some want to look younger. Others seek to change a feature they've never liked.

The decision is personal. One of the keys is to set realistic expectations.

Cosmetic surgery won't change your life. It won't solve personal problems or make you look like someone else. But it may give you greater self-confidence and add to your sense of well-being.

Successful results often depend, in part, on how well you and your surgeon communicate. Make sure you feel comfortable with your surgeon and that you are open with them about your goals and questions.

Many people have good reasons for seeking cosmetic surgery. They've thought it over carefully, are in good health, have good self-esteem, understand the risks of the procedure they're considering, and are doing it for themselves.

Other people, however, are doing it to try to please someone else -- often their spouse or partner -- and their hopes go way beyond what the procedure can do.

Ask yourself:

  • Why are you considering cosmetic surgery? The healthiest reason to have cosmetic surgery is to improve your self-image -- the way you feel about yourself. People who have a strong self-image are usually more confident, effective in work and social situations, and comfortable with their relationships.
  • Are you having cosmetic surgery to please others or yourself? Make sure you’re considering cosmetic surgery for yourself. You'll probably be disappointed if you’re having cosmetic surgery to please someone else.
  • Are your expectations realistic? Having realistic expectations may be the single most important thing. Cosmetic surgery can dramatically change your appearance, but it has limitations. Talk openly with your surgeon about your goals, and listen to whether they think those goals are reasonable.
  • Are you emotionally prepared for cosmetic surgery? In some situations, cosmetic surgery may not be right for you. These include when you're going through a crisis or an emotional upheaval such as divorce, death of a spouse, or loss of a job. Also, surgeons are reluctant to consider cosmetic surgery for people who have depression or other mental conditions, are impossible to please, or are obsessed with perfection.
  • Is now the best time for cosmetic surgery? Even if you are emotionally prepared for cosmetic surgery, you may want to delay it if you’re distracted. Plan your surgery when you are relaxed and can take the time to heal. Otherwise, you may face a longer and more difficult recovery.
  • How will you adjust to the change in your body image? It may take some time for you to adjust to your new body image. This is especially true for procedures that create a major change to your face, such as nose surgery (rhinoplasty). Procedures such as Botox or wrinkle-filling or volumizing injections, which don't involve surgery, may be easier to get used to.
  • Are you prepared to handle unexpected results? Cosmetic surgeons, like all surgeons, cannot guarantee results. Unexpected outcomes are rare, but when they happen, they're distressing to the patient and surgeon. You should consider the worst-case scenario and whether you’re willing to take that risk. You should also know that if the results aren't good, it will take time, patience, and a mutual trust between you and your surgeon to work toward improvement.
  • Do you have support? It's important to have someone to support you physically and emotionally during your recovery. Realize that you may have days when you feel depressed as you go through the healing process. Beware of negative comments from friends or family members who may have issues with your decision to change your looks. Think about who will be there for you, and decline offers of help from those who may be critical of your decision.
  • Can you afford cosmetic surgery?Health insurance usually doesn't cover cosmetic surgery. Be sure you know all the costs, the payment options, what you can afford, and what it's worth to you.

Knowing why you want cosmetic surgery and whether you're likely to get the results you want will help you decide whether to get the procedure or to reconsider your options.