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Facing the facts about cosmetic surgery

Facing the facts about cosmetic surgery

Thinking about reshaping your nose or having your acne scars removed? Here’s what you should know before you take the plunge into cosmetic surgery.

Jana hated her nose. “It was too big for my face,” Jana says. For her 16th birthday, Jana’s parents agreed to pay for a rhinoplasty, or nose job. Jana and her parents visited several local plastic surgeons to find out what was involved. Jana especially liked Dr. Cole, who showed her “before” and “after” photos of many patients who had gone through the procedure with him. Dr. Cole spent time answering all of Jana’s questions and even made a computer-generated model of how her new nose would look.

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“I felt really comfortable with Dr. Cole and decided to go for it,” Jana recalls. “He was honest about the amount of pain and trauma I would go through, and I felt like he really knew what he was doing.”

Jana was happy with the results. “I felt like I was attractive for the first time in my life. My new nose was perfect. While I was realistic enough to know it wouldn’t make me a movie star, I felt much better about myself. I knew I had done the right thing.”

What Is Cosmetic Surgery?

Less-than-perfect noses, acne scars, and unsightly fat deposits are a fact of life for many people. While not damaging to health, those conditions can severely affect a person’s self-esteem. Modern medicine offers many procedures for correcting these situations.

Cosmetic surgery is one type of plastic surgery. The word plastic comes from the Greek term “plastikos,” meaning to mold or form. It is a type of surgery that reshapes the face or body. The other type of plastic surgery is called reconstructive surgery. It involves repairing problems caused by severe birth defects, illness, or accidents.

Since cosmetic surgery is not a necessary medical procedure, most medical insurance plans do not pay for it. Procedures can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

Making the Decision

Before a person decides to undergo cosmetic surgery for any reason, he or she needs to take the time to do some important homework. First, the reasons for wanting the surgery should be considered. “Undergo the surgery for yourself–and only for yourself,” says Diana Barry, author of Nips and Tucks: Everything You Must Know Before Having Cosmetic Surgery. Barry points out that a best friend’s opinion should not be the reason a person chooses cosmetic surgery.Facing the facts about cosmetic surgery (4)

Second, your expectations should be realistic. If a young woman is considering liposuction on her hips because she thinks it will make her more popular, that is not a realistic enough goal to warrant surgery.

Third, it is important to remember that any type of surgery carries risks. These issues should be thoroughly and frankly discussed with a doctor. Experts recommend choosing a doctor who is experienced in the procedure you are considering and is certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties as either a plastic surgeon, a dermatologist, or a dermatologic surgeon. Doctors should supply actual patient photos and give information about complications and follow-up care.

See www.plasticsurgery.org for information on procedures and for a doctor search service.

Reshaping Noses

Among teens, the most common cosmetic surgeries are rhinoplasty, acne scar removal, liposuction, otoplasty, breast augmentation, and breast reduction.Facing the facts about cosmetic surgery (1)

Modern rhinoplasty techniques do a much better job of building a natural-looking nose than older techniques did. Newer rhinoplasty techniques reshape rather than remove cartilage, so the new nose stay intact over time. This operation is usually done under general anesthesia and takes a couple of hours. Swelling, bruising, bleeding, and moderate pain are common.

Some people do not require a full rhinoplasty to change the shape of their nose. Sometimes all that’s needed is a cartilage or silicone rubber implant to smooth out the contours.

Acne Scar Removal

Acne can leave scars that last long past the teen years. The scars are usually either of the ice pick (pitted) or depressed crater form. A dermatologist is able to recommend the technique that is best for the type of scars being removed. Acne scar removal is done in a doctor’s office and usually involves local anesthesia, which means the patient is awake during the procedure and experiences mild to moderate pain.Facing the facts about cosmetic surgery (3)

One technique is called dermabrasion. The doctor freezes or anesthetizes the skin, then scrapes away a layer of it with a rotary instrument like a sander. A new, smoother layer of skin grows to replace the scraped layer.

Microdermabrasion is a new type of dermabrasion that uses aluminum oxide crystals passing through a vacuum tube to scrape the scarred skin. It produces far less irritation and heals much faster than traditional dermabrasion.

Other techniques include:

  • Excision and punch replacement graft. The doctor surgically cuts out acne scars and transplants a piece of skin from elsewhere on the body to fill the hole.
  • Soft-tissue augmentation. The doctor injects fat from elsewhere on the body or artificial collagen under the acne scar to plump it up. Collagen is a chemical that makes skin elastic. This technique gives only temporary results.
  • Chemical peels. The doctor applies chemical solutions to the skin to remove the outer layer. This generally works best for mild scars.

The newest acne scar removal technique uses an ultrapulse carbon dioxide laser or an Erbium YAG laser to remove the top layer of skin. The doctor controls how deeply and intensely the laser beam is focused. Usually, the patient has moderate pain, reddening, and blistering, but the skin heals in three to 10 days with proper care.


Liposuction reduces the number of fat cells in people who just can’t seem to shed pockets of fat. It is never a solution for being overweight, and only should be done over limited areas of the body, such as the thighs.


Otoplasty is surgery to reconstruct ears that are damaged or irregularly shaped. The doctor places stitches in the cartilage to hold the ear in position until the new shape heals in several months. The operation takes place in the doctor’s office with local anesthesia.

Breast Augmentation and Reduction

Breast enhancement is a bit more invasive than many cosmetic surgery techniques and is usually done with general anesthesia.Facing the facts about cosmetic surgery (2)

Although it’s not talked about as much as breast augmentation, both women and men have breast reduction surgery.

Other Procedures

Lip enhancement is a procedure sought by some to plump up thin lips. A new technique uses lightweight Gore-Tex fibers, which are permanent.

Lasers are being used for other cosmetic procedures including hair removal, hair transplantation, and tattoo removal. The laser the doctor uses depends on the colors in the tattoo. The procedure is done under local anesthesia and is somewhat painful.

Any kind of surgery can be risky. The risks, costs, and healing process should be thoroughly discussed with the doctor before making a decision.

Cosmetic Surgery Terms

  1. Breast augmentation–surgery to increase the size of the breasts
  2. Breast reduction–surgery to decrease the size of the breasts
  3. Dermatologist–a medical doctor who specializes in treating the skin
  4. Laser (light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation)–a narrowly focused beam of light used in many medical procedures
  5. Liposuction–surgical removal of small areas of fat by suctioning
  6. Otoplasty–surgical reshaping of the ear
  7. Plastic surgeon–a medical doctor who specializes in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery
  8. Rhinoplasty–surgical reshaping of the nose
  9. Skin resurfacing–removing the outer layer of skin to eliminate wrinkles, scars, or other imperfections

Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition)
Abramovitz, Melissa. “Facing the facts about COSMETIC SURGERY.” Current Health 2, a Weekly Reader publication Feb. 2001: 19. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.


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