Wanting vs. Needing Plastic Surgery: Why it’s Essential to Discuss Reasonable Expectations

The rise in the popularity of E!’s show Botched, which chronicles the work of two plastic surgeons who help patients undergo reconstructive plastic surgery (most often to correct previous procedures that went terribly wrong), brings into the spotlight a very important distinction on the difference between needing and wanting plastic surgery. On a recent interview with USA Today, Botched’s Drs. Dumbrow and Nassif discussed this distinction and why they feel their show is a cautionary tale.

There is a reason that plastic surgery is most often categorized as an elective procedure, and that’s because it usually is. I speak openly and honestly with my patients about this during each and every consultation. Nine times out of ten, a procedure is not medically necessary. That is not to say that patients should not pursue a cosmetic procedure, but it is incredibly important to be very clear about expectations from the get go.

As a society we are bombarded with images of “perfection.” Photo-shopped pictures of models or celebrities fill our TV screens, our smart phones, the magazines we read, and now–thanks to wearable technology–even our watches! When patients come to me in search of perfection, I quickly advise them perfection is not possible. It simply doesn’t exist.

Many of the patients on Botched have undergone procedure after procedure in search of the unattainable, and end up horribly disfigured and sometimes disabled. Some of them suffer from body dysmorphic disorder and would be best served to seek the help of a mental health professional, rather than a plastic surgeon.

Now, it may seem a bit strange that I am spending so much time talking about not getting plastic surgery. But, the core message is this: if you are interested in tweaking a portion of your appearance, perhaps your nose has always made you self-conscious, or you wish to reverse the signs of aging with a facelift, by all means, an elective plastic surgery procedure could give you a new feeling of confidence and youthfulness.

However, if your motivation is to change everything about your body, because you are unhappy with all of it, no amount of plastic surgery can accomplish that. And, even if it could, chances are you would still be unhappy.

I take my job as a plastic surgeon very seriously. It’s important that my patients are pleased with the end results. In my opinion, a conversation about realistic expectations and the motivation behind wanting plastic surgery is the best way to start.