Things to consider before choosing cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery is becoming more and more popular in the UK.  Advances in plastic surgery, coupled with the vast range of treatments on offer, means there is now a bewildering array of cosmetic procedures available to the public. 

If you are considering cosmetic surgery, it is essential that you think carefully about what you want and why you want it. You need to approach all cosmetic procedures, both surgical and non-surgical, in a safe and considered way; do not rush in, take your time – no matter how urgently you want something done. It is important that you assess your options, do your research and find the right surgeon for the job. You’ll only get the result you want if you have a cosmetic procedure for the right reasons, at the right time, in the right place and with an appropriately qualified Plastic Surgeon- or other specialty surgeon - with the right credentials who understands your needs.  There will be times when a responsible and experienced surgeon will advise you against a procedure you are requesting if they think that is in your best interest even if you feel you want to go ahead.

The vast majority of cosmetic procedures end with satisfied patients. Following the process on this checklist will help you decide what is best for you and help ensure that your experience is a happy and rewarding one.

The 5 C's cosmetic surgery checklist

1. Think about the CHANGE you want to see  Do your research. Find out all you can about the treatment/s you want.  Be precise as to the change you hope to see and the reasons why. Be open to all your wishes perhaps not being achievable.

2. CHECK OUT potential surgeons.  If you are thinking about cosmetic surgery, speak to your GP. Make sure that you find a surgeon who has the right qualifications and is on the appropriate specialist register with the GMC. Fully qualified Plastic Surgeons will be on the GMC Specialist Register for Plastic Surgery. (You can find the register through the GMC website here). Find out about their experience of the procedure you are considering and make sure you meet them and discuss the outcome you can expect before you commit to having something done.

3. Have a thorough CONSULTATION and ask the right questions. Your surgeon will discuss and clarify the treatment options with you and then plan your treatment.   Find out as much as possible by bringing along questions so you know the risks involved and feel comfortable with the surgeon who will be carrying out your surgery.

4. COOL off before you commit.. You need to be confident about your decision to have cosmetic surgery.  So after your initial consultation, give yourself some time to ensure that you want the surgery and to make sure you feel at ease with the surgeon who will be treating you.  Don’t commit to surgery if you have any doubts that either the procedure, or the surgeon, is the right one for you. Often your surgeon will advise a second consultation before the final decisions are made. Beware of pressure from free consultations, time sensitive discounts and other offers influencing your choices and decisions.

5. CARE about your aftercare. Aftercare can be just as important as the surgery itself, so make sure you know who to contact and how you will be looked after, especially if there are any complications or problems following your surgery or treatment.

Read more by clicking the links below

1. Think about the CHANGE you want to see

The decision to have cosmetic surgery should not be made lightly.  You need to be honest with yourself about what you want to have done and what you expect it to achieve.  Are there any alternatives that will allow you to avoid surgery?  

It is also important to do your homework before going ahead.  Whether it is about finding the right treatment or ensuring the surgery will achieve the change you want, it is essential that you spend time researching and looking for information specific to the surgery you are considering.  

Start your research by visiting the NHS Choices website.

In addition, our patient information guides provide useful patient information on the different cosmetic surgery options available.

2. CHECK OUT potential surgeons

How do you get the best advice?  It is essential to do your own research, but you can ask your GP to refer you to someone who is known and trusted.  Your GP knows your medical history and will have insights into local services and offer impartial advice.

You should always seek advice from an experienced practitioner. They will be able to tell you whether the surgery is suitable for you and what the risks and benefits of any particular cosmetic procedure are. Don’t opt for an organisation whose credentials are uncertain, or where cosmetic treatments are being offered on the cheap. Beware of anyone trying to tie you into a surgical procedure via a non-refundable deposit and bear in mind that if you do opt for cut-price surgery, you may pay for it later.  

Fully qualified Plastic Surgeons will be on the GMC Specialist Register for Plastic Surgery. (You can find the register through the GMC website here) . Find out about their experience of the procedure you are considering and make sure you meet them and discuss the outcome you can expect before you commit to having something done. 

Your surgeon should provide you with a proper consultation and advice, and allow you adequate time to make an informed decision, based on the identified risks and benefits. If your surgeon is also a member of BAPRAS then they are not only listed on the GMC Specialist Register but also adhere to a further strict code of practice around quality of patient care. 

Surgeons from other surgical specialties also provide cosmetic surgery within particular anatomically specific areas of the body but, once again, you should check that they are on the GMC Specialist Register for the discipline in which they have trained, as well as checking their outcomes.

BAPRAS is currently working with the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee (CSIC)  to advance recommendations that will ensure all cosmetic surgeons, whether from a Plastic Surgery background or not, can prove high standards of training in the areas they are practicing. However, as these recommendations are not currently in place, use of the GMC Specialist Register is recommended as the safest approach to choosing your surgeon.  

You can check online to find out if a surgeon is on the General Medical Council’s Specialist Register for Plastic Surgery (or call 0845 357 3456).  You can also check if a surgeon is a member of BAPRAS here

 In the right hands, cosmetic surgery can be a safe and satisfying experience. In the wrong hands, it can be disastrous – so make sure you do all you can to find a qualified and experienced Plastic Surgeon or other specialty surgeon - with the right credentials.

You need to be happy with your choice of surgeon; qualifications count for nothing if a surgeon makes you anxious or uncomfortable. If something does not feel right, take a step back and think things through.

3. Have a thorough CONSULTATION

Once you have found a surgeon, you need to plan your treatment carefully. Thorough and informative consultations should take place before surgical or non-invasive cosmetic procedures.  You should be spending one-to-one time with the surgeon who will be conducting the procedure, not a representative of a clinic or hospital.

In cosmetic surgery, the outcomes need to be agreed and decided jointly by the patient and surgeon. If this dialogue and understanding is established, everything else should flow from that. You should be prepared for the possibility that the surgeon may advise against the procedure or treatment that you are considering. A surgeon should consider what is best for you even if this means turning you down for surgery.

So, you need to clarify and discuss your reasons for wanting surgery, and your overall expectations. This process is important to help ensure that you are not approaching the procedure with an unrealistic idea of what can be achieved. Be really precise about what bothers you. Rather than saying “I don’t like my nose”, say exactly what you don’t like, for example, “It’s too big, too broad at the top, or I don’t like my profile”.  This way, you can be given the best advice and are more likely to achieve the result you want. 

You also need to know very clearly what you are getting into. Like any surgical procedure, Plastic Surgery carries risk of complications, so find out what the risks are before your surgery. One of the other risks is you being unhappy with the outcome, regardless of whether you have had good, safe and appropriate surgery. This may be because of technical difficulties or complications but it can also be the result of unrealistic expectations or hopes of what can be achieved.

Don’t be shy about taking a list of questions to the consultation. Our guide on what to ask will help you assess the facts and work out if cosmetic surgery is right for you. The purpose of the consultation is to make sure that you are given all the necessary information to make an informed decision. Read our expert advice on how to broach these sometimes difficult conversations to get the best outcome for you. 

Apart from clinical information, find out about all the costs associated with the procedure and exactly what the treatment package includes. You should leave the consultation feeling reassured, but don’t feel you need to decide straight away.

4. COOL off before you commit

After meeting your surgeon it is good to have a cooling off period before a second consultation, to make sure you really want the surgery.  Give yourself some time to think about your options, reflect on what you were told at the first consultation and whether the benefits outweigh the potential risks (depending on your medical history and the procedure you are considering, the risks associated with the surgery may be relatively small or could be significant).  

A second consultation will allow you to ask further questions and get a genuine feel for what’s involved.  Don’t let yourself be pressured into signing the dotted line: committing to surgery is a big step and you should feel fully confident in the treatment you’re having and the surgeon you are entrusting to carry it out. This is the time to get details of the clinic or hospital that the surgeon is recommending and to check that they are fully registered with the appropriate regulatory body in your country. 
In England this is the Care Quality Commission; in Northern Ireland this is the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority in Scotland this is Healthcare Improvement Scotland; and in Wales, the Health Inspectorate Wales.

If you don’t feel confident about any aspect of the surgery, ask more questions and give yourself time to be sure.

5. CARE about your aftercare

Having cosmetic surgery is a big decision, so make sure you are happy with the choices that you make, and any agreements that you sign up to. It is important you know what’s included in the price you are paying for your surgery. 

Aftercare is a crucial part of your recovery.  Complications post surgery can happen and you need to be able to go back to the clinic or hospital easily.  If you do experience any problems you should not have to travel far to see your surgeon. How far the clinic or hospital is from your home should play a part in your decision. You should not expect the NHS to pick up the pieces although at times it may have to be involved but only to save life or limb.

Make sure your surgeon arranges full aftercare for you following your operation. This aftercare needs to be during your stay in hospital, then afterwards with follow-up consultations and any further treatment that may be required to resolve any problems. Good aftercare is just as important as the surgery itself, and will usually be provided by the surgeon and their personal team. You should not be in any doubt of who to contact at any time if you have any concerns.

Go to top