How to Find the Right Cosmetic Surgeon for You

Your choice of cosmetic surgeon will be a choice you live with for years, if not your entire life. A successful procedure will make you feel more like yourself and give you greater confidence for years to come. On the other hand, ending up in the hands of an inexperienced surgeon increases your chances of having poor results, which can lead to additional costs, time, and heartache.

Finding a board certified cosmetic surgeon who has plenty of experience in your procedure of choice is critical to getting the results you desire.

Get help vetting doctors you interview by downloading our cosmetic surgeon comparison checklist now, or read on to get the details.

1. Make sure the cosmetic surgeon is board certified

Many people think they can depend on state medical boards to ensure that surgeons are qualified to perform the procedures they advertise, but that fact is that the government does not require a surgeon to be specifically trained in the procedures they offer. This problem is most acute in the area of cosmetic surgery, as many doctors with general surgery or other medical training hop on the cosmetic surgery bandwagon in pursuit of greater profits.

Ask each surgeon you interview: are you board certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery?

Our view is that patients need a dependable way to know if their surgeon is properly trained and experienced in cosmetic surgery. That’s why we at the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS) formed a board exclusively dedicated to cosmetic surgeons’ education, training, and certification.

2. Confirm the surgeon’s experience in the specific procedures you want

Each area of cosmetic surgery requires different skills: you can imagine how operating on a nose with bone, cartilage, and breathing passages would be quite different from operating on a breast, which is primarily comprised of soft tissue. Given this, cosmetic surgeons can have subspecialties within the field. Choose a surgeon who is board certified in cosmetic surgery and has substantial experience in the procedure you are considering.

What to ask a surgeon:

  • How did you train in the procedure I am considering?
  • How many years have you been performing this procedure?
  • How many times have you performed this type of procedure?

3. Choose a surgeon whose aesthetic sense appeals to you

We all know that what one person finds beautiful may be unattractive to another. For this reason, you can’t just trust a friend’s recommendation or solely depend on the cosmetic surgeon’s experience. You need to look carefully at the results for each surgeon you interview.

How to determine a cosmetic surgeon’s aesthetic sense:

  • Look at before & after photos. Compare each doctor’s results for the procedure you want. Which surgeon’s results appeal to you personally?
  • Pay closest attention to patients who have similar qualities to you (Consider taking a selfie to your consultation for reference):
    • Facial procedures: look for patients who have a similar facial structure, are around your age, and have some of the same concerns, whether it’s a sagging neck or prominent hump on the nose.
    • Breast procedures: look for patients who have a similar torso and breast shape. For instance, if you have narrow shoulders and widely-spaced, small, asymmetrical breasts, patients with those qualities in the before images will give you a better sense of how that surgeon tailors a procedure to patients with your concerns and body type.
    • Body procedures: look for patients with a similar shape to you. If you tend to carry extra weight around your hips, or have a sagging tummy, see how the doctor helped patients like you. Hint: Be open to considering related body procedures, as you may find that a concern you thought could be treated with liposuction is best treated with abdominoplasty.
  • Look for consistency in a surgeon’s results for all patients who’ve had the procedure you are considering. Do their results look like you want to look after your surgery?

4.  Pay attention to how the surgeon and staff make you feel

Surgery is a big deal, and there can be curves in the path to your new look. You need to feel 100% comfortable with your cosmetic surgeon and their support team. Choose a cosmetic surgeon whom you like and trust completely with your safety and results.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I like spending time with this surgeon?
  • Do I trust this surgeon to recommend what’s safe and right for me?
  • Would I feel comfortable asking this surgeon any question I might have throughout the process?
  • Do I feel comfortable disclosing my full medical history and habits to this surgeon? (This is critically important to your safety!)

5. Find out about the operating facility

Your safety during surgery depends in large part on the anesthetist and the operating facility. Accredited operating rooms include key life support systems just in case something goes wrong.

Things to ask and look for:

  • Ask your surgeon where they perform surgery, and find out that facility’s level of accreditation. Look for AAAASF, AAAHC or JCAHO operating facility certification.
  • Ask about the anesthetist’s qualifications. For safety, you want either a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) or a Board Certified Anesthesiologist administering your anesthesia.

6. Customer service matters too!

You want to be sure you are being served and treated well. Much of this will be obvious a few minutes after you walk in the door of cosmetic surgeon’s office.

Things to ask and look for:

  • Is the staff friendly and helpful?
  • Do I get materials that fully prepare me for the risks and realities of surgery and recovery?
  • Are all fees clearly stated? Is the quote all-inclusive?
  • When I contact the practice, do I receive a prompt reply?

Download Our Compare-a-Surgeon Checklist

To make the process of comparing cosmetic surgeons easier, we have put all of these pointers into a checklist you can use as you interview doctors.