9 Red Flags to Watch Out For at Your Cosmetic Surgery Consultation

doctor holds pen to paper on clipboard across desk from patient

When you’re seeking a cosmetic procedure, the most important choice you will make is your surgeon. While there are many proven techniques, technologies, and products, your plastic surgeon’s judgment, experience, and aesthetic choices will play a significant part in your results. Your safety will also be largely in their hands.

The right surgeon will want to hear about your desired results in great detail, offer suggestions to optimize results, and help you choose the best procedure(s) to meet your goals. They will be concerned for both your well-being and satisfaction.

How do I choose a cosmetic plastic surgeon?

Not every surgeon is properly qualified or experienced in performing cosmetic procedures. To begin your search, read through a number of board certified plastic surgeons’ websites, focusing on those that have proven expertise in the procedures you are seeking. You should also see membership in societies such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and attractive, natural-looking patient results in their before and after gallery.

After narrowing down your options online, schedule a consultation with a few of your top choices to better understand which person will be the right surgeon for you. During your initial conversation, watch out for these plastic surgery red flags.

1. The surgeon’s credentials are unclear.

This is an easy red flag to avoid: look for a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and read their website. Most surgeons’ websites list their board certifications, society affiliations, education, and other qualifications that can help you verify their expertise and training.

2. Your consultation is with someone other than the surgeon.

While your surgeon should have a support staff and they will participate in your consultation, don’t accept a consultation with an assistant or nurse alone. Your primary medical conversation should be with the doctor, and they should give you adequate time, listening to your needs and talking with you about ways to address them. Together, you should come to agree on a desired outcome by looking at photographs of results the surgeon has provided for similar patients with similar concerns.

Your surgeon and their staff should also make themselves readily available to you after your consultation if you have further questions. This is a sign that they will also be accessible at key times in the treatment process, such as when you may have questions about healing, comfort, and the state of your incisions.

3. You don’t know what the procedure and recovery will be like.

Do not accept a lack of transparency related to any part of your surgery. The surgical practice should be upfront with you from the get-go so you know exactly what to expect if you move forward with your procedure. You should know what to expect every step of the way—who will administer your anesthesia, the steps your doctor will take during surgery, projected recovery experience and duration, and cost.

Here is a helpful list of questions to ask:

  • What kind of anesthesia will be used?
  • What’s included in the cost of the procedure? Is this quote all-inclusive?
  • If I have questions after hours, how will I reach your office?
  • How long will it take before I see my “real” results? (For example, breast augmentation patients don’t see their actual results until about six months post-surgery, when the implants have settled.)
  • What is your policy on revision surgery if I experience complications?

Ideally, the practice will provide you with a personalized informational booklet to guide you through pre-procedure preparation as well as the recovery process.

The most common “complication” with a cosmetic procedure is an unsatisfactory result caused by unrealistic expectations. An experienced, highly-skilled surgeon will be sure you fully understand what you can expect.

4. Nobody asks you any questions.

If the doctor doesn’t ask you much about the results you desire, they are likely making an assumption that what they want is right for you and may take a cookie-cutter approach to procedures. Furthermore, you shouldn’t feel pressure from the surgeon to choose a particular aesthetic for your procedure.

You should feel like the doctor is listening to you in order to understand precisely the nature of the results you want. For example, I work with my breast augmentation patients to select the right implant size, shape, and type by looking at photos of numerous patients and discussing the pros and cons of various options; this is how to arrive at results that both fit your lifestyle and look fabulous. It’s a red flag if the surgeon expects you to know the size, shape, or type of implant you need, or if they say they know best or—even worse—will choose the implant size during surgery without your input.

5. There is no mention of the risks or possible complications.

Your surgeon should be open with you about any potential complications. While serious complications are fairly rare, every surgery comes with risks. Look for a surgeon who is proactive about educating you. Beyond general risks, they should also describe any specific risks for the procedures you are seeking.

6. The surgeon does not have before and after photos.

Before and after photos are not just a method for the surgeon to show off their abilities—photos of varied results help a patient and surgeon communicate so that they are on the same page about the desired outcome. The most common “complication” with a cosmetic procedure is an unsatisfactory result caused by unrealistic expectations. An experienced, highly-skilled surgeon will be sure you fully understand what you can expect, and acknowledge the constraints of a surgical procedure as well as what is possible given your anatomy.

7. The surgeon promises unrealistic results.

Be wary if a surgeon guarantees you a result that sounds too good to be true. The truth is that while a reputable, experienced surgeon can provide you a very realistic sense of what your results will look like, every patient is different, and there can be no guarantees.

Expect your surgeon to help you form realistic expectations about the necessary procedures to get the results that you need. For example, patients with drooping breasts may hope that breast implants alone would fill them out and provide a beautiful appearance, but to address sagging, it’s often necessary to combine a breast lift with implants. Don’t choose a surgeon who will sacrifice the best results for simplicity or ease.

8. The cost of the procedure is drastically low.

Shop around, but don’t bargain hunt: if other providers tend to charge much more than a particular surgeon, it’s likely true that you will “get what you pay for.” Cosmetic surgery is an investment in yourself, and you’re paying for your surgeon’s expertise, the quality and experience of the staff, the upkeep of the surgical facility, all necessary safety equipment and supplies, and time spent caring for you before and after surgery. Lower prices typically mean that the practice is cutting corners in one of these areas.

Shop around, but don’t bargain hunt: if other providers tend to charge much more than a particular surgeon, it’s likely true that you will “get what you pay for.”

9. Your gut tells you that something is not right.

Surgery is far too serious of a matter to decide based on price or any other single measure, so look at the surgeon holistically and trust your gut. Remember that a reason not to choose one specific cosmetic surgeon is a reason to keep looking.

There’s also no need to rush into any cosmetic procedure: having a gut concern may mean you simply aren’t feeling ready to take the next step. Spend some time thinking, consult with other surgeons, and talk to other people who have had the procedures you seek. You’ll know it’s the right time and the right plastic surgeon when you feel absolutely ready and eager to move forward.

Book a Consultation with Your Denver Plastic Surgeon

First-time Denver plastic surgery patients can now meet with Dr. Buford online in a virtual consultation. You can book your consultation through our website, or you can call our Lone Tree office with any questions or concerns at 303-951-5829. We are happy to answer your questions as you search for the best surgeon for your needs.