Deciding to undergo a cosmetic procedure will have far-reaching consequences on your quality of life. A successful procedure will make you feel more confident in your appearance and give you a self-esteem boost for years to come. On the other hand, ending up under the care of an unqualified or inexperienced cosmetic surgeon increases your chances of being even more dissatisfied with your appearance.
Finding a capable surgeon, like Dr. Michael Kulick, a board-certified plastic surgeon, with years of training, study and experience in your desired procedure is critical to getting results you will be proud of. So how do you choose the best cosmetic surgeon for you?
1. Make sure the doctor is board-certified for aesthetic procedures.
Many people mistakenly assume they can rely on state medical boards to ensure their surgeon is qualified to perform a given procedure. However, the laws don’t require a surgeon to be specifically trained in the procedures they offer.
Why is it so important to choose a board-certified, plastic surgeon? Because legally, any doctor is permitted to do any procedure – so, for example, there is no law preventing an orthopedic surgeon from performing a rhinoplasty.
To earn board certification, a cosmetic surgeon must complete three to five years of training in general surgery and a minimum of two to three years of training in plastic surgery, as well as pass a series of written and oral tests. Board-certified surgeons are also requested to do continuing medical education and take a written test every decade.
2. Confirm the surgeon’s experience in the specific procedures you want.
The human body is highly complex, and each area of plastic surgery requires a set of highly specialized skills. Successfully operating on a nose, with bone, cartilage and airways, is a very different process than augmenting a breast, which is primarily made of soft tissue.
Given this, surgeons can have subspecialties within the field. When it comes to how to find the best plastic surgeon for you, it’s essential to pick someone with considerable experience in the procedure you are considering.
Ask your surgeon:
- Where did you train in the procedure I am considering?
- How long have you been doing this procedure?
- How many times have you completed this type of procedure?
3. Choose a surgeon whose aesthetic philosophy aligns with yours.
As we all know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For this reason, you can’t put all your trust in a word-of-mouth recommendation or online testimonial. You need to look carefully at the results for each board-certified plastic surgeon you talk to.
A major decision factor in how to find the best plastic surgeon for you is to ask the doctor to provide before-and-after photos of patients who have had the same procedure you are considering. Which surgeon’s results appeal to you personally? Do you feel the doctor is asking for your input and may give you information that you were not aware of? For sure, this would be a new twist and might draw you away from this doctor. In contrast, it may not be in your best interest to have a consult with the best cosmetic surgeon that just agrees with your “expected” or wanted to hear information?
Bring a photo of yourself to your consultation so you can compare yourself to patients who are like you. This will help you easily visualize how you can expect your results to match up with theirs.
- Facial procedures: Look for patients who have a similar bone structure, are around the same age and have some of the same issues, from a sagging neckline to a crooked nose.
- Breast procedures: Look for patients who have a similar torso and breast shape. For instance, if you have wide shoulders and small, irregularly shaped breasts, patients with those same qualities in the “before” images will give you a better sense of how that surgeon adapts procedures to patients with different body types.
- Body procedures: See how the doctor helped patients who have the same problems you are hoping to address. If you are carrying extra flab on your stomach or around your hips, be open to the doctor’s opinion about what procedure is best for you. For example, you may have thought you wanted to get liposuction, when you would have better results from a tummy tuck.
Look for consistent results among patients who have undergone the procedure you are contemplating. Do their results match up with the way you want to look?
4. Pay attention to how the surgeon and staff interact with you.
Before undergoing surgery, you need to feel 100 percent comfortable with your surgeon and their support team. When considering how to find the best plastic surgeon, choose a doctor who provides you their skill set and access to post treatment concerns that makes you like and trust him or her completely with your safety and outcomes.
- Can I establish a good rapport with this doctor?
- Does he or she have my best interests at heart?
- Will I feel comfortable asking this surgeon any questions I might have all the way through the process?
- Are my post treatment visits covered by what I paid for the procedure?
- Am I willing to share my full medical history and habits with this doctor?
5. Ask about the operating facility.
A large part of your safety during and after your surgery depends on the anesthetist and the operating facility. Accredited operating rooms include key life support systems just in case something goes wrong.
Ask your surgeon where they perform surgery, and find out that facility’s level of accreditation. All surgical facilities must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Accredited by the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities
- Accredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care
- Accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations
- Certified to participate in the Medicare program under Title XVIII
- Licensure from the state in which the facility operates
Ask about the anesthetist’s qualifications, as well. For safety, you want either a certified registered nurse anesthetist or a board-certified anesthesiologist administering your anesthesia.
6. Make sure your surgical consultation is thorough.
A pre-procedure consultation is an important opportunity to get answers to all your questions about every facet of the procedure you have chosen. It should include an honest discussion of risks, as well as how to prepare for the surgery and what to expect before, during and afterward.
A detailed consultation also involves a review of your medical history, including any existing medical conditions. All these factors help Dr. Kulick customize the procedure to best meet your needs.
Remember, there are no silly questions when you’re considering taking a step as major as changing some aspect of your appearance. So bring a list of any concerns that are on your mind, and feel free to just express your aesthetic concerns.
7. Customer service matters!
The point of getting a cosmetic procedure is to help you feel better about yourself, and that starts with the way the office staff interacts with you from the moment you contact them.
Things to look for:
- Is the office staff friendly and helpful?
- Did I get take-home materials that fully prepared me for the risks and realities of surgery and recovery?
- Did the practice tell me about pricing up front? Is the quote all-inclusive?
- When I contact the practice, do I receive a prompt reply?
Dr. Michael Kulick – San Francisco’s Cosmetic Surgery Expert
Dr. Kulick has been one of San Francisco’s leading board-certified cosmetic surgeons for more than 20 years. He is recognized both nationally and internationally for his expertise in the field, and is a frequent author and lecturer about both surgical and non-surgical face and body procedures. Schedule your consultation to discuss your goals.