How to Choose the Right Plastic Surgeon for You: An Insider’s Tips, Tricks, and Red Flags to Avoid

The surgeon you choose to perform your procedure is the number one factor you can control that leads to successful outcomes. For that reason, you want to find someone who’s skilled, knowledgeable, competent, and safe. You don’t have to confine yourself to your hometown when looking for the right surgeon, so you literally have a world of choices. How do you start your search?

Here’s an important distinction to get you started: All plastic surgeons are cosmetic and reconstructive surgeons, but not all surgeons who call themselves cosmetic surgeons are plastic and reconstructive surgeons. Anyone with a medical degree can use the title “cosmetic surgeon,” but that doesn’t mean they’ve had the right training, residencies, and rigorous exams in the field. The only way to find surgeons who have is to look for someone who’s board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), which certifies cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeons.

Narrow that list further with a reputation check because board certification doesn’t guarantee that a person is ethical and uses best practices. Look at online reviews, check out the surgeon’s before-and-after photos on their website, and ask if you can talk with patients about their experiences.

Next, schedule initial consultation appointments with surgeons who survived your last cut. Yes, you’ll likely pay for a consultation, but it’s worth it for your safety (not to mention securing the much larger investment you’ll make in your procedure). Plus, you’ll meet the surgeon and staff in person and can check your gut feelings and comfort level with them.

After each appointment, ask yourself:
• Am I less nervous than when I arrived?
• Did I get the education I need?
• Do I understand exactly what’s involved and expected of me financially?
• Do I know exactly what will happen to me if I have a postoperative complication, and what does that mean for me financially?

Answering “no” to all or most of those questions means you haven’t yet found the right surgeon for you.

Finally, watch out for the following red flags that should cause concern about any physician you’re considering:
• Isn’t ABPS board certified
• Has bad reviews online
• Has no reviews online
• Has bad photos online
• Has no photos—anywhere
• Has a dismissive attitude
• Hurries you and won’t spend time in thoughtful discussion
• Doesn’t do an exam
• Trash talks other surgeons
• Doesn’t have hospital privileges
• Doesn’t use accredited surgical facilities
• Doesn’t listen to you—just talks and spouts knowledge
• Tries to push unwanted procedures on you
• Won’t show before-and-after photos
• Won’t let you talk with a patient who’s happy with the procedure you want
• Isn’t available to answer questions after your consultation

Your plastic surgery procedure can be life changing and is a big financial investment, so you should spare nothing in doing the most extensive research you can beforehand, especially about the surgeon you choose.