Cosmetic surgery: what it is and what to look out for

Cosmetic surgery is different from most surgical specialties because the patient is usually not sick. The patient may have psychological complaints because he or she is not satisfied with the appearance. It is performed by a plastic surgeon. The patient chooses a procedure to feel better and more beautiful, such as a facelift, breast lift, anti-wrinkle treatment or Botox treatment. What does a cosmetic procedure entail, what exactly should you pay attention to and how does it work?

Two categories

Cosmetic surgery is often seen as plastic surgery. Both types of procedures are performed by a special plastic surgeon. Plastic surgery corrects the function and shape of the body part. Cosmetic surgery is all about procedures to improve the appearance. That is why it is also called aesthetic surgery. There are two categories in cosmetic surgery:

  1. Interventions to correct physical defects
  2. Procedures to look young for longer

Examples of correcting physical defects are: breast enlargement or breast reduction, tummy tuck, rhinoplasty or having a tattoo removed. Examples to keep looking young for longer are: facelift, breast lift, anti-wrinkle treatment and botox treatment.

To what extent necessary

It has been shown that people who suffer from psychological or physical complaints can benefit from cosmetic surgery. For example, a breast reduction can reduce pain and a woman without breasts can feel feminine again through a breast enlargement. In addition to a tired appearance, an eyelid correction can ensure less tired eyes and better vision. The quality of life can be significantly improved by an intervention.

Basic rules

Cosmetic surgery is different from most surgical specialties because the patients are usually not sick and therefore are not, in fact, patients. The procedure is of your own choice, it is not a treatment for an illness and it is done to make you feel better. The goal of cosmetic surgery is to become happier, but a few basic rules must be observed.

Go to a recognized specialist

Unfortunately, there are many quacks working in this industry. Make sure you find a cosmetic surgeon who is registered in the specialist register. You can consult this via RIBIZ (registration and information of healthcare professionals). Almost all Dutch plastic surgeons are members of the NVPC (Dutch Association for Plastic Surgery). These surgeons have completed recognized training. Cosmetic surgeons are members of the NVEPC (Dutch Association for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery). This is the association of plastic surgeons who specialize in cosmetic surgery.

Recognize a good surgeon

A well-trained surgeon with experience will not perform a procedure if he believes that the desired operation is not necessary or desirable. He may refuse an operation and will do so if he suspects that the patient is not doing the operation for himself, but for a partner, for example. A good surgeon recognizes patients with a mental illness for whom surgery would not be the solution. If the cause of the problem is depression, surgery will not be the solution, but treating the depression will be.

Professional assistance

If you are planning to have a cosmetic procedure performed, discuss it with an objective person first. The GP is usually the first point of contact. You can also discuss it with a friend or family member. Of course you can also discuss it with your partner. If you request advice from a beauty consultant, make sure it is an independent consultant who charges a fee for the advice. If free advice is given, they may be salespeople who are only interested in making money. They are often affiliated with a cosmetic surgery clinic.


People sometimes make the choice of procedure dependent on the costs. At a good cosmetic surgery clinic, the patient coordinator or secretary will deal with the business side and not the surgeon. When you call for an appointment, ask for an indication of the costs, so that you can determine in advance whether you can afford it. If you think it’s too expensive, say so. The goal may possibly be achieved in a different way, for example an eyelid correction instead of a facelift. This gives you time to save up for a complete facelift.

Be realistic about the outcome

It’s important that you have a realistic expectation of what it will look like. If the patient does not have this, a good surgeon will not perform the operation. If you are fifty years old and have had an unhealthy lifestyle, don’t expect to look like a twenty-year-old fashion model. A photo of yourself from ten years ago gives a more realistic picture. A digital image of the result can also be used, but surgery is not an exact science. The result may differ from what you saw.

Common interventions

Not all procedures will involve surgery. Some procedures will not be performed by a plastic surgeon, but by a dermatologist. Non-surgical procedures are the most common cosmetic procedures. These are for example:

  • Botox injections
  • Injections with fillers such as collagen to fill lines and wrinkles
  • Chemical peels
  • Dermabrasion and laser treatments for wrinkles, scars, tattoos or birthmarks

Surgical procedures include:

  • Facelifts
  • Eyelid corrections
  • Rhinoplasties
  • Breast enlargement and breast reduction (uneven breasts: how to treat)
  • Liposuctions


Important considerations

Make sure you get a good feeling about a surgeon and take the time to choose the right surgeon. Visit at least two cosmetic surgeons before making a choice. There is no such thing as a free consultation, so a good surgeon will certainly charge for the first consultation. During your first consultation you can ask the following questions to get a good idea:

  • Qualifications and experiences of the surgeon
  • Ask about any complications
  • Ask about what exactly you can expect
  • Ask questions about aftercare
  • Do you trust the surgeon?
  • Ask about the costs, including additional costs


read more

  • Cosmetic surgery: facelift for a younger appearance
  • Cosmetic surgery: eyelid correction
  • Tubular breasts (tubular breasts): when to operate?
  • Uneven breasts: causes and treatment
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