HOW DO I FIND THE BEST EXPERT?
Get referrals from friends, family members and physicians. Word of mouth is best. Beware of the Internet: Docs can pay search engines to have their names pop up on “best plastic surgeon” lists.
Ask to see before and after photos to get a sense of what your doctor thinks is beautiful. Keep in mind that doctors usually put up their best pictures, and these can be altered with Photoshop. What you want to check out is your doctor’s overall aesthetic judgment. “Every doctor has his own brand of rejuvenation. They’re kind of like fashion designers whose clothes have a certain look,” says Wells.
Heed warning signs. Lynne McPhail, an occupational therapist in Colorado, realized she was in the wrong place for an eye-lift when she noticed that the surgeon had pictures of a very famous, very altered country-western singer all over his office. “I just wanted to look a little more rested,” McPhail says. “It’s not like I’m performing at the MGM Grand.” Try to find someone who’s conservative, cautions Rodan: “It’s hard to get back to your old face if it’s been overdone.”
Inspect other patients in person. “It’s very fair to ask the doctor if you can meet people who’ve recently had the procedure you’re considering,” says Rosenberg. Look around the office, too: Almost every doctor has done work on his staff.
Make sure your doctor specializes in more than one treatment. You need someone who can do what’s best for you, not what’s best for him. “A good dermatology practice should own at least two or three lasers,” says David Goldberg, MD, who practices in New York and three other states. “Find out which machine the doctor plans to use on you, and then Google it.”
Think worst-case scenario. Find out what side effects and risks are involved. (Beware the doctor who offers only good news.) What about complications? Will the doctor be available if anything goes wrong? Also important to know: How much will the procedure cost? Are there any additional expenses—such as for a surgical facility or hospital—that you should factor in?
Don’t trust imaging machines that are supposed to predict results. “They’re a joke,” says Rosenberg. “Every one of them has a disclaimer: ‘This drawing may have nothing to do with your ultimate results.’ ” The problem is that the images can overpromise what procedures can deliver. “If you want a preview of face or neck surgery, the easiest thing is to sit on the edge of your bed with a hand mirror, lean forward and jiggle your face to loosen things up, and then lie flat on your back and hold a mirror up over your face,” Matarasso says. Considering an eye-lift? Take a Q-tip and push in on the upper lid to see what a smooth crease would look like, or iron out your lower lids with your fingertips.
Earn bonus points by bringing your doctor a photograph of yourself from 10 years ago. “That can help us determine which treatment plan would be the most appropriate for making you look like a better, younger version of yourself, not someone else,” Katchen says.
CAN I SCREW UP MY RESULTS POST-TREATMENT?
There’s always a patient who exercises or hops a flight too soon after surgery (causing her stitches to pop) or, worse, goes swimming (cue rusty staples and an infection). But by and large, complications are incurred at the time of treatment. Use common sense and listen to directions. With certain fillers, like Sculptra, you’re required to massage your face five times a day for five days to prevent lumps and bumps. Tanning before or after any laser treatment spells disaster. And don’t schedule a massage right after getting fillers: If you lie facedown on a massage table for an hour, you move the material injected and mess up its placement.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DO PROCEDURES OVER AND OVER?