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25 Secrets Plastic Surgeons Will Never Tell You

There's a LOT more to it than just liposuction and boob jobs.

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Special thanks to the plastic surgeons who provided intel and anecdotes for this post: Dr. Daniel Maman, board-certified plastic surgeon with 740 Park Plastic Surgery, and Dr. Nolan Karp, board-certified plastic surgeon with Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery, NYU Langone Medical Center.

1. No, we don't all live in mansions, wear Versace, and party on yachts every weekend.

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It's not like 90210, where we take lavish vacations, wear high-end clothing, and live super-luxurious lives. However, yes, we do make a lot of money and that is an appeal of going into the field.

2. Most of us go into plastic surgery because we want to help people feel good about themselves and restore their confidence.

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Some people have dropped a significant amount of weight and want to get an abdominoplasty — or tummy tuck — to take care of the excess skin. Some have experienced changes to their breasts after pregnancy, breastfeeding, or cancer, and they just want their breasts to look the same again. Not all operations are necessary to live, but they may restore people's confidence and self-esteem.

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3. But, sure, it's true that we do care about our appearance.

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The perceptions that plastic surgeons tend to be interested in the way they look is probably true for many in the field. In the same vein that it's hard to find a fashion designer who doesn't care about what they wear, it's pretty hard to find a plastic surgeon who isn't neat, or healthy, or doesn't care about their presentation.

4. Plastic surgery is an extraordinarily broad field that includes much more than just liposuction and making boobs bigger.

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Once you get to med school, you realize how many specializations there really are. There's hand surgery, pediatric plastic surgery (for birth defects such as cleft lips), cosmetic surgery, peripheral nerve surgery, microsurgery, and general plastic surgery, which involves a mix of a lot of these things. There's a lot more to plastic surgery than what people see in movies and TV shows.

5. It's actually one of the few specialties where you're certified to operate on anyone, at any age, on any part of the body.

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Most surgeons in other fields have limits on who they can operate on and where. But plastic surgeons are able to operate on anyone at any age, including children.

6. Plastic surgeons go to 14-plus years of school post–high school, and have one of the most intense residencies of all med students.

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We wish the public had a better understanding of the tons of requirements it takes to get board certifications, how many years of education that entails, and the amount of serious medical decision-making that goes into everything that you do.

7. There are two main types of plastic surgeries: aesthetic (cosmetic) and reconstructive.

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Aesthetic, or cosmetic, plastic surgery is when someone wants to change something about their appearance. This includes things like tummy tucks, liposuction, butt lifts, etc.

Reconstructive plastic surgery is for people who, for instance, have birth defects, have been in accidents (car crashes, fire injuries, etc.), or have gone through surgeries for other health reasons and aren't happy with the results of their operations. One of the most common reasons for reconstructive surgery is repairing skin cancer damage to the face, nose, and ears.

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8. In plastic surgery there is no one ~right~ way to do a surgery. There can be over 25 ways to do the same procedure.

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If you think about it, how many different types of noses, eyes, lips, etc., do you see a day? There are so many different ways to do every single plastic surgery, and that's one of the coolest things about our field.

9. That's why many plastic surgeons have an artistic background, whether in sculpting, painting, architecture, or photography.

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Some people say that all orthopedists are former jocks or people who just love sports. The stereotype for plastic surgeons is that we all have an appreciation for art. Most of us do have a strong background in an artistic hobby.

10. When possible, you should choose a plastic surgeon the same way you'd choose a tattoo artist.

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You have to look at our previous work and see if you like our aesthetic, because every single operation can be done differently depending on the plastic surgeon. It's like scrolling through a tattoo artist's Instagram or checking out the art books in their studio. We have photo galleries on our websites and in our offices that showcase the work we've done so people can see if it matches what they're looking for.

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13. We generally turn down about 30% of people who come in for aesthetic surgery consultations because their expectations are unrealistic or unhealthy.

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We have to make sure that what a patient wants and desires is in line with what we can give them. Sometimes what people want isn't aligned with reality, it isn't safe, it isn't healthy, or it isn't worth the risk. There are some people we will not operate on no matter what kind of money they’re willing to pay.

15. We may experiment a little during a surgery to make sure it turns out ~perfect~, just how the patient wants it.

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In most cases we have a good idea of how long a procedure is going to take, but we usually leave some cushion time for experimentation because we know we're perfectionists. In the case of breast augmentations, we may try different-sized and different-shaped implants to see what they look like before choosing the final one.

16. Plastic surgery isn't just for the rich and famous.

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For some practices, the average patient's income is around $50,000 a year. Most procedures are not incredibly expensive and can be easy to save for if you really want or need it.

17. Our days can sometimes be a mix of consultations, surgeries, filler injections, and checkups.

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Every day can be different. Depending on the week, we might wake up really early to meet with patients, maybe attend conferences, and then be back in the operating room by the afternoon to do a breast reconstruction, an augmentation, or a rhinoplasty (nose job), and then have to see a bunch of patients afterward.

One of the best things about being a plastic surgeon is the various types of interactions you get to have with different people. Sometimes when we walk into a breast augmentation consultation, we've just come from helping a kid who got his finger stuck in a door at school.

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18. We often explain to people that liposuction isn't a substitute for diet and exercise, but it can help shape your body.

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Most liposuction patients are already in good shape; they just want help with specific areas where they have trouble losing weight.

19. Some of us will try to avoid telling people we're plastic surgeons outside of work.

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Sometimes we try to avoid telling people what we do because we don’t want them to come up to us and ask what we can do for them. It's just an awkward situation that isn't comfortable for us. We don’t want to tell people that they wouldn't be a good candidate, or judge their bodies and potentially hurt their feelings, so there are times when we try to avoid talking about it altogether.

20. So if you see us outside of our office, please don't bring over your friend, your mother, or your mother's friend to see what we can "do for them."

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People sometimes expect us to do consultations on the spot, but it's really uncomfortable and the last thing we want to do during our off hours, while we're on vacation, spending time with our family, or just enjoying downtime.

21. Bargain shopping for plastic surgery isn't recommended. In most cases, you get what you pay for.

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If you cut corners, you’re going to get the service that you pay for. Maybe the place that offers heavy discounts doesn’t use a board-certified anesthesiologist or board-certified nurses. People can get infections from these procedures and they can die. It's not worth it.

Make sure the plastic surgeon you visit is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons or the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. You don't want to put your life in someone’s hands just to save a thousand dollars.

22. We try not to judge people's appearances during everyday situations, but sometimes it happens.

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No, we don't walk around thinking, I really want to fix that person's nose structure. But every now and then we'll think about what procedures we could do for people. It's a part of what we do for a living every day, so sometimes it can be hard to turn off.

23. Some procedures can take up to 12 hours.

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We are lucky in that we usually don't have as many emergency surgeries come up, but we do work long hours. And there are some operations that can be especially time-consuming, like a specific type of breast reconstruction that requires transplanting other tissue to the breast.

24. And our jobs still get emotional, especially with patients who've had mastectomies.

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When we take care of these patients, we're usually involved in their lives for a long period of time — sometimes years. So we can form very special bond with them and end up keeping in touch.

25. We feel lucky that plastic surgery is primarily a very happy field where patient satisfaction is incredibly high.

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We usually work with patients who tend to be healthy and have outcomes that they're happy with. It's not very often that we have to share bad news, so it can be a really fulfilling field. For the most part, we're doing operations that people want, and that will make them look and feel more confident.

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