The NHS guide to cosmetic procedures

Is cosmetic surgery right for me?

Having cosmetic surgery is a big decision. Consultant psychologist Eileen Bradbury discusses the key questions to ask yourself before deciding whether you want it. 

Bradbury specialises in the psychology of appearance, and has worked with people who are considering cosmetic surgery for 20 years.

She says it's very important to be honest with yourself. "You're the one who has to live with the outcome," she says. "If you rush into the surgery without properly thinking about it, it might be the wrong result, even if the surgery goes well."

"Don't have surgery on a whim," says Bradbury. "If you've thought a lot about the surgery and the outcome beforehand, it will be easier to cope with."

Questions to ask yourself

People might seek cosmetic surgery to solve life problems, or during difficult times in their lives when they feel bad about themselves. Bradbury warns that these are not good reasons to have surgery.

She advises people to ask themselves these questions:

  • What do I want to change and why do I want to have surgery?
  • How long have I thought about this surgery?
  • Did anything specific set off this desire?
  • What is my current life situation?
  • Why am I thinking about surgery now?
  • Are there other ways I can achieve the results I want?

There are also some more specific questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I expecting the surgery to change my life as well as my appearance?
  • Do I want cosmetic surgery for myself or to please someone else?
  • Am I expecting surgery to improve my relationship?
  • Am I expecting surgery to improve my social skills or job prospects?
  • Can surgery really give me the results I want?
  • Can I afford the costs of surgery?

If you're feeling anxious about your relationships, social situations or work, don't assume that surgery will make everything better.

Instead, you could consider counselling. Talking with a relationship or careers counsellor could help you find ways to overcome these anxieties and build your confidence.

Mental health issues

"If you're being treated for a psychiatric disorder, such as anxiety or depression, you should postpone the decision," says Bradbury.

"You're in a vulnerable position at this stage, and won't be making an informed decision."

If, after asking all these questions, you decide to have surgery, remember that surgery is only one aspect of your wellbeing.

"It's like having a personal trainer," says Bradbury. "You have to do most of the work yourself. Your wellbeing includes your lifestyle, nutrition, work and social life."

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health services in England. It offers information about choosing a reputable provider if you've decided to have cosmetic surgery.

Choosing a surgeon who's registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) and a member of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) or the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) is advisable.

Non-surgical cosmetic procedures, such as injections, are less invasive than surgery, but still carry risks.

More information

How do I choose a surgeon?

Royal College of Surgeons: your consultation with the surgeon

Royal College of Surgeons: what if things go wrong?

Page last reviewed: 03/08/2017

Next review due: 03/08/2020

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