The NHS guide to cosmetic procedures

Is cosmetic surgery right for me?

Having cosmetic surgery is a big decision. Consultant psychologist Eileen Bradbury suggests the 10 questions to ask yourself before deciding whether you want it. 

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

"Cosmetic surgery is carried out for psychological and social reasons, not functional reasons," she says. "It's important to understand the motivation for wanting surgery, and whether this is something surgery can achieve."

Bradbury 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 disruptive times in their lives when they feel bad about themselves – for example, during divorce. Bradbury warns that these are not good reasons to have surgery.

She advises people to ask themselves these questions:

  1. How long have I thought about this surgery?
  2. Did anything specific set off this desire?
  3. What is my current life situation?
  4. Why am I thinking about surgery now?
  5. Are there other ways I can achieve the results I want?

Also ask yourself:

  1. Am I expecting the surgery to change my life as well as my appearance?
  2. Am I considering cosmetic surgery for myself or to please someone else?
  3. Am I expecting the surgery to improve my relationship?
  4. Am I expecting surgery to improve my social skills or job prospects?
  5. Can surgery really give me the look I want?

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 clinical anxiety or clinical 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.

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

More information

Royal College of Surgeons: cosmetic surgery FAQs

General Medical Council (GMC) register of doctors

How do I choose a surgeon?

Page last reviewed: 25/07/2014

Next review due: 25/07/2017

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