Are you considering cosmetic surgery?
2004, NowView PDF
What do you want from the procedure?
"Realistic expectations are the key to successful surgery," says cosmetic surgeon Angelica Kavouni of Cosmetic Solutions in London. "Making your nose smaller, having bigger breasts or some fat taken away from your thighs will improve your silhouette, but it may not change the way people think about you or bring your husband or boyfriend back."
"On the other hand, it's well documented that cosmetic surgery increases confidence, particularly when it is well-deserved, such as for a small chin, bent nose and so on.""
A good surgeon will talk to you about your motivations as part of your initial consultation. If you're in the middle of a major life change or suffering from clinical depression, you're likely to be told you're not right for the procedure.
What do you know about the surgeon?
It's important to be fanatically fussy about the doctor you choose, even for minor cosmetic procedures. Check that your doctor is registered with the General Medical Council and that surgeons are on its register for plastic surgery.
Don't be afraid to ask them challenging questions about their training credentials and how many times they've done the specific operation you're having - you don't want your nose done by someone who usually does breasts.
"Even with semi-permanent procedures, it's very important to be sure the doctor is careful and not aggressive," says cosmetic surgeon George Roman of Devonshire Medical Chambers. "Most importantly you must find a doctor you trust to advise you on what's the best way to maintain a natural look, suiting you as an Individual."
Do you fully understand what it entails?
"All surgery carries a risk, especially if a general anaesthetic is involved, and should not be undertaken lightly," says Angelica Kavouni. "At consultation, you must ask questions such as what type of procedure, incisions and implants you'll have; what the recovery process will be; how much time off work you will need; how much pain, bruising or swelling you should expect; what the risks are; and even practical things like how to have a bath afterwards."
Even minor procedures like lip enhancement and botulinum toxin injections can have side effects such os swelling and bruising.
Stephanie McGrath, managing director of the aesthetic treatments company Collagenics, says doctors should talk to you about the procedure, specific products used, risks and side effects, and post-treatment care.
Have you asked to speak to previous patients?
Remember, you're paying this doctor a lot of money to make a long-lasting change to your appearance, so you have every right to ask for this.
"If a patient wants to speak to a previous patient, I would definitely encourage it", says Harley Street cosmetic surgeon Apostolos Galtan1s. "It helps give the patient confidence end allows them to ask questions about the quality of care the specialist provides."
In short, if your doctor has a problem with you speaking to previous patients, head for tho door fast.
Is there anything I should do in the weeks beforehand?
"Fifty per cent of the success of the surgery depends on a healthy diet, good hydration and regular exercise", says Angelica Kavouni. "Smoking is particularly bad for wound healing and increases the risk of anaesthetic complications, so I suggest that patients quit at least two months beforehand.
"A diet high in vitamins and protein will aid healing after the operation. Vitamin C and homeopathic remedies such as arnica can also help reduce bruising. Vitamin E and aspirin increase bleeding and should not be taken before surgery, but don't stop taking any regular medications without consulting your doctor."
Why are so many women in their 30s going under the knife?
Once reserved for the rich and famous, cosmetic surgery is now accepted os mainstream.
"There is peer pressure to look good and ageism is common for both sexes at work and in relationships," says Angelica.
"It's also more affordable these days and it's not uncommon for young woman to take out bank loans to pay for their "dream bodies". US statistics show the most common age bracket for cosmetic procedures is now 35-50, accounting for around 44 per cent of them. The second most common bracket is 19-24, at about 24 per cent.
What's the worst case scenario?
We don't want to frighten you, but the honest answer is death - although that is very rare. Cosmetic surgery is an operation and therefore carries with it the same risks as any other procedure carried out under anaesthetic.
In January Olivia Goldsmith, 54, author of The First Wives Club, suffered a heart attack and died after undergoing a facelift.
Likewise there can be serious complications, as with footballer Colin Hendry's wife Denise, who had a tummy tuck in April 2002 and later developed septicaemia. She recovered, but was in a coma for six weeks and at one stage doctors weren't sure she'd survive.
These stories are far from common, but more likely risks include infection, bleeding, scarring, difficult recoveries and, of course, being stuck with a result you don't like.
"Make sure you ask at the consultation about the risks and what the plan would be to deal with them," says Angelica Kavouni. "Most practices have well-defined policies about follow-up and re-operation."
What are my rights if I'm not happy with the results?
"After surgery if you're unsatisfied, tho first stop is to go back to the surgery and express your concerns," says cosmetic surgeon Azhar Aslam of London's Linia Clinic. The surgeon may suggest a second opinion from a colleague and if both agree the results aren't ideal they can operate again, he says. "In very rare cases - say if there is severe scarring - this is the point where the patient can take legal action."
Litigation is costly, though, and you have to prove your surgeon was negligent, which is difficult. But most surgeons are sympathetic and keen to have happy patients because they depend on personal recommendations for business.
What are most UK women having done?
There are no specific figures available for the UK, but according to Dr Apostolos Galtanis, in his own Harley Cosmetic Clinic: "The most popular procedure is breast augmentation, which is sought by either women in their early 20s who want larger breasts or women who've had children and lost volume from the bust area."
Angelica Kavouni agrees that breast augmentation is the most common procedure, although liposuction and facelifts follow closely.
My boyfriend or husband is interested in having surgery. Is that unusual?
Not at all, says Angelica. "Around 30 per cent of my patients are men and couples quite often come in together for a consultation," she says.
While women still account for the majority of cosmetic procedures, men are also getting work done, often to gain an edge in business.
Generally, around 10-15 per cent of all cosmetic procedures are carried out on men.