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Look at the Right Kind of Before-and-After Photos

A cosmetic surgeon should always let you see before-and-after photos of his patients. If he says he doesn't have any, for whatever reason, look elsewhere.

When you're looking at photos, don't just settle for a random handful of shots. You need to look at dozens — maybe even hundreds — to get a good sense of the doctor's work. Ask to see very specific types of photos, for example, shots of people who've had the exact procedure you're planning to have, and who have bodies similar to yours (skin condition, skin color, body weight, shape, and age). Ask the surgeon if the photos are of his patients and watch his reply carefully. There are services which provide "sample" photos for beginners to get their practice started.

Computer imaging is of some value for facial work, but photos of the doctor''s patients are far more valuable. Don't get distracted with a fancy computer presentation; focus on the elements in this chapter.

Speak with Other Patients

First, ask the doctor directly what percentage of his patients are referred to him by other patients. The best practices get the majority of their patients by referral. If most of the patients come in response to advertising alone, you may want to think twice. Ask the doctor or the staff if they'll give you the phone numbers of some other patients who've had the same procedure you're inquiring about, including some operated on in the past month. A percentage of these patients should be agreeable to providing support to newcomers. If the doctor says he cannot let you talk to his patients, this is a bad sign. There are no better information sources on earth than people who've had the same surgery.

Another way to learn about the doctor's expertise is to "socialize" in his waiting room. Show up 30 minutes early for your consultation, and spend some time questioning patients in the waiting room. You'll find that most cosmetic surgery patients are very willing to talk about what they've had done. If you see a woman with a bandaged face, ask her how she feels and what kind of procedure she had. If you tell her that you're considering the same thing, she'll probably be happy to share her impressions with you. Ask her what she thinks of the doctor and the staff. Ask her how available they were for follow-up and how responsive they were after the procedure. The staff should be more than happy to let you speak with other patients. If they aren't, consider going elsewhere.

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