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What you need to know before undergoing cosmetic or plastic surgery

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COSMETIC surgery is no longer the sneaky, shameful secret it once was. 

Women literally get Botox in their lunch breaks. Clinics in local shopping centres proudly advertise injectables in their store fronts.

It’s not a question of if, but how many, of the people in your life have had some kind of work done.

But the challenge for consumers is making sure they pick a qualified clinician.

That isn’t always easy, because anyone with a standard medical degree is legally allowed to perform cosmetic surgical procedures in Australia.

This week news.com.au is examining why a lack of industry regulation and confusion about the term “cosmetic surgeon” means patients are handing over their bodies and cash to dodgy doctors, with devastating and often lethal consequences.

We’ve asked industry experts to explain exactly what you need to look for when choosing to undergo a cosmetic or plastic surgical procedure.


All medical professionals working in Australia must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

There is a search function on APHRA’s website where you can enter the name and health profession of a clinician you are interested in to check out their qualifications and if there have been any reports made against them.

This is the absolute bare minimum requirement.

For example, a doctor might be registered with APHRA and qualified as a GP, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are trained to inject Botox into your face.


“See if they are a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons,” said the organisation’s president Professor Mark Ashton.

“There are other trained surgeons who aren’t necessarily trained plastic surgeons but at a minimum, they should have what’s called a Fellowship from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons,” Prof Ashton said.

But you don’t necessarily need a plastic surgeon if you’re simply having injectables, as opposed to a more advanced procedure like rhinoplasty or breast augmentation.

For example, the Cosmetic Physicians’ College of Australia (CPCA) represents clinicians who are not surgeons, but are trained to perform cosmetic operations.

A “FCPCA” is a fellow of the organisation and has been officially endorsed.

The simple rule is this: If there’s a scalpel involved and your skin is being sliced open, you want a plastic surgeon.

If it’s a non-invasive, non-surgical procedure such as Botox or filler injections, you’re fine with someone with only cosmetic surgery training.

To search the name of a surgeon, visit surgeons.org/find-a-surgeon



This is the opportunity for you to vet your chosen clinician. Ask them what procedures they regularly perform — is that the same as what you want to have done?

“If you’re talking to the doctor, ask yourself if you feel comfortable with this person,” Dr Dingley said.

“Go in with what you see as your issue, but don’t jump straight to the treatment. Don’t be in a hurry. Take the time to understand what your doctor is telling you and to think about the procedure,” she said.

“Think, ‘Am I comfortable with this process? Could I deal with any of the complications that the doctor mentioned?’”

If you’re undergoing a major procedure like a breast augmentation, your surgeon should insist you have a seven-day “cooling off” period to ensure you’re certain about your decision.


“Overblown ads are a big no,” said Dr Dingley. 
“People with good reputations often don’t need to promote themselves because they rely on word-of-mouth,” she said.

“The people who have big flashy ads saying they’re the ‘best’ at something aren’t always accurate. Often people with the most awards and degrees on the wall are just doing that for appearances and are trying to make themselves look better than they are. In the best of hands, you won’t see that stuff.”


“It’s absolutely critical that people realise that no procedure is without risk, even if the procedure is non-surgical,” said Prof Ashton.

“Mistake can still occur even in the best of hands. For example, there are over 50 cases of people going blind from filler injections and we know that blindness is instantaneous and permanent,” he said.

Dr Dingley recommends following all post-op instructions very carefully, as this is where infection can often occur.

“If after a procedure you’re not sure about something, call. Sometimes you might need antibiotics so it doesn’t develop into a big infection, but if you sit on it for a week it can develop badly,” she said.

“Don’t want for things to develop into something major that could have been averted earlier.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

First off, know who's operating on you. Only trust a board-certified plastic surgeon or facial plastic surgeon with proper training and credentials who is practicing within scope. Every procedure has risks. Many procedures are elective, and if you are investing the time and money, you should minimize any potential risks. Don't choose your doctor based on price alone. Price may be a deciding factor to some degree on who you choose to have operated on you, but it shouldn’t be the only reason to select a doctor and a surgery. While there are options available to finance your surgery, you shouldn’t skimp on quality just to save a few bucks. It takes time to see the final result.  This isn’t the case with all procedures, but you’ll need to fully heal before you can see the end result. Full healing takes about one year. The tissues need time to settle and it takes a while for the swelling, discoloration, and numbness to subside. Nothing lasts forever. Plastic surgery can turn back the hands of time and give you something you may have always wanted. Although the results are permanent you’ll probably need to keep up with what you’ve had done. Surgical results do not last forever. However, the improvements can last several years.

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