The Best Ways To Invest In Your Body According To Plastic Surgeons

When it comes to making decisions about plastic surgery, cost is undoubtedly part of the equation. To give you a sense of how to maximize your budget, we’ve asked two top plastic surgeons for their take.
Expert Opinion
Written by India Bottomley
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The Best Ways To Invest In Your Body According To Plastic SurgeonsJacob Lund/Shutterstock

When it comes to investing in aesthetic procedures, getting the most for your money is often a priority. Finding a balance between achieving the results you’re looking for and staying within a budget can be a complex task, especially with more treatment options than ever promising to contour, lift, tone, and tighten the body.

A consultation with a board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon is the best way to get a sense of what surgical and non-surgical procedures exist and how much they will set you back based on your unique anatomy and vision. But, to give you a general sense of how to maximize your budget to correct common body concerns (think: neck, abdomen, excess fat), we’ve asked two top plastic surgeons for their take.

How to Discuss Your Budget with Your Provider

Discussing money — regardless of the circumstances — can often feel uncomfortable. In the case of plastic surgery, being honest about your expectations and how much you have to spend is key to ensuring you get the best treatment for your needs. “If a patient is on a budget, the best approach is to be upfront with the doctor before a consultation,” explains Jonathan Cabin, MD, a double board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Arlington, VA. “You can let the doctor know that you have constraints around budget and ask them to recommend the very highest impact procedures.”

Basically, the more communicative you can be about what you’re looking for, the better. “What’s helpful is for the surgeon to know what the patient’s primary goals are,” he says. “That way, the surgeon can keep this in mind when prioritizing recommendations.”

And don’t be surprised if, when it comes to dollars and cents, you end up talking to a member of the doctor’s team. “Most plastic surgeons, including myself, don’t like to discuss fees with patients because it can interfere with the doctor-patient relationship,” he adds. “Plastic surgeons try to stay focused on the surgical care and, thus, aren’t sure of exact fees. They have staff to help with the accounting.”

What about financing options?

Cosmetic surgery is rarely covered by insurance, which means you will likely be paying out of pocket for treatment. The availability of financing options and the frequency at which they are used will vary depending on the provider and practice. As such, it’s a good idea to inquire about what may be available prior to your initial consultation with the doctor.

“In my practice, I would say less than 5 percent of patients use financing for their procedures,” Dr. Cabin shares. “I personally have a higher threshold to do surgery on someone who is using financing, as I feel that patients using financing are less likely to be making a wise financial decision in pursuing surgery.” At the end of the day, his main objective is to make sure patients feel confident and secure in their decision. “There are certainly many many patients who want to finance a procedure and feel comfortable financially with the commitment,” he notes. “But I always want to be certain that a patient will feel financially secure if they undergo surgery.”

In other practices, the percentage of patients who choose to finance their procedure is higher. New York City-based board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon Kevin Tehrani, MD, estimates that some 20 to 30 percent of his patients opt for financing options, and he has recently started accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment, too. “Speaking about budget is a good idea, but I do not believe it should be the only way to tailor someone's treatment plan,” Dr. Tehrani says. “Patients should discuss the pros and cons of a procedure and then talk about the budget that can be worked within.” From there, you can decide what is best for you. “The spectrum can be delivered from a high, middle, and low cost, but it’s ultimately what scenario will be the best for the patient,” he adds.

Non-Surgical vs. Surgical: What’s Most Cost-Effective?

There are two main classifications of aesthetic treatments: surgical and non-surgical. Generally speaking, more invasive procedures carry higher price tags, but they also tend to have longer-lasting results. “Although non-surgical approaches are cheaper, when compared to surgical approaches for the same problems, they can be less effective,” Dr. Cabin says. Another caveat? “Many non-surgical treatments need to be repeated routinely, and costs can add up over time,” he adds.

A cost-benefit analysis of getting a facelift versus using filler to camouflage signs of aging is one such example. “Fillers can be less expensive if comparing one treatment to one surgery, but they tend to be less impactful in rejuvenating facial aging and need to be repeated every nine to 24 months,” Dr. Cabin explains.

When we’re talking about value for money, we’re considering results that are both noticeable and withstanding. It’s not to say that surgery is always the best solution, but it is best to consult with board certified providers and consider all of your options before deciding on a treatment plan. So, how can you get the most bang for your buck? Our experts share their thoughts on a few of the most popular body treatment areas (you can also check out our guide to the best ways to invest in your face):

1. Neck & Décolleté

There are several minimally invasive options for the neck and décolletage, and the most effective tend to involve skincare. “I think preventative treatments are the most cost-effective and natural way to prevent and reverse aging,” Dr. Cabin says. “Regular Botox® and skincare can stave off textural changes to the skin that can be stubborn to treat and an occasional laser resurfacing can keep skin at its peak health.” As he explains, a good skincare regimen — particularly one that includes prescription-strength retinol — is “an invaluable and relatively cheap way to look your very best.”

When skincare is no longer enough, Dr. Tehrani says a neck lift can be performed to rejuvenate the neck and jawline and address more significant signs of aging. While you may be most familiar with surgical neck lifts, there are less invasive versions as well. He says MyEllevate™ is a non-surgical treatment option that offers “a complete neck lift under local anesthesia” and takes about an hour to complete. “The results are more permanent than a thread lift and downtime is minimal,” he adds.

2. Breasts

For all the advancements that have been made in non-surgical treatments, the gold standards of breast augmentation remain the same. For those who wish to add volume, breast implants are the most common option. In a patient with enough excess fat, breast augmentation with fat transfer can provide a similar result, though the price points are similar (often $5,000 or more). “If a patient is looking for a cost-effective procedure for breast augmentation, I would recommend saving it for later,” Dr. Tehrani says. This is true of mastopexy (i.e. breast lift) as well, he notes.

3. Abdomen

Many patients are looking to create a more toned midriff by removing excess skin, getting rid of unwanted fat, or a combination of both. “For the stomach, our budget-friendly and non-invasive options are CoolSculpting® and Emsculpt Neo,” Dr. Tehrani says. Those don’t require going under the knife and offer permanent fat reduction, but they do not address excess skin.

An abdominoplasty (a.k.a. tummy tuck) can correct both concerns and may be the more cost-effective solution in the long run. Tummy tucks are permanent (with a healthy lifestyle), and the surgery, which involves removing sections of excess skin and fat, can offer dramatic results. If you’re planning on having children, it’s usually best to save a tummy tuck surgery for after your pregnancy or pregnancies. At that point, it can be incorporated in a larger ‘mommy makeover’ procedure.

4. Hips, Thighs, & Buttocks

How can you get the best value for money when you’re looking to boost the appearance of your hips, thighs, and/or buttocks? The answer here will depend on what your goals are. Treatment options vary depending on whether you’re interested in removing excess fat and contouring the shape of your upper thighs and butt versus if you’re looking to add volume.

For those who wish to remove volume and smooth the area, there are both surgical and non-surgical body contouring treatments to consider. “The most cost-effective option is liposuction and skin tightening,” Dr. Tehrani says. As it relates specifically to the hips, he recommends lipostabil injections to dissolve fat. The injections work by effectively killing the fat cells it is injected into. Once dissolved, the cells are permanently removed, but cells in surrounding areas will still be able to grow in the future.

If, on the other hand, you are looking to augment the buttocks area, fat transfer is widely considered the safest way to add volume. A butt lift with fat grafting will both remove unwanted fat and strategically add back new fat to improve contour. As with any fat transfer procedure, some 30 to 50 percent of the grafted tissue will be reabsorbed by the body during the initial three to six month recovery process. But, after that period, the transfer is permanent. Long term, there is no risk of rejection and it can be further augmented as needed.

The Takeaway

Choosing the best procedure(s) will ultimately come down to what you feel is best for your circumstances. It’s important to know that many patients save for months or even years before going in for their preferred procedure, and safety should always be your chief priority. Deals that seem too good to be true often are, so be sure to find a board certified provider who specializes in the treatments you are interested in. “Patients should be aware of the breakdown of the procedure based on costs, the options available if the patient is dissatisfied, and knowing the effective rate of the procedure,” Dr. Tehrani says. “Some results last seven to 10 years, but ultimately it is affected by the individual's lifestyle.”

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INDIA BOTTOMLEYis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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