The Best Ways To Invest In Your Face According To Facial 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 facial plastic surgeons for their take.
Expert Opinion
Written by India Bottomley
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The Best Ways To Invest In Your Face According To Facial Plastic SurgeonsLightField Studios/Shutterstock

When it comes to making decisions about having plastic surgery, cost is undoubtedly part of the equation. Of course you need to understand your aesthetic goals, possible results, and find the right provider, but your budget will play a big role in determining which solutions will best treat your needs. How are you going to fund the surgical or non-surgical procedures? Which ones will prove to be most cost-effective in the long run?

Consultations with board certified dermatologists and plastic surgeons are the best way to get a sense of what treatment options 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 facial aesthetic concerns (think: eye rejuvenation, lip volume, fine lines and wrinkles), we’ve asked two top facial plastic surgeons for their take.

How to Discuss Your Budget with Your Provider

If you’ve seen our guide to the best questions to ask during a plastic surgery consultation, then you know we suggest inquiring about a range of topics — from the provider’s background to post-op care — and the cost of your procedure(s) is on that list. While your doctor or surgeon may present all possible treatment options available, understanding how much you are willing and able to spend will allow them to recommend the best course of action given your aesthetic goals, anatomy, and budget.

Since the majority of cosmetic surgeries and procedures are not covered by insurance, providers are very accustomed to having conversations with patients about finances. Some practices work with companies that offer financing options, and it’s not uncommon for candidates to save for months or even years before moving forward with their procedure. According to Farhad Ardesh, MD, a double board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Los Angeles, many patients decide to cut back on discretionary spending (think: their daily cappuccino order) and put the savings towards making an investment in their appearance.

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

Generally speaking, non-surgical procedures cost less than surgical ones, but, when you factor in the maintenance many of them require, the savings may turn out to be nominal. Even so, a patient’s age, medical history, and aesthetic concerns and goals should all be taken into consideration when developing both short- and long-term treatment plans.

On the non-surgical end of the spectrum, injectables like Botox® and dermal fillers are often the first things that come to mind. “Botox® and other fillers have a place in the market,” says Thuy-Van Tina Ho, MD, a double board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Philadelphia, but she also acknowledges that these procedures are “a temporary solution only.” Depending on the candidate, such procedures may be used preventatively or to complement more invasive ones. “Botox® is a necessary part of most rejuvenation plans, in order to reduce wrinkles and give a youthful, fresh appearance,” Dr. Ardesh notes. “The secret to Botox® is to have a little placed in all parts of the upper portion of the face, which creates a balanced and natural enhanced look.”

It’s important to note that while it may be tempting to search for a bargain on recurring treatments such as neurotoxins and fillers, now is not the time to Groupon. Finding a skilled injector who has a deep understanding of facial anatomy is the best way to prevent potential complications. While these procedures may seem routine, an untrained practitioner could inject into a blood vessel or damage a nerve, which would have lasting effects.

But injectables aren’t the only minimally invasive treatment options on the market. From non-surgical fat reduction to energy-based skin tightening, there are plenty of ways to avoid going under the knife. So, how can you get the most bang for your buck? Our experts share their thoughts on a few of the most popular facial treatment areas:

1. Eyes

Even before COVID-19 face coverings put our collective attention squarely on the upper third of the face, the eyes have always been a cause of cosmetic concerns. Dr. Ho says that periorbital neurotoxin treatments and under eye filler can temporarily address crow’s feet and bags, while laser treatments and chemical peels can help resurface aging (read: crepey) skin. To consistently treat dark circles, Dr. Ardesh says prescription skincare may be best.

As an alternative to synthetic filler, which Dr. Ardesh says “can create irregularities and strange, unwanted appearances” in patients with lower eyelid hollows or bags,” both he and Dr. Ho like fat transfer as a means to restore volume. While the fat is ultimately placed like an injectable, fat grafting is technically a surgical procedure because it involves harvesting fat from a donor site via liposuction before transferring it to the desired area. In this case, Dr. Ardesh likes to perform a nano-fat transfer where fat is taken from the belly button region before being processed into a fine liquid and injected around the eyes. “This procedure can help with hollows and also improve skin color and quality,” he says.

Unlike hyaluronic acid-based dermal fillers that need to be touched up every six to 12 months, fat transfer is permanent after the initial recovery period. For the first three to six months, the fat must become established in its new location, and the body reabsorbs a portion of it (usually about 30 to 50 percent) during that time. As such, providers may suggest a revision down the line to address volume loss.

But fat grafting isn’t the only way to enjoy a long-lasting solution. Dr. Ho recommends eyelid surgery, which can easily be combined with a neck lift or facelift. Depending on the patient’s concerns, Dr. Ardesh says the most cost-effective eye rejuvenation procedure may be removing a small amount of lower eyelid skin through surgery. A lower eyelid blepharoplasty can be performed as an outpatient procedure in under an hour and correct common age-related eye concerns, like dark circles and bags.

2. Lips

Whether your concern is lip shape or size, lip augmentation procedures are consistently among the top-performed in the United States every year. Temporary lip fillers are the perhaps the most well-known treatment option (check out our guide to what to know before your first time getting lip filler), but fat transfer is an option here as well. “Filler enhancement can be performed in the office during a 20-minute visit and costs about $800,” Dr. Ardesh says, noting that they usually last up to a year.

Lip augmentation with fat transfer, on the other hand, rings in at about $5,000, he shares, but you can expect permanent results. When you consider that one syringe of filler can cost up to $1,200, fat transfer may prove to be more cost effective. Dr. Ardesh transfers between 10 and 60 milliliters of fat and estimates 50 to 70 percent of it survives. “The benefits of fat transfer include that the fat can also be transferred to other parts of the face that need volume at the same time, like the cheeks, jawline, and temples,” he adds.

3. Chin & Jawline

Speaking of the jawline, Dr. Ardesh says temporary filler is a popular way to add definition here, too. At about $900 per one milliliter syringe, however, the cost of maintaining those results adds up quickly. In addition to fat transfer, he often recommends a permanent implant to patients looking for chin and jawline enhancement. “A chin implant is the equivalent of at least four vials of filler, so the chin implant surgery can be significantly more cost-effective for about $4,000,” Dr. Ardesh says. Not only can the implant prove to be more budget-friendly in the long term, but it also may yield more satisfactory results. “The chin implant may have better aesthetic outcomes than getting jaw filler injections every year,” he says.

4. Neck

We can save the lecture on how craning over our electronic devices is speeding up the aging process for another day, but there is no denying that the neck often raises a host of aesthetic concerns for patients of all ages. “Procedures such as Kybella®, CoolSculpting®, and neck liposuction can all be costly and provide mild, temporary improvement of double chins and neck fullness,” Dr. Ardesh says. While these minimally invasive treatments address the superficial fat under the skin, they do not correct the “deep fat under the loose muscle,” he cautions.

As a result, a surgical neck lift often proves to be both cost-effective and the best way to achieve the look a patient desires. “The vast majority of patients that come to see me for a neck lift surgery have had previous non-surgical treatments within the last one to two years,” he explains. “These patients would have saved significant money and achieved the result that they originally desired, if they first had surgery.”

5. Skin

The most budget-friendly way to care for your face in the long run? A healthy lifestyle and good skincare routine. “Regular sunblock and sun avoidance are a must, in addition to good nutrition, avoiding tobacco products, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep,” Dr. Ardesh says. When it comes to your skincare regimen, reach for tried-and-true active ingredients (think: retinoids, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and peptides) and consider updating your arsenal through your twenties, thirties, forties, and after 50 to keep up with the evolving needs of your complexion.

Because at-home skincare can’t do it all, our experts recommend a chemical peel once or twice per year to improve skin tone and texture. Starting off a preventative Botox® routine in your late twenties and early thirties, meanwhile, can help prevent deeper wrinkles from forming down the line. How will you know it’s time? When your expression lines no longer disappear like they once did.

The Takeaway

While this article hopefully shed some light on the different procedures that exist at different price points to address any number of facial concerns, every patient is entirely unique and there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all in aesthetic medicine. In order to be sure you are maximizing your budget and possible results, be honest with your provider about your budget and what you hope to achieve. They will be able to walk you through all of your treatment options. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that no professional procedure will replace the virtues of a healthy lifestyle, so investing in your physical and mental wellbeing will pay dividends when it comes to maintaining a youthful appearance.

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INDIA BOTTOMLEYis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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