Deciding Between Plastic Surgery and Nonsurgical Wrinkle Removal


Jennifer Larson

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Nose Job Rhinoplasty

You want to do something about the wrinkles that have etched themselves around your lips and mouth, the lips that get thinner every day, or the skin that’s sagging more than you’d like. But you want to make sure you’re choosing the best option for you and your situation. Do you go with a soft cosmetic filler or other nonsurgical procedure to brighten your smile, or do you go with surgery for a more permanent fix?

Opting for nonsurgical treatment

You’ve decided that you don’t want to go under the knife – at least not now. Perhaps the expense of surgery is holding you back from going that route, or maybe you fear the possible complications. Maybe you don’t want to have to deal with a longer recovery time—or you just want to get the procedure done quickly over your lunch break and then head back to the office. Whatever the reason, you have plenty of nonsurgical options for improving your appearance.

You could choose cosmetic filler injections, which can be done in a doctor’s office in about 20 minutes. You could go with hyaluronic acid fillers to plump up areas of your face that have started to thin out, like your lips, or you could choose calcium hydroxylapatite fillers to restore some of the volume to your cheeks. You might opt for a resurfacing treatment like microdermabrasion or a chemical peel. Also, there are laser treatments that can smooth out the surface of your skin, removing age spots and acne scars, and improving your skin’s overall appearance.

Another popular choice is injections of botulinum toxin type A, which smooths out wrinkles by temporarily paralyzing the small muscles in your face. And a relatively new treatment on the market known as ultherapy uses ultrasound technology to lift and tighten skin around the neck, chin and eyebrow.

The upsides of many of these nonsurgical treatments is that they’re less invasive and require little to no recovery time. They may also be less expensive. However, in some cases, the results may only be temporary. You might have to return for another series of injections or other treatments to keep your appearance looking fresh.

Choosing cosmetic surgery

Perhaps you’re just ready to go a step further. Cosmetic fillers were able to achieve some good results, but you feel like you need more. You’re interested in a cheek enhancement or some other type of facial rejuvenation, like a facelift or eyelid lift. You’ve got the budget for some type of cosmetic surgery that will give you long-lasting results. And you’re fine with possibly having a longer recovery time or risking a few side effects from a more involved procedure.

If you do decide to get surgery, don’t just call the closest plastic surgeon’s office to make an appointment. This is the time to do your homework:

  • Look for a surgeon who is board certified, which demonstrates expertise in this particular field.

  • Ask how many procedures the surgeon has performed. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing someone who has regularly performed your particular procedure.

  • Discuss with your surgeon whether you are a good candidate for a particular procedure—or if something else might be more appropriate. This is also a good opportunity to ask about options for minimally invasive procedures, which can reduce the pain and recovery time associated with the surgery.

  • Ask for details about expected recovery time and potential side effects or complications.

Today, many cosmetic surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis, meaning that you won’t even have to go to the hospital. However, it’s worth making sure your surgeon has admitting privileges for at least one hospital covered by your insurance, in case anything goes wrong. Also, be sure to talk to your surgeon about how to take care of your skin after the surgery.

PHYSICIAN CONTRIBUTOR Close up of woman receiving injection in lips

Advances in Cosmetic Fillers

Dr. David Harvey talks about the latest opportunities for brightening up lips and aging gracefully with cosmetic fillers.
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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Feb 14, 2018

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Medical References

  1. Cosmetic Surgery. American Academy of Dermatology. Stats and Facts.
  2. Cosmetic Surgery, Plastic Surgery—What’s the Difference? American Board of Cosmetic Surgery.
  3. Fillers. American Academy of Dermatology.
  4. Filling in Wrinkles Safely. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  5. Soft Tissue Fillers (Dermal Fillers). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  6. Soft Tissue Fillers Approved by the Center for Devices and Radiological Health. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  7. Tips on Finding the Best Cosmetic Surgeon for You. American Board of Cosmetic Surgery.