Misconceptions about plastic surgery

Kristen Juliet Soh

SINGAPORE (CNA) – Think “plastic surgery” and most likely, gory invasive procedures involving going under the knife, a long recovery process, and dramatic before-and-after photos come to mind.

In popular culture, the term has often been associated with procedures that aim to enhance the appearance and aesthetic appeal of a patient.

While openness towards plastic surgery has improved over the last few decades, in 2020, they’re still generally a “hush hush” affair that most who have done the deed wouldn’t admit to people they have just met.

There are many reasons why people still frown upon its use.

Conservative folks think you shouldn’t alter your features. Practical people think it’s ridiculous to subject yourself to medical risk in the name of beauty.

Others think it confers advantages to those who have the resources to look “better”.

The only exception to this finger-wagging judgement? Reconstructive surgery that help restore functions to defective body parts arising from accidents, birth defects or trauma, or surgery required to save lives.

This was the subject of a CNA Insider story, which highlighted the work by Dr Pek Chong Han, a plastic surgeon at a public hospital, who had operated on a pair of bacteria-infested feet, allowing the patient to play sports again, and a cancer-ridden tongue which aided the patient in speaking, among others.

His work is laudable and I have utmost respect for how surgeons like him have vastly improved the lives of patients.

But let’s look at the other side of this conundrum – what’s wrong with procedures that make you look better?

Most people think that only those who are vain and wish to forcefully defy the effects of time would consider plastic surgery, but many actually go for cosmetic procedures to feel more confident.

These old mindsets make sweeping assumptions about people’s motivations.

Think about that man who gets teased when he wears tight-fitting shirts because he has a medical condition called gynaecomastia or ‘man boobs’.

Think about the woman who feels self-conscious about her obvious eye bags and is tired of constantly being asked if she had slept poorly the previous night.

While reconstructive plastic surgery solves a visible physical defect, these treat an often hidden psychological concern and is a highly personal decision. After you’ve exhausted exercise, diet and routines, shouldn’t you have the autonomy to reach for a different set of options?

What constitutes plastic surgery has changed over the years because of advancement in medical technology.

Thirty years ago, if you were looking to achieve a more defined jawline, get rid of wrinkles and a double chin, chances are a rhytidectomy (face lift) would be your best, if not only, option.

A traditional facelift involves making several incisions on the face, before the doctor redistributes fat and even reposition tissues and muscles to sculpt how the face looks. Finally, the doctor re-drapes the skin before trimming away excess skin to complete the procedure.

In other words, it is an invasive surgery, with recovery a long, painful journey.

Today, to address the same concerns, you can pick from an array of non-invasive aesthetic procedures that do not involve surgery.

Aesthetic doctors are likely to recommend a combination of botulinum toxin, fillers or skinboosters, ultrasound or radiofrequency skin tightening, and fat-freezing.

Each can be performed over a lunchtime break in a few minutes.

Most people wouldn’t hesitate to invest in a concealer to hide acne scars and dark eye circles, or to go for brow embroidery so they can wake up to full and defined-looking brows.

Why should there be less stigma in applying an anti-ageing serum compared to getting a botulinum toxin injection?