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FRONTLINE: 60 Seconds With Dr. Christopher Saunders

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In his new book, A Woman’s Guide to the “Real-Reality” of Cosmetic Surgery (AuthorHouse, 330 pages), Chadds Ford’s Dr. Christopher Saunders calls out the media for fueling the hype surrounding enhancement procedures and fostering unrealistic expectations. His response to an influx of misinformed inquiries is a must-read for anyone considering cosmetic surgery.

MLT: What’s the difference between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery?
CS: Plastic surgery is done to correct damaged or dysfunctional parts of the face or body such as birth defects, burns and cleft palate. Cosmetic surgery is a sub-specialty. Cosmetic procedures are enhancing in nature, not reconstructive.

MLT: What’s the most common misconception patients have?
CS: Unrealistic expectations that a procedure can achieve something not possible, and unrealistic expectations about recovery. Liposuction alone won’t achieve a flat stomach the way a tummy tuck would. It removes the fat, but it doesn’t tighten muscle or shrink skin. Office procedures are not going to do what operations do.

MLT: What’s the first question to ask a cosmetic surgeon?
CS: Assuming you’ve done your homework on credentials and training, and confirmed he or she has been board-certified in the specific area you’re looking for, the next thing is to explain what you want to do and hear about how the different, realistic options work—and what to expect in terms of recovery and results.

MLT: Have you ever disagreed with a potential patient’s reasons for having a procedure done?
CS: The majority of people who come to me are smart and reasonable. However, there are a few who seek cosmetic surgery for the wrong reasons. Some want it for general social reasons—they think they’ll be more accepted, popular, etc., if they improve their appearance—or they think it will improve their failing marriage.

MLT: At what age do most people have cosmetic surgery?
CS: Generally between 18 and 80. The younger end of the spectrum tends to focus on breast surgery, liposuction, lip enlargement and Botox. The older end: facial rejuvenation, tummy tucks and breast lifts.

MLT: What sort of money is required for a mid-life overhaul?
CS: Overhaul sounds like a lot, but you’d be surprised. It may not require as many procedures or as much money as you think. Generally, you can achieve very dramatic changes on the body or the face on the order of $5,000 to $15,000.

MLT: On a scale of one to 10, rate the riskiest procedures.
CS: There really isn’t a lot of risk. Any concerns are usually related to the patient’s health.

MLT: What are the most common procedures for men?
CS: Liposuction of the stomach, love handles and neck. Eye tucks are popular with older men.

MLT: Women?
CS: Facial rejuvenation, breast surgery and body sculpting.

MLT: Have you ever had plastic surgery?
CS: I’ve had multiple Botox treatments and loved the results.