Inside the Rise of Misleading Plastic Surgery Before-and-After Photos

Because aesthetic treatments are elective, many patients place some of the blame for complications on themselves, says Amy Wechsler, M.D., a dermatologist and psychiatrist in New York City. And that can open a Pandora’s box of negative thoughts: “They think, Why did I do this? or, What’s wrong with me that I felt so bad about myself?” says Dr. Wechsler.

“If I had gone to five or even two people to check this out and taken the time to sit with it and talked to a friend, even if it still happened, then at least [I could say] I did everything I could do to make sure I was making a smart choice,” says Kate. “Also, changing the shape of your body, there’s always that idea that, Oh, if I got up every morning and went to the gym for two hours, or stopped eating candy or whatever, I could just do it myself. So, if I took a shortcut and it didn’t go the way I wanted, then is it my fault for not just doing the work?”

The possibility of a physical complication, says Dr. Wechsler, is something that every patient should prepare for. “I always think it’s good to reflect: What are the potential side effects? And if they happen, how am I going to handle them emotionally?” But, she adds, it’s also important to set yourself up for success in the first place, starting with realistic expectations and getting clear on your motivations. “If someone comes in and they want a nose job because their significant other is complaining about how ugly their nose is, that is never a good reason to do something.”

When choosing a provider, board certifications specific to the procedure — i.e., a tummy tuck from someone board-certified in plastic surgery, not emergency medicine — matter. So does bedside manner, says Dr. Doft. All of the patients interviewed for this piece say they had a bad feeling at some point before the surgery, but went ahead anyway because they didn’t trust their instincts, wanted to get it over with, were afraid to speak up, or all of the above.

In the end, Kerri had three additional liposuction procedures to remove a total of 1,800 cubic centimeters of fat and deflate the Brazilian Butt Lift she never asked for. “Nobody really wants to hear that something could go wrong. I tell patients there’s [always] the possibility of a complication,” says Dr. Doft. “Who’s going to be there with you, standing by your side, if that happens?”