People spent over 16 billion dollars in the United States alone last year on cosmetic procedures. With the increase in social media influencing our lives and do-it-yourself procedures being advertised on Instagram and YouTube, it is no wonder people are lured into thinking they can self-administer Botox, fillers, chemical peels, or even non-surgical fixes like nose jobs and facelifts. People want a cheap fix, but plastic and cosmetic surgeries are expensive for a reason. They use highly advanced techniques, equipment, specialized training, and extremely educated professionals to achieve the results wanted. More often than not, botched DIY procedures are seen that result in more costly, painful, and long fixes by a professional. Sadly, many botched procedures cause permanent disfigurements, like garage filler that can end up being cement and non-FDA-approved filler, or burns from poorly administered chemical peels. It is important to educate clients to stop and think about how much training and experience goes into every single unit of Botox a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon injects or every chemical peel a licensed aesthetician performs.
To become a qualified plastic surgeon in the United States, for example, it takes a person an average of four years studying in an undergraduate program to earn a bachelor’s degree, before another four years in a medical school. That’s eight years of hard work before a six- to seven-year surgical residency program, where they train assisting and gaining practical experience in general surgery and specialize in plastic surgery. After graduating, plastic and reconstructive surgeons spend two years studying and qualifying for written and oral board exams.
Fifteen years of training (or more, if the doctor also did a fellowship) goes into every ounce of filler a board-certified plastic surgeon injects. It is critical that a surgeon understand the planes of the face and where important veins and arteries are. Some recent studies show that up to 13% of people undergoing non-surgical procedures, such as Botox, may be either self-administering or visiting an unlicensed friend or practitioner for the treatment. This raises very real and scary concerns. Seeing someone who is not properly licensed to administer Botox or other injectables can cause very serious issues, such as paralysis, allergic reactions, severe pain, and problems controlling the facial muscles. In more severe cases, people have gone blind or severely distorted their faces (like a woman in Korea who used cooking oil when her black market filler wore off). There is also no guarantee an individual is receiving an FDA-approved filler and not some dangerous black market knock-off when they opt to go the DIY route.
Botox-like prescriptions and other injectables are not the only things that can be found online. There are even chemical peel kits for purchase, which many women buy in hopes that they will have a younger-looking face over the weekend. The problem with these products is, without a professional, the individual does not know how deep of a peel they can use. Serious scarring or burning can result. Cuts and infections from DIY microneedling treatments or at-home miniature laser devices are also common.
In order to perform these advanced treatments, skin care professionals undergo rigorous, hands-on training and must be licensed by their state boards. It is important to help clients be aware of these qualifications and credentials to help them understand the risks of DIY procedures and the benefits of leaving skin treatments to the hands of licensed professionals.
Cosmetic procedures such as Botox or peels may seem simple and straightforward to a client. If they go into a professional’s office and emerge an hour later looking and feeling younger, how hard can it actually be? Help educate clients that visiting the office of a licensed professional to have a procedure performed guarantees a level of safety that they cannot get from unlicensed individuals or their own home. Teach them that doctors’ offices and spas have rigorous safety and sanitary procedures to guarantee their health and well-being. Having Botox injected in someone’s garage cannot offer the same reassurances.
There are plenty of times to DIY something, like a nice shelf for a closet. But, when it comes to plastic surgery or advanced skin care, it is important to educate clients to do the research, set a goal, and save their money for the procedure they want to be performed by a licensed professional.
Dr. Elliot Hirsch is a board-certified plastic surgeon and chief of plastic surgery at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center. Hirsch practices the full spectrum of plastic and reconstructive surgery, specializing in both cosmetic and reconstructive breast surgery, including breast reconstruction, breast reduction, and breast implant removal and revision. Hirsch’s primary office is in Sherman Oaks, California and treats patients from not only Los Angeles but from all over California and beyond. Since entering medical school, Hirsch has been an active researcher in the field of plastic surgery, has co-authored over 40 manuscripts and book chapters, has received several grants for original research projects, and holds patents for wound care devices. Hirsch is also board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. hirschplasticsurgery.com