What does ‘downtime’ really mean?

We often hear people talking about ‘downtime’ when it comes to cosmetic surgery and non-surgical cosmetic procedures, but what does the phrase really mean, and how does it relate to the recovery period and the time it takes to see results?

Downtime

When it comes to cosmetic procedures, most people use the phrase ‘downtime’ to refer to the period of time during which you might want to refrain from your usual activities or stay away from the public eye. So for non-surgical procedures like Botox or fillers, this might just be a few hours, while you wait for the redness to go down, whilst for some surgical procedures it could be a matter of weeks.

Recovery period

The recovery period is a more technical term that is usually applied to cosmetic surgery, and refers to the time after the procedure when you may need to stay in bed or avoid certain physical activities.

Depending on the procedure that has been performed, there may be additional measures that need to be performed during this period, such as dressing changes, stitch removal or lymphatic massage, which will usually be performed during your routine follow-up appointments with the cosmetic surgeon.

Time taken to see results

This refers to the point at which all swelling and bruising has gone down and the final results of the procedure can be seen. These two things may not happen at the same time; with a procedure like Botox, for example, although any redness caused by the procedure disappears fairly quickly, the product takes a few days to take effect, so you might not see a reduction in wrinkles for a week or so.

With a surgical procedure like breast augmentation, however, although you will notice an immediate increase in bust size, it will take longer for the swelling and bruising to diminish. The final results can be seen once everything has settled down.

What do my cosmetic surgeon’s professional qualifications and memberships mean?

Looking for a cosmetic surgeon to perform your breast augmentation, facelift or other cosmetic procedure can be a very confusing and difficult process. Not least confusing is deciphering all the initials after a surgeon’s name and working out which of those are important.

Here is a breakdown of my qualifications and accreditations and what they mean:

Bsc

This means Bachelor of Sciences and means that I have graduated from a science degree as well as my clinical studies.

MB BS

MB BS stands for Bachelor of Medicine and means I have graduated from my five year medical degree. This is the minimum requirement necessary to practise as a doctor in the UK.

MD

This stands for Doctor of Medicine, which is a research qualification, equivalent to a PhD in the non-medical world. This is a higher degree than an MB BS but is not necessary in order to practise medicine.

FRCS (Plast)

This means that I have passed all the exams necessary to become a fellow of the Royal Society of Surgeons, specialising in the field of plastic surgery.

If you are considering having cosmetic plastic surgery in this country, you should ensure that your surgeon is a fellow of the Royal Society of Surgeons at least, although a speciality in the field of plastic surgery is especially reassuring as it shows that s/he has trained specifically in plastic and reconstructive – if not cosmetic – surgery.

Professional association: BAAPS

BAAPS is the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, which is an independent self-regulatory body for the cosmetic surgery industry. There is very little official regulation of the industry, so associations like the BAAPS exist to try and promote good ethical practice and offer reassurance to patients.

If you are unsure about your surgeon’s qualifications, the best thing is to ask at the consultation stage, and don’t be afraid to walk away if s/he is unable to offer proof of their expertise.

Do I need to like my cosmetic surgeon?

In a word: yes! It is vitally important that you feel comfortable in your cosmetic surgeon’s company. You need to be able to ask your surgeon as many questions about the procedure as are necessary to ensure that you understand everything that the surgery entails, and you also need to be able to state your own requirements from the surgery clearly, which may be difficult if you do not feel at ease with the surgeon.

Won’t the results depend on my physical features, rather than what I want?

A good cosmetic surgeon will be able to hone his or her technique to the requirements of the individual patient.

There will of course be limitations related to the actual physiology of the patient – if a breast augmentation patient is very flat chested, for example, she may not be able to achieve a DD cup in one operation, as there will not be enough skin on the chest to allow for this.

If she feels comfortable enough with her cosmetic breast surgeon to state her desires honestly, however, they may be able to work together to come up with a treatment plan that will allow her to come close to her ideal cup size over time, although this may involve multiple operations.

What if my requirements are not achievable?

It is still important that your surgeon knows what you want to achieve, whether it is possible or not, because if it is not possible to get the result you want then you need to be aware of this before you decide whether or not to go ahead with the surgery.

If you can communicate clearly what you want from surgery, your cosmetic surgeon will be able to tell you how close you can get to this. If you don’t feel comfortable with your surgeon then this level of communication might be difficult.

What if I don’t feel at ease with my surgeon?

This is what the consultation stage is for. Most cosmetic surgeons charge for their time at consultation precisely because they don’t expect 100% of patients who attend a consultation to go ahead with surgery. Not feeling comfortable with the surgeon is just as valid a reason not to go ahead as any other.

Why stop smoking before having cosmetic surgery?

Patients often ask me why they need to stop smoking several weeks before an operation; the assumption is that I, like everyone else, am just concerned about the general ill effects of smoking on their health.

However, the truth is that smoking can have serious implications for anyone undergoing any type of surgery, and here’s why.

Smoking affects the body’s ability to heal itself

The nicotine in cigarettes and tobacco acts as a vasoconstrictor, which means it tightens the blood vessels in the body. This means that it can decrease the blood flow to certain areas of the body, which in turn can prolong healing time.

In some very severe cases, this longer healing time can result in infection, severe scarring and even the need for further surgery in future. Many surgeons will refuse to operate on smokers at all.

Smoking ages the skin

I’ve explained why you should stop smoking before any form of surgery, but with cosmetic surgery it is especially important, particularly if you are having the surgery to look younger. Smoking, as we have already heard, decreases blood flow to certain parts of the body, including the skin.

This can result in the formation of free radicals, which attack the healthy cells in the skin, causing accelerated ageing. For this reason, it is essential to stop smoking before having any anti-ageing procedure, otherwise you will undo all the good work.

How long before surgery should you stop?

The earlier you stop, the better, for all the reasons mentioned above. If you can’t manage to stop earlier though, I would recommend quitting a minimum of six weeks before surgery, and continuing to avoid nicotine for at least six weeks afterwards.

All surgeons will have slightly different requirements here, but I can guarantee that any reputable surgeon will insist that you stop smoking prior to surgery.