Cosmetic Camouflage

Patients who have recently undergone cosmetic surgery may needlessly hide themselves away during the recuperative period because the bruising, swelling, discoloration or other evidence of the procedure is all too apparent. While most of these temporary disfigurements cannot be hidden entirely, they can be minimized to give the patient a more conventional appearance.

The surgeon can advise the patient on an appropriate time to begin applying makeup and concealers, but a general rule of thumb for a surgical procedure is to wait until after the stitches have been removed and the incision completely closed. With a face peel or dermabrasion, it is usually safe to use makeup after the crust is gone.

Concealers are opaque, waterproof creams or sticks used to hide incision lines and bruises. They work best when they match the surrounding skin color. Concealers can be used over, under or without foundation, but they should be used with care and caution around the eyes.

Color-correcting fluids neutralize red or yellowish skin tones. For example, lavender neutralizes yellow tones, while green neutralizes red. These fluids are for use under the foundation.

Contouring can disguise swelling and create an illusion of highlights and shadows. A highlighter about two shades lighter than the foundation brings the area forward, while a contour shadow about two shades darker makes the feature recede. A patient who wanted to emphasize the cheekbone and disguise a swollen cheek would use highlighter on the bone and cover the swollen area with contour shadow. These techniques take some practice, but most patients feel the results are worth the effort.

Skin care is especially important after a peel or surgery. Cosmetics should always be removed nightly with cleansing cream. When the skin is clean, the patient should use an alcohol-free toner and then apply moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated.

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Finding the Right Physician

Cosmetic procedures are unique among surgical treatments because the patient wants to have them. He or she is willing to undergo pain, inconvenience and monetary expense in order to have an improved appearance. Choosing an appropriate physician is the first step in achieving this goal. The patient should look for a physician who:

  • Has been trained in the procedure(s) under consideration
  • Has performed the operation many times
  • Will discuss the treatment goals in detail
  • Will present options if choices are available
  • Will explain the procedure(s) thoroughly
  • Outlines the risks as well as the benefits
  • Describes a realistic outcome, not unbelievable results
  • Is frank about the duration of the effects
  • Discusses costs

Physicians certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and physicians certified in plastic surgery by the Royal College of Surgeons are specialists who have the requisite training and experience to perform all types of cosmetic procedures. This breadth of background and expertise provides the patient with the widest range of options for both surgical and nonsurgical techniques, and it ensures that the patient will be in qualified hands should an unexpected emergency arise.

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Video/Computer Simulations

Computer simulations are a new tool in plastic surgery. Surgeons use them to assist in preoperative planning, but they also play an important role in preparing the patient for the postoperative outcome. With a computer simulation, it is possible to show the patient an approximation of what he or she will look like, for example, after a rhinoplasty.

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Insurance Coverage

Patients who are contemplating cosmetic surgery should consider the costs carefully because most cosmetic procedures are not covered by insurance. However, there are a number of procedures that are sometimes covered, depending on the purpose of the treatment. Eyelid surgery is nearly always cosmetic (and not covered), but if the patient needs it to improve vision, then it may be considered reconstructive and, therefore, could be covered by insurance. Such cases should be carefully documented with photos and records documenting field of vision. Patients who are unsure about how their surgeries would be categorized should discuss it with their surgeon. Insurance carriers usually require prior approval, and they may want to see photos and other extra documentation as well.

While most procedures will not be covered, the patient may have some options to help reduce costs. Choosing outpatient surgery rather than hospitalization saves money, as does opting for local rather than general anesthesia. However, these factors have to be considered in the context of safety and comfort, so the patient and surgeon should make these decisions together.

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