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The new Netflix series "Skin Decision: Before and After" isn't your typical makeover show. While popular plastic surgery reality shows in the past have received a bad rap for featuring extreme surgical makeovers, beauty pageant competitions, botched surgeries or patients undergoing surgery to look like their favorite celebrity, "Skin Decision" challenges common misconceptions about plastic surgery and shows a side of the specialty that's not often portrayed in the media.
"My favorite aspect of "Skin Decision" is the show's class and integrity," says ASPS member and Skin Decision plastic surgeon Sheila Nazarian, MD. "It treats patients with respect and elevates the entire aesthetic industry by showing the world what we do elevates and optimizes people."
The representation of a female plastic surgeon on TV can also inspire future generations of female physicians, she adds.
"Having women in the spotlight as experts is extremely relevant right now," she says. "Featuring a woman physician on TV who isn't shy about being good at something and showing her expertise hasn't been done before. The series inspires up-and-coming female physicians and shows them a role model in a position of power and influence, which is really important."
The eight-episode reality series focuses on the transformative power of plastic surgery and features patients from all walks of life. Dr. Nazarian and skin care expert Nurse Jamie help people reclaim their confidence and become the best versions of themselves through innovative treatments and procedures. In every episode, the experts meet with patients, listen to their goals and determine if the person is better suited for a surgical procedure or nonsurgical treatment, weighing the pros and cons of each option. It's evident they are invested in helping their patients move forward in life.
Dr. Nazarian notes the series also highlights the importance of plastic surgery despite the specialty being deemed non-essential during the COVID-19 crisis.
"Our governor in California let all doctors return to work during the pandemic except for plastic surgeons, indicating that what we do is not essential," she says. "Skin Decision highlights we are essential and shows the huge impact we have on our patients' lives."
Several people on the show have overcome traumatic events, and their emotional backstories and reasons for seeking cosmetic surgery will likely tug on viewers' heartstrings. Katrina, whose ex-husband shot her nine times before he killed himself and their two daughters, cried tears of joy after undergoing a full surgical procedure to remove her bullet wounds and scars and erase the physical reminder of her tragedy. Nicholas underwent a procedure to reduce facial scarring from a near-fatal car crash. Former model Marla, a victim of an infamous brutal razor attack in the '80s, regained her self-esteem with non-invasive cosmetic procedures. Louis seeks help to restore his smile before his wedding and reduce traumatic injuries from a collision with a drunk driver.
But not every person's story is centered around tragedy. A young woman gained newfound confidence after her treatment drastically improved her acne and scarring, and several mothers reclaimed their bodies after childbirth. Each episode is well-balanced and shows how plastic surgery has improved the patients' quality of life after their procedures.
"The transformation is evident in how they see themselves in the mirror at the end of their journey," says Dr. Nazarian. "Taking away their scars and insecurities allows them to be free to live their lives without always thinking of something that's holding them back."
Dr. Nazarian hopes the new reality series helps viewers understand that plastic surgery is less about vanity and more about changing lives and making people feel whole.
"My favorite part about being the plastic surgeon on 'Skin Decision' is representing our industry in a truthful and real way to the world," she says. "Aesthetic medicine and plastic surgery are not a circus. Our patients aren't spectacles. They are real people with real reasons for seeking out help, and we impact their lives in powerful and meaning ways. I get to show the world that, and I am so grateful for the opportunity."
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.