How to Find the Right Plastic Surgeon for You

Posted On Thursday, 28 April 2016
How to Find the Right Plastic Surgeon for You

Finding a good aesthetic plastic surgeon can be a daunting challenge for many patients.

Thankfully, there are some relatively easy first steps that can be done to narrow the field down.

There are many excellent surgeons, and most patients will end up visiting with a few surgeons that they like and trust. The following information represents a guideline to make your search easier, and is essentially the process by which I would personally find a plastic surgeon.

When it comes to finding a plastic surgeon, first, check for a surgeon’s board certification.

Which board matters?

It should be the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Don’t get fooled by all of the “fake” boards, especially the ones with “cosmetic surgery” in the title. The only board for training in plastic surgery recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties is the American Board of Plastic Surgery. It has a simple name, but it represents years of proper training, and rigorous testing with both written and oral boards.

Board certification alone does not guarantee that one is a good surgeon, but it is the first major screening to make sure your surgeon has the appropriate training, ethics, and safety standards. Almost anyone with a medical degree can legally practice cosmetic surgery, and some patients are shocked to find that their “plastic surgeon” was actually an OB/GYN, an oral surgeon, or even an internist that took some weekend cosmetic surgery courses.

Once you find some board certified plastic surgeons, check on their society memberships. Most good plastic surgeons will be members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and for further sub-specialization in aesthetic (cosmetic) surgery, they should also be members in the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. These groups require peer acceptance based on following a strict code of quality, safety and ethics.

After checking for society membership, check your state medical board to make sure the surgeon you are looking into does not have outstanding ethical issues or pending lawsuits. Frivolous lawsuits are common, and most surgeons will have to deal with a lawsuit at some point in their careers, but if you see a lot of legal issues with a surgeon, this should be a major red flag.

Once the above-mentioned steps are done, you know a surgeon is theoretically ethical, safe and properly trained. Now you can use online resources to specifically check on the quality of the surgeon’s work. Every surgeon should list their CV (resume) on their website so you can check where they did their training, what research they have performed, what medical societies they belong to, etc. Additionally, they should demonstrate on their website what procedures they perform on a regular basis.

In aesthetic surgery, results are mostly visual, so before and after photos represent the best way to see what you can expect with a given surgeon. The photo gallery should show many results in order for you to get a good idea of the quality of work the surgeon is capable of. Be wary of a site that only shows a few photos; these probably represent “best results.” If you can look through a large gallery of before and after photos, this will be a much more realistic view of the surgeon’s skill and “typical results.”

If you are not happy with the results in the photo gallery, keep looking at other surgeons. Looking at many different surgeons’ photo galleries will also give you a good idea of the range of results that are possible for a particular procedure.

Try to find a surgeon that specializes in the area of the body that you are interested in changing. The more of a procedure a surgeon performs, the better he or she will generally be at that procedure. Obviously, some surgeries are by nature more common than others, but you don’t want to be the surgeon’s first case of anything!

Once you have finished this research, look at online reviews. They may not all be perfect 5-star reviews, but you should see a general trend. If there are a lot of bad reviews, that should be another red flag. Great sites for reviews include Google and RealSelf. These are good places to start, and if you happen to know people that have personally been to the surgeon you are interested in, their feedback is an excellent resource as well.

Once you have found a few surgeons you like on paper, set appointments and see how you interact in person. You are starting a medical relationship, and like any relationship, there needs to be chemistry. The office staff should be friendly and helpful, and you should feel like you can effectively communicate your concerns to your surgeon. Your surgeon should really listen to you and formulate a customized plan for your needs in an honest and realistic fashion.

If your gut tells you that you are not connecting well pre-operatively with your surgeon and his or her office, imagine how much worse things will be if you have surgery and have any kind of complication. Trust your instincts, and if the connection with a surgeon does not seem right, see a few more surgeons.

Ultimately, this list is just a guideline, and is not comprehensive in scope. However, I believe that taking some time to do this basic research can be extremely helpful in setting yourself up for the best possible experience. Aesthetic surgery is very rewarding for the vast majority of patients, and I hope my advice helps you on your journey towards your goals. I wish you the best of luck in finding the right surgeon for you!

Dr. Robert Cohen is a board certified plastic surgeon specializing in aesthetic surgery of the breast, body and face, and is an international speaker and educator in plastic surgery. He has dual practices in Santa Monica, California and Scottsdale, Arizona. For more information, please visit his websites at and

Robert Cohen, MD, FACS

Robert Cohen, MD, FACS, is a diplomat of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and is the medical director for the Scottsdale Center for Plastic Surgery in Paradise Valley, AZ, one of the premier aesthetic surgery practices in the Southwest United States. Dr. Cohen reconstructs his patients’ bodies, and also helps to educate them on the latest available techniques and technology, and the best ways to avoid complications after surgery. He recently expanded his practice to include an office location in Santa Monica, CA. Dr. Cohen specializes in cosmetic procedures for men and women, with a focus on aesthetic surgery of the breast and body.


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