TIME Out: Aesthetic Consumers’ Questions Provide Answers for Doctors

plastic surgery, time magazine, realself, procedures

If you need proof that cosmetic surgery is coming out of the shadows, look no further than this week’s TIME magazine, where the cover story — Nip. Tuck. Or Else. — asserts that aesthetic procedures are “the new makeup.” Everybody’s doing it, goes the logic, and those who aren’t soon will because, well, everybody else is doing it.

[It’s] not because you hate yourself, fear aging or are vain, writes Joel Stein. You’re going to get a cosmetic procedure for the same reason you wear makeup: because every other woman is.

Clearly, that’s an over-simplification of the reasons people — both women and men — turn to cosmetic surgery. Even as the article makes many valid points about the mainstreaming of aesthetic medicine, it also diminishes the thought processes aesthetic consumers make as they consider their options. As Knoxville plastic surgeon David B. Reath, MD, recently wrote:

This is not a competitive “keep up with the Jones’ ” type of thing. The motivation to have surgery comes from a concern about a part of their appearance, not a competition with their BFF.

At the same time, based on the hundreds of thousands of questions community members have asked doctors on RealSelf, those concerns extend beyond particular body parts. As CEO Tom Seery recently noted in Modern Aesthetics, “the questions that consumers use in their online research shine a light on their current and prospective interests, concerns, and aspirations.”

Here are some things their questions reveal:

A strong desire to avoid surgery

While the development of new injectables helps drive the growth of non-surgical procedures, there’s no denying that many aesthetic consumer are more amenable to the needle than the knife. More specifically, here’s what they want to know (based on a comparison of year-on-year pageviews for facial-aesthetic questions and answers on RealSelf):

  • Are there any non-surgical ways to fix under-eye hollows? Up 204%
  • Is a facelift the only answer for marionette lines and jowls? Up 131%
  • Non-surgical nose job procedures to reduce nose size? Up 46%

Safety concerns are not limited to surgical outcomes

It’s only natural to assume that patients’ primary concern is with their surgical outcome but, as Seery notes, top trending fears are more nuanced than the garden-variety, “How do I make sure I get a good outcome?” As the interest in the following questions demonstrates, today’s patients want to know how to integrate their aesthetic journeys into the rest of their lives:

  • When to stop drinking alcohol prior to surgery? Up 317%
  • Why not Restylane or Juvederm while pregnant? Up 241%
  • I didn’t know I was pregnant and I had Botox. Up 124%

The fear of surgery is real and wide-ranging

Although not part of the above analysis — and despite doctors’ efforts to assuage their concerns — a recent RealSelf survey of almost 800 people shows that many patients still go into their procedures harboring a range of doubts and fears. Among them:

  • 30% are afraid they won’t like their results
  • 27% are worried about complications
  • 11% are concerned about their recovery

The good news, perhaps, is that relatively few are concerned about looking fake (6%) or being judged negatively (2%). On the one hand, the latter stats support the idea, as noted in the TIME article, that the perception of cosmetic surgery is indeed changing. On the other, the rest of the above findings suggest there’s a way to go in addressing patients’ fears, concerns and choices.

Doctor Takeaway

When it comes to patients’ concerns, body parts are only part of the picture

Whether a potential patient comes in for Botox or a brow lift, she will almost certainly bring along a host of fears and concerns about her procedure, her recovery and how she’ll incorporate both into her busy life. Doctors who make efforts to resolve those concerns demonstrate that they’re interested in potential patients as people, not just surgical candidates. We’ll look at some of the types of content that can help get that message across in a subsequent post. In the meantime, you can read the rest of Seery’s Modern Aesthetics article here.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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