Cosmetic Surgery & Skincare

Cosmetic surgery is a procedure to change your appearance. It’s a type of plastic surgery. There are many procedures, ranging from minimally invasive treatments to complex surgeries. The procedures can smooth wrinkles, reshape features or lift sagging skin. Many people feel more confident after cosmetic surgery, but there are risks.


What is cosmetic surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is a procedure to enhance, alter or reshape specific parts of your body. The goal of cosmetic surgery is to change your appearance (aesthetics). Healthcare providers can do cosmetic surgery on any part of your body.

There are dozens of cosmetic surgery techniques based on what you hope to achieve. You may choose cosmetic surgery to smooth wrinkles and gain a more youthful appearance. Or you may want a procedure to lift, reshape or change the size of an area on your body.

Many people choose to have cosmetic surgery to feel more comfortable with their appearance. It helps boost self-confidence and self-esteem. But there can be side effects and complications from cosmetic surgery, and health insurance plans usually don’t cover cosmetic procedures.

What are the types of cosmetic surgery?

There are several types of cosmetic surgery. Providers organize them into types based on how invasive they are. Nonsurgical techniques use chemicals, needles or lasers to produce results. Surgical procedures use incisions (cuts) into your skin and require a longer recovery time.

Some of the most common nonsurgical cosmetic procedures include:

Some of the most common cosmetic surgeries include:

What does cosmetic surgery treat?

Cosmetic surgery doesn’t treat any specific health conditions. Instead, it changes your appearance. This can improve your confidence and self-esteem.

Situations where you might think about getting cosmetic surgery may include:

  • Dissatisfaction with the way an area of your body looks.
  • Correcting a growth abnormality (like tubular breasts or asymmetry).
  • Correcting the complications of an illness or injury.
  • Removing excess skin after significant weight loss.
  • Getting rid of fat or excess tissue that doesn’t go away with traditional weight loss techniques.

How common is cosmetic surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is very common. Worldwide, the number of cosmetic procedures performed in 2022 was 11% higher than in 2021. In the United States, there were over 1,500,000 surgical cosmetic procedures and over 5,500,000 nonsurgical procedures performed.

Anyone can get cosmetic surgery. It’s most common among adults between age 40 and 54. Women and people assigned female at birth get cosmetic surgery more often than men and people assigned male at birth.

What are the top cosmetic surgical procedures?

In 2022, the top five surgical cosmetic procedures around the world were:

  1. Liposuction.
  2. Breast augmentation.
  3. Eyelid surgery.
  4. Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck).
  5. Breast lift (mastopexy).

The top five nonsurgical cosmetic procedures around the world in 2022 were:

  1. Botulinum toxin.
  2. Hyaluronic acid.
  3. Hair removal.
  4. Skin resurfacing.
  5. Nonsurgical fat reduction.


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Procedure Details

How should I prepare for cosmetic surgery?

Before any cosmetic surgery procedure, you’ll meet with a healthcare provider, like a cosmetic surgeon or plastic surgeon, for a consultation. They’ll learn more about your goals for surgery and your medical history.

Your surgeon will discuss what type of surgery is best to meet your goals and offer realistic expectations for the procedure and your recovery. They’ll also discuss possible side effects so you can make an informed decision. If you have any questions about cosmetic surgery or your specific procedure, this is a great time to ask.

You may have to complete some homework before you undergo surgery. This could include:

  • Stop smoking.
  • Get lab testing done.
  • Take certain medications before the procedure.
  • Stop taking certain medications before the procedure (don’t make changes to your medications unless a healthcare provider approves it first).
  • Avoid eating the night before surgery.
  • Ask someone to drive you home after surgery.

For nonsurgical cosmetic procedures, you’ll still meet with a healthcare provider who’ll examine you and discuss your goals and the expected outcome of the procedure. Preparation for noninvasive cosmetic procedures is minimal, but your provider will give you instructions to follow to make sure you’re ready and understand what to do and where to go on the day of treatment.

If you’re unsure of what to do or have any questions, contact your surgeon or healthcare provider.

What happens during cosmetic surgery?

Each type of cosmetic surgery is different. The steps of a cosmetic surgery may include:

  1. An anesthesiologist gives you anesthesia. It’s most often general anesthesia that puts you to sleep.
  2. Your surgeon makes an incision in your skin.
  3. Your surgeon repairs, moves, removes, adds or adjusts certain parts of your body.
  4. Your surgeon closes the incision site.

Nonsurgical cosmetic procedure steps

You won’t need general anesthesia for nonsurgical cosmetic procedures. Your healthcare provider may give you a local anesthetic so you won’t feel pain in only one part of your body that they’re working on. You’ll be awake during the procedure.

What your provider does will vary based on what you’re getting done. For example, if you’re undergoing botulinum toxin injections, your surgeon will poke your skin with a thin needle and inject the medication underneath your skin.

If you’re undergoing laser hair removal, your provider will pass a device with bright lights over your skin. Your provider will give you protective eyeglasses to wear for laser procedures to protect your eyes.

How long does cosmetic surgery take?

Cosmetic surgery times vary based on what your surgeon needs to do. It could take less than an hour or it could take several hours. You can get more than one surgical procedure done at the same time, which could increase how long your surgery takes. Your surgeon will explain what to expect during your consultation.

Noninvasive cosmetic procedures usually take less than an hour. Some take only a few minutes.


What happens after cosmetic surgery?

After cosmetic surgery, you’ll move into an area of the hospital for observation until your anesthetic wears off and you wake up. You may need to stay overnight in the hospital. It isn’t safe to drive after you have anesthesia, so ask a friend or family member to drive you home from the hospital.

You may need assistance for a few days at home while you recover. You’ll need plenty of rest after surgery. This requires time off of work or school. You’ll likely receive medications to help with any soreness or discomfort after surgery. It’s normal to have bruising and mild swelling.

You can usually return to your daily routine after nonsurgical procedures, but avoid strenuous activities until your provider approves it. You can drive yourself home after nonsurgical cosmetic procedures.

Your care team will give you specific instructions about your recovery during your consultation so you can prepare. They’ll also remind you of these instructions after your procedure. It helps to have a friend or family member hear these instructions so they can help you if you need it. You’ll likely be groggy and it can be difficult remembering everything right after surgery.

Follow these instructions to prevent complications. If you have any questions about what you can or can’t do while recovering, or if you experience side effects like severe pain or swelling, contact your provider.

Risks / Benefits

What are the benefits of cosmetic surgery?

The benefits of cosmetic surgery include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

  • It can change your appearance.
  • It aims to meet your goals.
  • It’s safe.
  • You can feel more confident and comfortable with your appearance.

Your satisfaction depends on your expectations. It’s important to keep realistic expectations for cosmetic surgery. Your surgeon will explain this clearly to make sure their treatment plan meets your goals and what you hope to see after you recover.

It could take several weeks to months before you see results, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t notice an immediate change. Certain types of cosmetic surgery can last a lifetime.

How safe is cosmetic surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is generally a safe procedure. Your surgical team is highly trained, experienced and certified to perform specialty procedures to improve your appearance. Cosmetic surgery is a medical procedure, so your safety is their top priority. They’ll work carefully to prevent complications and give you the results you’re looking for.


What are the risks or complications of cosmetic surgery?

As with any surgery, surgical cosmetic procedures do have risks. The most common risks are:

  • Infection.
  • Bleeding.
  • Swelling.
  • Bruising.
  • Pain or discomfort.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Anesthesia complications.
  • Blood clots.

Complications from nonsurgical cosmetic surgery procedures are rare. They vary depending on the technique your provider used but may include:

Serious side effects and complications of nonsurgical procedures are also rare. They include:

How do I lower my risk of complications after cosmetic surgery?

To lower your risk of complications from cosmetic surgery, follow your provider’s instructions carefully before and after your procedure. You’re more likely to heal properly if you maintain a healthy lifestyle, eat balanced meals and quit smoking before surgery.

If you had surgery, be sure to follow your provider’s instructions about how to care for your incision site. To avoid complications, give yourself time to rest and recover. This might include asking for help around your home while you heal. Don’t participate in strenuous activities until your provider approves it.

Some skin treatments (such as chemical peels and laser resurfacing) make your skin more sensitive to the sun. You’ll need to wear protective clothing and/or sunscreen outside to avoid getting a sunburn.

Talk to your provider about other precautions you should take specific to your procedure.

Recovery and Outlook

When will I see results after cosmetic surgery?

After surgery, you’ll need time to heal before you see results. This could take several weeks to months. Some nonsurgical procedures show immediate results, while others take a few weeks to months to see the full effect. Ask your healthcare provider about when you can expect to see results after a cosmetic surgery procedure.

You may need additional surgeries in the future to maintain your look as your body ages. Nonsurgical treatments need more frequent maintenance than surgical procedures, so repeat treatments may be necessary to keep up with your goals.

What should I expect from cosmetic surgery?

It’s essential to have realistic expectations before getting cosmetic surgery. While these procedures can enhance your appearance, they aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Take time to think about why you want to have a procedure and what you hope to achieve. You should be making this decision for yourself, not because someone else wants you to change your appearance.

Talk to your provider about what you can expect after your procedure. Some people choose to have more than one procedure to get the results they want. Many people weigh the risks and benefits of cosmetic surgery and decide not to get it. Take all of the time you need to make an informed decision about your health.

When To Call the Doctor

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any complications or side effects after a surgical or nonsurgical cosmetic procedure, especially signs of an infection. Signs of infection after surgery include:

  • Bleeding, skin discoloration or pus from the incision site.
  • Fever.
  • Pain that’s severe or doesn’t go away with pain relief medications.
  • Severe swelling.

Contact 911 or your local emergency services number if you have severe symptoms like difficulty breathing after a procedure.

Additional Common Questions

Cosmetic surgery vs. plastic surgery: What’s the difference?

Plastic surgery” is a broad term to describe a procedure that focuses on adding, rebuilding, repairing or reshaping current parts of your body for a functional and/or aesthetic goal. 

Cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery are types of plastic surgery. Cosmetic surgery procedures focus on changing your appearance for aesthetic purposes.

What’s the difference between cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery?

Both cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery are types of plastic surgery. Healthcare providers do reconstructive surgery to repair or replace damaged tissue or improve function to part of your body. Scar revision surgery and breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery (mastectomy) are common types of reconstructive surgery.

Cosmetic surgery procedures are elective — people choose to have them. These procedures change or enhance someone’s appearance. But unlike reconstructive surgery, cosmetic surgery doesn’t repair an area of the body with damage. Many people choose cosmetic surgery because they want to feel better about the way they look.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Every year, cosmetic surgery procedures help millions of people feel more confident about how they look. These procedures can enhance your appearance and improve your self-esteem, but it’s important to have realistic expectations. Be open and honest with your provider about what you hope to achieve from cosmetic surgery. Follow your provider’s instructions carefully when recovering from any procedure. By staying healthy overall, you’ll increase your chances of healing properly and getting the results you want.

If you’re thinking about cosmetic surgery, talk to your provider about the benefits and risks of the procedure you’re considering. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions before or after your procedure.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 03/06/2024.

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