Elective cosmetic procedures can help enhance one’s appearance through topical treatments, injections, or plastic surgery, and most are deemed safe if performed by an experienced provider.

However, cosmetic disasters do happen, so it is important to understand the associated risks and learn what you can do to help ensure you’re procedure is successful.

  • Common Risks of Elective Cosmetic Procedures

    One common risk of any elective cosmetic procedure is a poor cosmetic outcome. A poor cosmetic outcome not only fails to improve someone’s appearance, it makes their appearance worse than before the surgery was performed. 

    Other common risks include:


    Infections are among the most common complications following elective cosmetic procedures, especially procedures requiring surgery. In most cases, infections can be treated with antibiotics and only last a few weeks, but some infections can be serious and life threatening. Be sure to follow your provider’s instructions to help reduce your risk of infection after your procedure, and wash your hands often to prevent the spreading of bacteria. 


    Scarring can occur if the treatment area does not heal the way it should after a procedure. In many cases, scarring can be avoided by following the provider’s after-surgery instructions, not smoking, and eating a healthy diet.


    Hematoma occurs when bleeding occurs outside of the blood vessels and creates a bruise at the treatment site. Hematoma is the most common complication after a facelift, occuring in an average of 1% of patients. 


    A seroma is a buildup of fluid under the surface of the skin. Some risk factors that may increase the chances of a seroma include your age, body mass index, and the use of certain medications, namely heparin and tamoxifen.

    Nerve damage

    Some surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures can temporarily or permanently damage the nerves, which may cause numbness or areas of the face to droop.

    Blood clots

    Blood clots occur when the blood changes from a liquid to a semisolid state. If you are undergoing plastic surgery, you should receive a risk assessment from your provider prior to your procedure to predict whether you are at high risk for life-threatening blood clots in the legs or lungs.


    Any surgery–whether cosmetic or otherwise–has a small risk of death. In many cases, surgical-related deaths are caused by a negative reaction to anesthesia, and not the surgery itself. 

  • 4 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Serious Complications

    Although you may find the above information to be concerning, there are some simple ways you can help reduce your risk of complications. 

    1. Choose a reputable provider 

    A sign of a good provider is one who thoroughly answers your questions, tells you what you can expect before, during, and after the procedure, and goes over any risks you may face based on your medical history or other unique factors.

    No matter what kind of elective cosmetic procedure you’re getting, it is important to research different providers to ensure they are experienced and have a good track record. 

    If you have friends who have had cosmetic procedures done, ask them about their provider and whether they would recommend them. Online reviews can also help you learn about providers in your area and gauge what kind of reputation they have locally.

    Once you’ve narrowed it down to one or two providers, ask them to see some before and after photos of their past work. Any reputable provider will be happy to fulfill your request. 

    If you are getting a surgical procedure, you can also check to see if your surgeon is board certified. Board-certified surgeons have met the highest standards of education, knowledge, and training. According to the American Board of Surgery (ABS), Board-certified surgeons have met the following criteria:

    • Completed at least 5 years of residency training following medical school 
    • Completed a rigorous ABS examination process
    • Met all ABS training requirements
    2. Take time to understand the procedure and its results

    Choosing to get a cosmetic procedure is a big decision, and one that you should never rush into. Before you get any cosmetic procedure, it’s important to understand what the specific procedure will entail and what you can expect from its results.

    For example, the maximum results of certain procedures may not be reached with a single appointment, and may require you to have one or more additional sessions to achieve the look you want. 

    If you’re interested in a specific cosmetic procedure, do some research and speak with your provider to determine whether the full scope of the procedure is feasible and within your budget. 

    3. Talk to your provider about your health and any medications you are taking

    It is important for you to be honest with your provider about your current and past health, because certain medical conditions could put you at a greater risk for infection or other complications during or after surgery. 

    If you have any of the following health conditions, your provider could determine that you aren’t a good candidate for an elective cosmetic procedure:

    • Diabetes
    • High blood pressure
    • Heart disease
    • Depression
    • A bleeding disorder

    It is also important for you to disclose any medications or supplements you are taking, as they can thin the blood or interfere with other medications used during the surgery.

    4. Carefully follow your provider’s after-care instructions

    Most providers will give you instructions detailing how to care for yourself after the procedure. Some examples of the types of instructions you may receive from your provider include:

    • Do not smoke. Smoking can prolong the healing process, which could lead to scarring in some cases.
    • Eat right. Fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients, which can help your body heal faster. Your doctor may recommend that you avoid processed foods or foods high in sodium, because eating them may prolong the healing process.
    • Properly care for the treatment area. It is important to keep the treatment area clean after your procedure, but avoid scrubbing the area or using harsh chemicals (unless directed by your provider). Typically, simple soap and water will do.
    • Avoid strenuous exercise. Depending on the type of procedure you get, your provider may recommend that you take it easy for a few days or weeks following the surgery. Excessive movement or straining can create swelling, which could lead to complications.