Val Lambros m.d., f.a.c.s.

cosmetic and reconstructive surgery

Being a plastic surgeon

Though cosmetic surgery of the face may seem like a shallow pursuit, the older one gets and the more one struggles with age (which really is a bitch), the more one realizes how some people suffer with not looking like they feel. What one needs in this case is not a salesman to prey on one's insecurities — and there are a lot of very talented salesmen around — but a doctor who understands the physical process of aging just as much the feelings and disappointments associated with it. One of the duties of a physician is to alleviate suffering; the process of aging of the face weighs very heavily on some people. I myself did not appreciate many of these issues until I became of facelift age and felt them more poignantly and personally.

Fairly or not, superficially or not, human beings in most human cultures inhabit a hierarchy of attractiveness and youth. When people look good, the rest of the world looks at them as being healthier and more vibrant than otherwise. When people think that they look good, they project that feeling into the world. A perceptive colleague once told me that cosmetic surgery is not an art form, it’s a way to make people happy. In general we view the craft of cosmetic surgery as a process of making people look better and increasing the part of their self-confidence based on how they look.

Most, but not all, patients presenting for revitalizing surgery of the face are female, so we will call them "she." In fact the issues of aging with men are so close to that of women that we find very little difference. Because faces age in generally similar ways, every plastic surgeon hears the same concerns, and eventually becomes a minor expert in the psychology of aging and an observer of human self-perception. Most patients coming for consultations will say that they look older than they feel. Women in particular seem to have a horror of looking like their mothers. Men and women alike express concerns about the workplace and staying competitive.

A sympathetic ear is necessary to help these patients. Cosmetic surgery of the aging face is an attempt to regain what has been lost, and there is a good deal of psychic pain in that loss. Some people have had good looks carry them along in life and a much of their self-worth may be tied into the way that they look. Most people of facelift age are remarkable people who have lived full lives. Many have lost spouses or divorced and are unwilling to give up on potential future relationships if they perceive that their appearance stands in the way. Though the phrase has been overused, cosmetic surgery is a life-affirming endeavor.