“So when is it time to have surgery? It is time when your appearance concerns you enough to become an issue in your life.”

January 6, 2011. Day 4 of the daily gym work outs, no junk food and applying sunscreen “even in the winter”. I will have to admit I am out there as well trying to shed the extra pounds too many Christmas cookies created. And as a facial plastic surgeon in a relatively small city, friends are coming up to me for advice. “Is it time to have surgery? I don’t want to be one of those people who waited too long!”

My standard answer has always been that it is time to have surgery when you are ready to have surgery – and it is an individual choice. However, there are clearly different phases of life – and different procedures generally apply to different phases.

For the under 30 year-old crowd, procedures usually focus on “correcting” something you were born with and don’t like. Classic examples are rhinoplasties, chin implants and breast implants for the body. The goal is to change your appearance by changing some specific feature you don’t like. You want to look different.

After age 30, the effects of genetics, sun damage and life style start to show. While you may still be interested in changing the shape of your nose and chin, you most likely are also thinking of ways to “restore” your appearance. “I want to look like I looked before I had wrinkles, jowls, ….” This is where eyelid surgeries, browlifts, facelifts, laser skin treatments, Botox, filler injections…. come to play. Your goal is not to look different. You just want to look younger and less tired.

So when is it time to have surgery? It is time when your appearance concerns you enough to become an issue in your life. If you are avoiding having your photo taken, change your clothing to “hide your neck”, wear glasses to hide your saggy eyelid skin or bags….If you would be more comfortable with your appearance if something was “fixed”, it is time to consider surgery.

In most cities, cosmetic surgeons offer free consultations. It is a great way to learn about options and meet prospective surgeons. It is an important life decision, so “shopping” until you feel comfortable with a surgeon and clinic makes sense. You can also obtain a lot of information from the internet or local seminars – but in the end it is the personal connection you make with your surgeon that matters most. So when you are ready, start exploring. You should have an exciting and enjoyable experience that leaves you more comfortable with the way you look – at any age.