Many people, throughout their lifetimes, will at some point think about changing a part of their face or body. It could be something as simple as getting better skin or removing eye bags, or it could be a major procedure such as liposuction or breast augmentation.
For some, the thought of changing a part of their body may only last fleetingly. For others, it could be a more serious consideration, with such thoughts bubbling up multiple times over many years.
It takes a lot of courage to go from thinking about it to actually putting it into action. As many of my patients have told me, changing one's body takes a lot of:
These are things that patients need to have and do when thinking about undergoing a plastic surgery procedure. Even making an appointment and coming down for a consultation takes a lot of courage!
I’m writing this article as I feel that many patients are lost when it comes to looking for a competent plastic surgeon. In fact, many people are not even sure who plastic surgeons actually are. Some think their aesthetic GP is a plastic surgeon, while others confuse us with dermatologists.
I hope that this article will shed light on how to look for a plastic surgeon in Singapore.
What is a plastic surgeon and what do we do?
Plastic surgeons are specialists that have undergone a specialised training programme. It lasts for 6 years, and one would commence after graduating as a medical doctor . This is what differentiates us from other non-specialists, and from other specialists such as dermatologists.
During this training period, we learn how to:
- carefully handle tissues
- perform specialised surgical techniques
- handle different complications that may occur
This training not only allows us to perform surgical procedures such as breast implants, but also non-surgical procedures such as lasers and filler injections.
Are there different types of plastic surgery?
Plastic surgery is a very wide field. There are different subtypes even among plastic surgeons, many of us subspecialise in different aspects.
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t all specialise in cosmetic surgery. This is just one of the many branches of plastic surgery.
To name a few, some of us subspecialise in:
- paediatric conditions — such as cleft lips and palates
- microsurgical reconstruction — typically involves reconstructing parts of the body that have been ravaged by cancer or trauma
- craniofacial surgery — typically involves reconstructing the bony part of the skull
A plastic surgeon's sub-specialisation is determined by the overseas fellowship that we undertake after completing that tough 6-year training programme.
The fellowship usually lasts between 6 and 12 months. It is to prepare us for the foundation of our subspeciality.
Certain countries are more popular than others for certain subspecialty fellowships. For example, cosmetic surgery fellowships are more popular in South Korea. Whereas, microsurgical reconstruction fellowships are popular in Taiwan and the United States.
What conditions do plastic surgeons treat?
Conditions treated by plastic surgeons run a whole spectrum. They include:
- skin cancers
- lumps and bumps on the skin
- congenital conditions such as cleft lips
- trauma reconstructions
- cancer reconstructions
- cosmetic issues — either surgical or non-surgical
Cosmetic surgery vs plastic surgery
People often confuse the two and use them interchangeably. Back when I was a medical student, I was not certain of the distinction myself.
Cosmetic surgery is actually a branch of plastic surgery. Hence, all cosmetic surgeons are plastic surgeons. But, not all plastic surgeons are cosmetic surgeons.
Other branches of plastic surgery include microreconstructive and craniofacial surgery.
What are some common plastic surgery procedures?
The common procedures done in my practice include:
- double-eyelid surgery and droopy-eyelid surgery (the most popular),
- breast augmentation/reduction surgery
- nose jobs
Non-surgical procedures that are commonly performed include filler and botox injections.
How much does a plastic surgery procedure cost?
The cost depends on what type of procedure you are looking at and the complexity of the procedure. Here are some factors that are taken into consideration when it comes to the price:
- duration of the procedure
- whether an anaesthetist is required
- whether a hospital stay is required
However, I have listed down the costs for common plastic surgeries just to give you an idea.
|Type of Plastic Surgery||Cost (estimate)|
|Breast Implant + Explant (augmentation)||$10,888+|
|Breast Fillers Removal||$5,000+|
Thigh - $12,000+
Tummy - $8,000+
Arms - $10,000+
Double chin - $3,000+
|Tummy Tuck||$ 8,000 - $20,000|
|Liposuction (double chin)||$3,000+|
|Saggy Cheeks||$16,000 - $20,000|
Single jaw: $10,000
Double jaw: $20,000 - $30,000
One eye: $4800+
Both eyes: $8,000
Have you seen any plastic surgery-related trends in Singapore?
Yes. I feel that the trends I see are very much influenced by social media, as well as what celebrities look like .
The latter particularly applies to those in South Korea or the United States. As a result, this affects the number of surgical requests for double-eyelid creases, shape, nose type and so on.
More often than not, my patients will show me photos on their phone that they have found during research. With that, my role is to advise them on the suitability and whether it is possible to achieve.
In some cases, the results they are looking for may unfortunately not be possible.
Are more people going for a specific type of surgery?
I think there is a growing number of mothers who are going for what I call "mummy makeovers". These mothers come in after they have finished pregnancy and breastfeeding. Some mothers also decide to come in for a makeover after they have do not wish to have any more children.
I feel that these mothers are more aware of the options available that may help them feel more empowered. Through this makeover, they may feel more confident in how they look and feel post-pregnancy.
Moreover, with information easily accessible on the Internet, patients know that certain conditions are treatable through plastic surgery.
An example would be rectus diastasis, a condition where there is a wide splitting of the abdominal muscles in the middle. This results in a bulge that often gives an impression of weight gain due to pregnancy.
With that, the procedures may vary from:
- breast lifts via fat grafting
- silicone implants
- tummy tucks
Do you think the public’s opinion of plastic surgery is shifting?
Yes, indeed. It is becoming more acceptable and less taboo to discuss plastic surgery among friends and family. I do see more patients coming in for a consultation with their parents and loved ones.
I believe this is a good sign. In the past, patients used to have to hide their surgery from others, and this can be quite draining.
Friends and family do play an important role in the procedure. They help by giving emotional support and courage to the patients. This way, the patient doesn’t feel as scared or nervous during the consultation.
What can I expect from the first visit to a plastic surgeon?
Well, there are a few things.
Firstly, be sure to inform your doctor what are the concerns or areas you would like to work on. This could be anything from removing eyebags to wanting a double eyelid crease. That way, I would discuss the issue that you want to address and look into the matter.
Next, I would screen you for your suitability and examine your features. There are many methods to change or improve a cosmetic issue. Hence, with the result of the screening, I can further advise on which treatment would be more effective for you. I will also look through your medical history.
Apart from that, I will look into the medications that you are currently taking. Certain medications need to be stopped before surgery. For example, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may cause you to bruise more easily, hence they should be avoided .
For a double-eyelid crease, there are several ways to create one. I would show you a result simulation of how the new crease would look like on you. From there, we would go through the selection process together.
What affects the cost of plastic surgery?
Many factors affect the cost of plastic surgery. They include and are not limited to:
- type of surgery
- general anaesthesia (if any)
- surgeon's experience
It is best to consult your clinic regarding the cost to know exactly what you are paying for.
Is plastic surgery MediSave claimable?
Plastic surgery that is purely for cosmetic purposes is not claimable from MediSave or insurance .
You will need to have a medical reason for undergoing a plastic surgery procedure to claim MediSave or insurance. These medical reasons include:
- From skin cancers to benign lumps such as lipomas and sebaceous cysts
- Moderate to severe droopy eyelids or blepharoptosis
To reiterate, as long as the procedure is not cosmetic in nature, Medisave should cover it.
What are the unique challenges you face as a plastic surgeon?
I think patient expectation and patience are the 2 most challenging aspects of being a plastic surgeon.
Managing patient expectations is very important before surgery. If this is not done properly, the patient would not be satisfied even if the surgery is a success. This will result in unnecessary touch-up surgery, which may often cause the addressed issue to become worse.
Patience on the patient’s part during the recovery phase is also very important. Although I will mention the average recovery time during the consultation, everyone recovers a little differently. This may result in a lot of undue stress.
Hence, if you have a very important event or dinner coming up, please bring it up during the consultation. That way, we can make worst-case scenario preparations. In my opinion, the more relaxed a patient is, the better the outcome!
What should I look out for when deciding on which plastic surgeon to go to?
You should look out for where the plastic surgeon did his/her subspecialty training and what he/she did it in. Basically, it is important to look at the most important aspect of his credentials. You should also look at photos that he/she shows you.
To put it in another way, it is almost like choosing an interior designer for your house! Everyone has a slightly different sense of what is aesthetically pleasing. Hence, if this differs too much between you and the plastic surgeon during the consultation, don’t feel shy to look for a second opinion.
If you are seriously considering going for a plastic surgery procedure, no matter how big or small, you should always do your homework and research first. Look out for prices and potential side effects of the procedure.
Additionally (and most importantly) read up on various plastic surgeons in that particular field. Find out how many years of experience they have and where they did their subspecialty training. Be sure that you feel comfortable in the hands of your plastic surgeon before deciding to go through with the surgery.
With all that said, I wish you the best on your plastic surgery journey!
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Dr Samuel Ho is a plastic surgeon at Allure Plastic Surgery. He has worked alongside top plastic surgeons at plastic surgery centres in Korea, such as the Hanyang University Hospital, 101 Plastic Surgery Clinic and BIO Plastic Surgery Clinic. Aside from regular work, Dr Samuel is a supporter of a not-for-profit medical volunteer organization that provides reconstructive facial surgery to young children in Indonesia.
1. SAB | General Information on Training Programmes. Healthprofessionals.gov.sg. Published 2019. Accessed January 22, 2020.
2. Arab K, Barasain O, Altaweel A, et al. Influence of Social Media on the Decision to Undergo a Cosmetic Procedure. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery - Global Open. 2019;7(8):e2333. doi:10.1097/gox.0000000000002333