What is the right age for cosmetic surgery?

The media often focus on the increasing demand for cosmetic surgery among the younger age group; the unbearable pressure on teenagers from social media to young women fretting over non-existent lines and wrinkles in the search for perfection. However, in recent years there has also been a rise in older patients seeking surgical intervention and although it might be easier to fix a clear lower age limit, is it possible to say if someone is too old for plastic surgery?

In 2010, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery found that nearly 80 per cent of OAPs surveyed would consider undergoing a cosmetic procedure. Here in the UK, Nuffield Health recently carried out a Plastic Surgery Survey and found that 64 per cent of Nuffield Health plastic surgeons had seen an increase in older patients seeking cosmetic surgery.

Why are older patients turning to cosmetic surgery?

Economics play a factor; the older generation are working longer than ever and are under pressure to appear as dynamic as possible in the working environment. Looking weary or stressed at work is seen as a negative, explaining the rise in anti-ageing facial surgery, especially the eyelid lift. Women, on the other hand, often feel that a more attractive physical appearance holds more sway when going for jobs.

Changing attitudes towards plastic surgery also play a role. The stigma attached to plastic surgery has slowly been disappearing and now it is seen as a perfectly acceptable option to try and look as young as you feel. It is not uncommon for retired people to seek cosmetic surgical improvement too and the baby-boomer generation are often comfortably well off and therefore feel no financial constraint either

Are there any reasons why older patients should not undergo plastic surgery?

I don’t believe it is possible to set an age limit on plastic surgery. Every patient that attends a plastic surgery consultation at my Leamington private practice is assessed as an individual, whatever their age.

We consider overall fitness, any specific medical conditions or medications they are on which would either rule out surgery or require special caution on the part of myself or my team. Also assessed are their psychological and mental fitness and the degree of support they have for the recovery period.

And, as always, I have to assess their expectations. Thus, whilst some patients may prove too old due to disposition or unrealistic expectations, others may be as mentally sharp and physically fit as much younger patients and therefore perfectly reasonable candidates for surgery.

In terms of healing, there be a slower recovery period, but the speed of recovery always varies from patient to patient whatever their age. As a general rule, scarring is also ‘kinder’ and less noticeable in the older patient.

This is one trend that I can see growing as this older, relatively prosperous age group continues to expand, with life expectancy rates on the rise.

Some of the world's top Cosmetic Surgeons attending the Face, Eyes & Nose Congress here in Coventry

Since my appointment as a Consultant Plastic Surgeon in 1986, one of my main, publicly stated, goals was to create and deliver a multi-skilled, internationally recognised Plastic Surgery Unit based in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Achieving this has been a long, hard-fought process for myself and my colleagues and included transferring from Nuneaton into the new University Hospitals of Coventry & Warwickshire when it opened in 2006, appointing gifted Consultant Surgeons and Junior Staff and the establishment of the Annual Face, Eyes & Nose Congress, as well as the biennial Modern Concepts Courses.

This year the Congress is in its fifth year, organised by my colleague Mr Rana Das-Gupta, and I’m delighted to say that it now rightly attracts much attention, both at home and abroad, and will be attended by some of the world’s top Cosmetic Surgeons.

Constant education and training is key to a good Plastic Surgeon

Running from 13th to 17th May, the Congress is recognised as one of the best courses in Europe for Facial Surgery and Rhinoplasty. Attendance of leading specialists from Europe, United States and the UK, means the opportunity to discuss with our much-respected peers the most up-to-date surgical and non-surgical techniques. Keeping abreast of the latest developments is key in good Plastic Surgical practice, which is partly why this course is supported by BAAPS and BAPRAS, the leading UK independent Plastic Surgery organisations.

World leaders in Plastic Surgery

Attending this year, is Michael Yaremchuk from the UK, a Harvard Professor of Plastic Surgery and expert in the use of facial implants for aesthetic purposes. World leaders in facelifting techniques, Tom Biggs from the US, Michael Pfulg of Switzerland and Stefano Bruschi of Italy, are all contributing to our facelift masterclass. As the current BAAPS president Michael Cadier said: “This is a real global gathering of best practice. Undoubtedly, it’s the best Aesthetics Surgery Course in the UK at the current time.”

On a personal note, on the opening day I will be Chairing what I’m sure will be a fascinating discussion on Regulations and Professional Standards in Aesthetics Surgery, after a presentation from fellow Plastic Surgeon, Mr Simon Withey, and then, on the second day, I shall Chair the Oculoplastic Surgery session, primarily concerning best practice in upper and lower eyelid surgery