In this interview, Dr. Aboolian candidly responds to six of the most frequently asked questions he receives from patients…questions he feels are important for you to consider if you are seeking plastic surgery.
Q: Dr. Aboolian, how can a person seeking a plastic surgeon know who is truly qualified vs. who has good PR?
A: That’s exactly the right question to be asking in this era of media hype and exaggeration. Look, the answer is quite straightforward: to know how qualified a plastic surgeon is, you must look at the work he or she performs. I tell those who seek consultation with me and have not yet selected a surgeon, “Ask the surgeons you are considering to show you results and to show you a lot of them. To me, it’s all about the photos. I want my consultation patients to know that anyone can sell them, but they need to try to put that aside and think carefully. The temptation is to make decisions emotionally, but plastic surgery is a big deal and you want to have an idea about the result you will get. Ask for multiple profiles when a doctor shows you before & after photos. In other words, not just a front view and profile, but ¾ profile and others, too – so you can see the results from different angles. You have to do your homework and really look at the doctor’s work.
The photos also have to be good: large and clean. If they’re so small that you can’t really see the patient, they don’t count. After you look at many photos, your eye will become educated to understand what you want and what was possible for others. This will enable you to be realistic about the outcomes you will get and to see the quality of surgical work that a particular doctor attains. The women and men who become my patients are knowledgeable and have made the choice to come to me. And going through this process gives you an understanding that you are in charge of your own body. You have the right to choose, and to make the choice that works for you.
Q What are your goals for a new patient consultation and what should I be looking for when I come to meet with you for the first time?
“When I meet a new patient in consultation, I want to know what it is that concerns them, what they are hoping for, what changes are most important to them. The first time I meet with you is important and I want you to take the consultation process seriously. We only have one body and one face. It’s important to choose the right surgeon. That’s why I will encourage you to consult with more than one doctor if you want to. I want you to become educated about the choices you have and to train your eye to see the differences between one doctor’s work and another’s. This goes both ways, too. For instance, I often do multiple consultations with a new patient, to make sure that there’s clarity and a truly informed decision. If you come to speak with me about a surgical procedure, I want you to be very clear about what the experience will be like, what’s involved in the healing process, and that the choice you have made is the best choice for you. Many times, a family member or friend accompanies a new patient to an initial consultation appointment. I am fine with them being in on it and if they have concerns, of course I will listen. However, it’s what my patient wants that matters to me. Assuming she is physically and mentally healthy and ready for the process – even if only a small change is desired and I believe that change will make them happy – I will do it.
Q How many years will I “get back” if I decide on a facelift…and when is it too late to seek plastic surgery?
A Every face is different, naturally, but basically you are setting the clock back about 8 years and – for some faces – even 10 years. If you take care of yourself and don’t overdo exposure to the sun, you can look wonderful throughout your life. There’s no doubt that a growing number of younger people are seeking facelifts and eyelid surgery these days and if they can actually benefit from it, I will do it. Some individuals have droopy eyelids or sagging jaw lines even when they’re in their 30’s and can attain a great improvement by having surgery earlier and enjoying more years of looking their best. On the other end of the spectrum, many older individuals who enjoy good health are seeking plastic surgery even into the 70’s. We are living longer and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best for as long as you can. Some of the most beautiful women I know are in their 60’s and 70’s.
Q How important is the surgeon’s training? Is it best to go to the doctor who has done the most procedures?
A Of course, you want to choose a surgeon who is experienced – one who has many, many excellent before & after photos to show you, and one with a good reputation. But, patients don’t always realize that technical skill is important but it’s not the only important criterion. To be candid about it, taste matters too. What do I mean by this? If you look at others who have had plastic surgery, you will notice that some noses look too small for the faces of the individuals who had rhinoplasty surgery. Or, you’ll see a woman whose breasts are too large for her – where there is a loss of proportion, and she looks awkward rather than attractive. You can teach techniques in medical school, but I don’t think you can teach taste. Part of assessing the surgeon you are considering involves looking at the taste of the doctor you are meeting with. Look at the doctor – the clothing, presentation, how he or she dresses and presents. Look at the office setting itself: is it aesthetically pleasing to your eye? And listen to see if the surgeon truly cares about the work they do. I love going into the O.R. It’s my room! I absolutely love it. This makes a difference.
Most importantly, look at the doctor’s work. I think taste is innate – that some people are just born with it. They are drawn to details; they notice the subtleties of everything they see. This way of looking at the world makes you better as a surgeon. You want to get it exactly right. You can visualize a person’s best possible outcome and that’s what you go for.
Q What is a good plastic surgery outcome?
A That is a very good question. In essence, a good outcome means that the overall appearance of the person is harmonious and memorable. For the face, the eyes must dominate – must “pop out” and be what you most notice about someone’s face. Good facial surgery makes the eyes stand out, whether it’s eyelid surgery itself, or nose surgery, or restructuring of the jaw or cheeks. With the face, you want to put the cheeks and jaw line where they used to be when the patient was younger…or you want to make those features even better than they were by refining them and altering the proportions until the overall look of the face is optimal. For face or body, I am looking at what is proportionate. When it’s done well, everything falls into place and the overall effect is harmonious. Sometimes this means a simple chin implant to bring balance to the face, or a slight lifting of the cheeks.
For others, it may mean a more dramatic set of refinements to bring the person to their full potential. It’s important not to overdo it, however. Poorly done injectables are an example of what can go wrong and often does go wrong in this regard. Too much in the lip area and the face loses definition, doesn’t look right at all. The person loses perspective and wants more and more, when this is working against them. You don’t want to adapt to distorted thinking. You want to look great. The line is subtle and cannot be crossed without taking away from what looks good. I don’t like to see it, and I see it a lot out there. It goes back to my point about the doctor’s sense of taste. A plastic surgeon that wants you to look your best will not agree to perform a procedure in a way that will distort and detract from your optimal appearance.
Q Do you offer the latest, newest procedures to your patients?
A Here’s the bottom line with regard to the so-called “latest and best” procedure: show me the results. Show me the results and show me a lot of results with a lot of different patients. If I am convinced that it’s better, I will embrace it. However, many times this is not the case. Just because a procedure is popular and talked about in the media all the time doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest. For example, take fat transfer. This procedure is often made to sound like it’s easy and that it’s the magic solution. But, in truth, the majority of fat transfers look bad. The learning curve is long and each body absorbs fat differently, so you can’t hit a home run every time. If I’m going to perform a procedure, I want to hit a home run and I’m not going to do it if I think I can’t get the outcome I want. I am going to do what I know how to do best, the way I think it’s right. That’s what I’m here to do.
Sometimes I am told that another doctor will do what I refuse to do. To that, I can only say that this is always the case, but that doesn’t mean it’s in the patient’s best interest. I will do what I believe is in the patient’s best interest every time. The human connection is the most important aspect of the work that I am privileged to do and this means that trust and the relationship between me and my patient is my highest priority. I treat each patient like family – like I will see them again over time. I take pride in what I do. I want the best for you.