Make 2009 the Year for a New You


Valerie DeBenedette, Senior Medical Editor

Valerie DeBenedette is a science writer who specializes in keeping people informed about medicine and their health. She has more than 20 years of experience writing for newspapers, magazines, and websites and has written about most areas of medicine. For many years, she was a contributing writer to Cosmetic Dermatology and to Drug Topics, the leading pharmacy trade magazine. She also was a contributing editor to The Physician and Sportsmedicine for many years. She has written about most fields of medicine, including dermatology, sportsmedicine, ophthalmology, general surgery, orthopedics, and women's health; as well as public health policy and the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, she is the author of Caffeine, a book for young people. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

December 22 2008

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There is ski season, baseball season, holiday season . . . and plastic surgery season? Even though you can have plastic surgery any time of year you want, you may decide to have liposuction or a face lift or anything else done to ring in the New Year. The thinking is a "new you for the New Year." In fact, a good portion of all cosmetic surgery is done after the holidays, during the winter into early spring.

Why? Besides wanting to jumpstart your New Year's resolution to improve yourself, having the surgery in winter gives you sufficient time to recover. You can unveil your wonderful new look in late spring or summer, when the bathing suits and other skimpy attire come out of the wardrobe and there are long summer evenings for socializing. Recovery is an important—and sometimes overlooked—part of all forms of cosmetic medicine.

Most cosmetic surgical procedures have a recovery period of about a week, but that is the length of time before you can go back to work or to your usual activities. By that time, most swelling will have gone down, but you will still be slightly swollen, and you may still be sporting the last bits of bruises. But you are not anywhere near being completely healed by the end of that first week.

When you are planning your surgery, think about how your body deals with a regular bruise—a plain old "black-and-blue" mark. Are you a person who bruises easily when you bump into things, and do the bruises go away fast? Or are you stuck with them for a while? If you are lucky enough not to bruise easily and if you heal fast, you can probably be back in bathing suit form a few weeks after your liposuction. You may be able to be on the beach in June after surgery in April. Someone who takes longer to heal might want to schedule liposuction or face lift earlier in the year.

Swelling is another factor to consider. Most people will be swollen after their surgery. Most swelling dissipates in a few days to 2 weeks, but there will still be a bit of swelling that takes longer, even up to several months, to disappear.

But don't think winter or early spring are the only times to have cosmetic surgery. They may be popular times, but what works best for you may be different. Summer or fall may be better for your surgery because of your personal schedule, work obligations, or family needs.

Here are a few tips for having surgery in the winter. Since almost all cosmetic surgery is performed on an outpatient basis, take winter weather into account before your surgery and on the day of surgery.

  • If you live in a cold-weather area, dress warmly on the day of your surgery, but wear clothes that are easy to put on and take off. Don't wear anything you have to pull over your head. If you are having liposuction or other body contouring surgery, don't wear anything with a tight waistband. Loose fitting sweat pants may be a good bet.
  • Allow plenty of time to get to the hospital or surgical center on the day of your surgery. Allow even more extra time for bad weather. If you are late to your surgery, it will have to be rescheduled.
  • Winter is the high season for colds and flu. Keep an eye on your health in the days before your scheduled surgery. If you develop a cough, runny nose, or a fever, call your surgeon's office as soon as possible. If you have any infection, it is usually safer to reschedule the surgery. Your health should be at its best before surgery.
  • If you usually use moisturizers or lotions to combat dry winter skin, don't use anything after your surgery until you get an OK from your surgeon. You should not put anything on incisions without his or her approval. Also, you may be advised not to rub or massage your treatment area for a period of time.

Follow your surgeon's postsurgical instructions, then sit back and relax as much as possible during your recovery and think about how terrific you will look in spring and summer!