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How to Prepare for Plastic Surgery: 4 Tips for a Successful Operation

Medically Approved by Dr. Edward Salko

Table of Contents

Hands drawing on woman's body front view preparing for mommy makeover plastic surgery

Going through plastic surgery requires ample planning and preparation. How you set the motion to avail of a particular plastic surgery procedure determines its success. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of how to prepare for plastic surgery and discuss the potential risks. Plus, see the expert tips on how you can minimize those risks.

  1. Schedule In-Depth Consultations

During your medical appointment with the plastic surgeon, you’ll undergo a proper evaluation and an orientation on how the procedure works. Seeing that there are sufficient sessions for consultations with the specialist allows for smooth pre-op plastic surgery planning.

Part of the consultation is setting realistic expectations. Your surgeon may show rendered before-and-after images based on 3D modeling and simulations(1) to help you understand the outcome. 

In addition, you may also be required to undergo a physical exam relevant to the procedure. This may include a pre-op (plastic surgery) panel blood test. Certainly, your medical history will be reviewed, including previous surgeries, medications, chronic conditions, allergies, etc. 

Based on your medical information, your doctor will also evaluate your risks, allowing you to make well-informed decisions regarding the timing and suitability of the procedure. You may receive a personalized pre-op plan to minimize the risks.

Lastly, these consultations allow you to ask questions and get to know your surgeon. Trust and rapport are crucial in the process of preparing your mental state throughout plastic surgery. 

  1. Follow the Pre-operation Instructions

Aside from a general pre-operation checklist, your surgeon may add specific instructions tailored to the type of plastic surgery you will undergo and your unique attributes. These instructions include the following:

General pre-operation plastic surgery checklist:

  • Withdraw from smoking: Several weeks before the operation, your doctor may require you to stop smoking(2), as this habit can significantly slow down recovery and can even cause complications.
  • Pause certain medications: If you’re taking blood thinners, certain supplements, aspirin, and other particular medications, your doctor may ask you to limit or stop taking them before the surgery. This instruction is case to case; hence, make sure to consult your doctor. 
  • Fasting: Surgery of any kind should be done without food or drinks in the digestive system to prevent vomiting or asphyxiation(3). In most plastic surgeries, patients are reminded not to eat anything past midnight of the day before the operation. Your doctor may also require specific hours for fasting. 
  • Showering: The night before the plastic surgery, your doctor may ask you to take a shower using an antibacterial soap. This should minimize the risk of infection.
  • Avoid shaving: You may be asked not to shave the surgical site to prevent skin irritation. 
  • Refrain from applying beauty products: The surgical site must be free of any chemicals before the surgery. Your doctor may request that you not use makeup, perfume, or other beauty products on the surgical site. 
Close up doctor drawing on patient preparing for plastic surgery
Pro tip: Individuals who are long-time smokers shouldn’t quit smoking cold turkey due to the potentially grueling withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, if you wish to undergo plastic surgery, it’s crucial to quit smoking the right way, even before your first plastic surgery pre-op appointment. 
  1. Manage Your Expectations 

For some people, plastic surgery is life-changing in that it improves their confidence and even quality of life. Others perceive it as a nice-to-have procedure to address certain imperfections. Either way, everyone interested in plastic surgery expects a positive experience. The degree, however, may vary, especially after the operation.

The biggest mental challenge in plastic surgery is aligning expectations with the results. Hence, it’s imperative to level expectations and keep them realistic during the pre-op phase. In doing so, your doctor will check your mental preparedness(4) for the process, understand your goal, and match it with the result that plastic surgery can accomplish. 

Even before the pre-op appointment, be sure to condition yourself that plastic surgery, on its own, does not guarantee a drastic improvement in your life. Be aware of the risks and choose a highly qualified, board-certified plastic surgeon to perform the procedure. It will also help if you talk to someone who has undergone the same operation. 

Lastly, surround yourself with people who support you and keep you grounded regarding your expectations. 

  1. Arrange Your Post-Op Environment

After the procedure, your next goal is to heal and recover smoothly at home. The typical recovery period for plastic surgeries is within two weeks. To ensure you heal quickly, ensure that you set up your routine post-op. Consider the following when planning this period:

  • Arrange for help or a support system: If you’re living alone, consider hiring a home health aide assistant to help you with your daily activities, like preparing your food, helping you in the bathroom, monitoring your medications, etc. You can also ask a friend or a family member to stay with you. 
  • Prepare your recovery room: You’ll likely spend more time in your bedroom post-op or a more accessible room in your house, preferably on the first floor. Make sure to set up your bed and support pillow before the operation. Allocate a space for medical supplies within your reach.

Risks of Plastic Surgery

Woman getting ready for nose job surgery

Plastic surgery has come a long way since Gaspare Tagliacozzi(5) detailed a primitive method of nasal reconstruction in 1597. Contemporary reconstructive surgery procedures have become more advanced, ensuring safety and effectiveness. As a result, more people have seen plastic surgery mainly as a cosmetic procedure specialists perform as part of their routine.

However, despite the advertised normalcy of plastic surgery, equating to safety, there are still risks tied up to the fact that it is an invasive procedure. These risks include the following:

  • Surgical site infections: Like any surgical procedure, plastic surgery has a risk of surgical site infections, potentially due to the techniques, suture types, drain placement, etc. In fact, 5% of patients(6) who have undergone plastic surgery reported SSI.  
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia: Allergy against anesthesia can occur, albeit rare. Your immune might react mildly or severely, with symptoms ranging from nausea to breathing difficulties. 
  • Nerve damage: During the operation, nerves may be temporarily or permanently damaged, especially when the surgery becomes complex. Such damage can cause numbing or a tingling sensation in the affected area. 
  • Bleeding and blood clots: You might be at risk of excessive bleeding during the surgery. In this case, you’ll need a blood transfusion or another surgery to help replenish the blood and close the leak. There is also the risk of developing blood clots or hematoma. Although minor hematomas resolve themselves on their own, larger ones can cause pain and swelling. 
  • Seroma: Seroma occurs when fluid buildup under the skin, typically near the surgical site. Small seromas are reabsorbed eventually. Hence, they are mostly deemed harmless. Larger ones may require medical attention(7). Even more so if you show signs of infections. On the other hand, 
  • Scarring: If a surgeon fails to follow the proper suturing techniques, the risk of developing scars becomes higher. This mistake can prompt you to take additional surgery just to hide the scars alone. 

How to Minimize Plastic Surgery Risks

As with other types of invasive operations, there are risks to consider. However, considering the length of progress in surgical procedures, these risks can be easily avoided. To do that, consider these expert tips:

  • Choose a board-certified plastic surgeon: Unlicensed cosmetic surgeons are the bane of the plastic surgery industry. Unfortunately, despite their insufficient credentials, some people still avail of their services due to their cheaper offers. The downside, however, is that you’re exposing yourself to the abovementioned risks, which could mean shelling out more money to correct the poor surgery. 

When looking for a plastic surgeon, make sure to check their license and track record. Board-certified surgeons are regulated by an authoritative body, which translates to accountability and competence.  

  • Divulge all your necessary health information: Spare no details when it comes to your medical history, medication, and general wellness (both physical and mental). Be open to taking a pre-op (plastic surgery) blood test and other screening procedures so your doctor can assess your physical readiness. 
  • Understand the limitations of the procedure: Setting expectations is crucial when considering plastic surgery. While the process may sound highbrow, make an effort to know how it works and what the result should look like. 
  • Follow the pre-op and post-op instructions: Your doctor’s instructions before and after the surgery are set specifically to protect you from the procedure’s risks. Therefore, follow them strictly to avoid complications. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you prepare your skin for plastic surgery?

Your surgeon typically provides specific pre-op instructions involving skin prep. This checklist depends on the type of cosmetic surgery you’ll go through or any unique factors or attributes you have. 

Generally, to prepare your skin for plastic surgery, you need to wash it thoroughly with antibacterial soap. Prior to that, make sure you are properly hydrated so your skin stays elastic and not dry. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen, too. It’s also best to withdraw from smoking and maintain a balanced diet. 

What are the worst things to do before surgery?

Ignoring any pre-op instruction and not letting your surgeon know before the operation can spell disaster for your plastic surgery and overall health. Some of the worst mistakes you should avoid before the procedure include failure to fast so close to the surgery, taking medications that might interfere with the anesthesia or with the procedure in general, drinking alcohol within 24 hours before the operation, and not disclosing any crucial health information. 

What is the best thing to eat the night before plastic surgery?

A light diet is often recommended for patients undergoing plastic surgery. Keep in mind, however, that you should start fasting, typically 8 to 12 hours before the operation. Your last meal before fasting should be easy to digest and have the right proportion of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Avoid foods that make you full or can cause indigestion, like spicy or minty foods. For a more tailored meal for your plastic surgery, consult your doctor.

The Bottom Line

Planning for plastic surgery shouldn’t be limited to your physical and financial capacity. As with any cosmetic surgery, it can be a life-altering decision that could influence your mental state in the long run. Make sure you are prepared for the potentially permanent change. Choose a plastic surgeon with a stellar reputation and proven competence. Take the proper screening included in the pre-op panel blood test and arrange your recovery routine. 


1 Khan G, Choi YS, Park ES, Choi YD. The Application of Three-Dimensional Simulation Program and Three-Dimensional Printing in Secondary Rhinoplasty. J Craniofac Surg. 2018 Nov;29(8):e774-e777. doi: 10.1097/SCS.0000000000004737. PMID: 30028398.

2 Van Slyke AC, Carr M, Knox ADC, Genoway K, Carr NJ. Perioperative and Long-Term Smoking Behaviors in Cosmetic Surgery Patients. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2017 Sep;140(3):503-509. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000003604. PMID: 28841611.

3 Davies A, Pang WS, Fowler T, Dewi F, Wright T. Preoperative fasting in the department of plastic surgery. BMJ Open Qual. 2018 Nov 10;7(4):e000161. doi: 10.1136/bmjoq-2017-000161. PMID: 30515463; PMCID: PMC6231091.

4 Rehman U, Perwaiz I, Sohaib Sarwar M, Brennan PA. Mental health screening in facial cosmetic surgery: a narrative review of the literature. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2023 Sep;61(7):455-463. doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2023.05.003. Epub 2023 May 15. PMID: 37442708.

5 Tomba P, Viganò A, Ruggieri P, Gasbarrini A. Gaspare Tagliacozzi, pioneer of plastic surgery and the spread of his technique throughout Europe in “De Curtorum Chirurgia per Insitionem”. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2014;18(4):445-50. PMID: 24610608.

6 Ng WK, Kaur MN, Thoma A. Plastic surgeons’ self-reported operative infection rates at a Canadian academic hospital. Plast Surg (Oakv). 2014 Winter;22(4):237-40. doi: 10.4172/plastic-surgery.1000890. PMID: 25535460; PMCID: PMC4271751.

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