In this age of selfies, Snapchat and Instagram, it’s not an exaggeration to say that being photogenic has become a national obsession.

Combine that with advances in medical technology, groundbreaking techniques and increased public acceptance, and it’s no wonder the field of plastic surgery is booming. According to data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 17.5 million cosmetic procedures, both surgical and minimally invasive, were performed last year.

Jmore recently sat down with Dr. Emile N. Brown, a plastic surgeon with the Pikesville practice of Drs. Papel, Kontis & Brown, to discuss the flourishing field and what drives people to have cosmetic surgeries. 

Why is plastic surgery so popular?

A lot of people get cosmetic surgery because it makes them feel better about themselves. There are always things that bother people about themselves, and if you can improve those for a person, you can really improve their quality of life.

What are some of the newest procedures?

Our 3D imaging system for simulating breast augmentation allows patients to literally see their results in augmented virtual reality. Having this tool can help patients choose implant shapes and sizes or decide whether or not they want a lift. We are the only practice in the area offering this technology.

Additionally, I now do “scarless” breast augmentations using only a small incision hidden in the armpit, which eliminates any visible scars on the breast. I am also using a new drainless tummy tuck procedure that makes for an easier and more comfortable recovery process.

Finally, we are doing an increasing number of procedures without general anesthesia, like facial surgery, liposuction and mini-tummy tucks. Some patients are afraid of [undergoing] general anesthesia, so for the right patient, we can do some of these surgeries with localized anesthetics and an oral sedative, which also makes the recovery process easier.

What are the most popular procedures?

The “mommy makeover” is definitely one of the more common procedures we see these days. It’s usually a combination of a breast and tummy surgery, which can include a breast augmentation and/or lift combined with a tummy tuck or abdominal liposuction.

Labiaplasty is more frequently being added as well. After pregnancy, it’s common for women to have excess, drooping skin. Many of these patients want their bodies back to where they were pre-pregnancy, and they are incredibly happy with the results of these procedures.

Are men getting more procedures, too?

There is a national trend for more men to seek out plastic surgery. Botox is one treatment that men gravitate toward. … There is less of a stigma associated with Botox and fillers these days, so men don’t feel uncomfortable coming into the office. Additionally, men are starting to care more about their skin and are getting on a proper skin care regimen.

There are also some procedures unique to men, like gynecomastia surgery, a male breast reduction procedure, which contours their chests. 

What’s the difference between Botox and other non-invasive procedures?

Botox and fillers are the two main injectable, non-invasive procedures. Botox is used to selectively weaken the muscles in the face that cause wrinkles. By softening these actions, we can smooth out the forehead, crow’s-feet or the area between the eyebrows.

Fillers are used anywhere else in the face and body we want to add volume. For example, we can use injectable fillers to soften the creases around the mouth or change the shape of the nose or jaw line. Fillers are also becoming increasingly popular for hand rejuvenation.

Any restrictions after cosmetic procedures?

With larger surgical procedures like tummy tucks, heavy lifting and strenuous exercise should be avoided for six weeks. Otherwise, patients can go about their daily activities as they feel fit. Everyone is different, but the time off from work can generally range from one to three weeks, depending on the procedure. For injectables, there may be some swelling or bruising, but it is an in-and-out procedure with no real downtime.

What’s Retin-A and should everyone be using it?

Retin-A, or tretinoin, is a topical treatment that improves skin quality, texture and tone. In general, proper medical-grade skin care is one of the most fundamental steps in keeping a healthy look as we age. In our office, we have a skin care and laser division so you can come and see a medical esthetician, who can help design a comprehensive skin care regimen for you that almost always includes a tretinoin product.

Can people go overboard with cosmetic surgery?

If people see improvements in one area of concern, I think it’s common for them to want to see similar improvements in other areas. I believe that is reasonable, and I don’t discourage patients from getting more than one procedure.

However, as plastic surgeons, it is our responsibility to discourage patients from surgeries that we feel would make them look unnatural. We spend a lot of time talking to our patients and understanding their goals and concerns. Through these conversations, we can usually figure out whether a patient has unrealistic expectations.

Aliza Friedlander is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.