By Yoonah Kim, MD

While plastic surgery can run the gamut from minor enhancements to full reconstruction, it is often thought of as “reactive,” or a way to fix a problem that has already occurred. At the Advanced Institute for Plastic Surgery, we often see patients who seek treatment once their skin and bodies have started to age, leading our team to recommend treatments aimed at restoring the face and body to a more youthful state. 

Preventative plastic surgery, however, is taking the current generation of young adults by storm, as millennials, in particular, are getting ahead of signs of aging. Many procedures are shown to significantly delay signs of aging—from skin treatments to Botox and fillers—and these preventative options are an important inclusion for any plastic surgery practice.

While there will always be a place in the market for reactive treatment, placing an emphasis on preventative plastic surgery can benefit both the practice and the patient. In this article, we will explore why. 

Patient Benefits of Preventative Treatment

Botox minimizes wrinkles that may form between the eyebrow, crow’s feet, and forehead, to name a few. By decreasing the strength of the muscles that cause those lines, we slow down the speed at which the wrinkles deepen. As a result, people who opt to receive Botox at an early age have the potential to age much more slowly. 

Skin treatments are another important consideration for preventative practice. Retinol and vitamin C can reduce signs of aging by building up collagen and boosting antioxidants to protect against environmental factors. Microdermabrasion also builds collagen and can be used across all age groups and virtually any skin type. Beginning these treatments early and maintaining consistency can help minimize the signs of aging. What’s more, these treatments are relatively affordable with minimal to no downtime, allowing providers to build an ongoing relationship with those seeking regular treatment. 

In addition to skin treatments and injectables, using skin-lightening products decreases the signs of sun damage. Dark spots caused by sun exposure are a tell-tale sign of aging and can be difficult to treat once they have occurred. By offering skin-lightening services and stocking those products for purchase, you will not only keep patients returning for service but encourage them to continue their preventative regimen at home. 

In all cases, preventative treatments can help prepare the skin and body for graceful aging. When approaching treatments reactively, surgery, such as a facelift, may be the only choice. While surgery certainly has its place in our treatment armamentarium, patients often prefer to begin with less-invasive options. 

Advancements in Preventative Plastic Surgery

As minimally invasive techniques continue to advance, it’s easier and less expensive to begin preventative treatments earlier in life. Similarly, smaller, preventative procedures are perceived by patients as less intimidating or scary.  

Trends in the public eye are also changing, leading to easier conversations with patients around preventative treatment. Botox, specifically, has become a mainstream procedure and is even celebrated among celebrities and influencers, increasing interest among the general population of 20- to 30-year-olds. As other injectable procedures also increase in popularity—like lip fillers and nonsurgical rhinoplasty—‚physicians can educate patients about the benefits of preventative procedures while they are already in the office. Consulting with a patient who is already interested in aesthetic improvement about the benefits of preventative treatment can have a positive impact on the patient/provider relationship and the patient’s aging process.  

Expanding the Patient Population 

According to a 2020 study released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, patients ages 40 to 54 comprise the top demographic undergoing plastic surgery, with more than 6.1 million cosmetic procedures taking place in that age bracket alone. At the Advanced Institute for Plastic Surgery, we recommend starting preventative treatments of Botox, facials, and micro-needling once patients reach their mid-to-late 20s. In the same report, an estimated 768,000 total procedures were performed on those ages 20 to 29. 

With research showing that preventative treatment benefits patients in their 20s, incorporating messaging, recommendations, and service offerings for preventative procedures can be advantageous for any plastic surgery practice.

As an industry, it’s important to approach preventative procedures on an expanded front, with the full spectrum of age-based aesthetic needs in mind. When consulting with women seeking facelifts later in life, I often find myself wishing I had met them 20 years prior to begin preventative treatment. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

Yoonah Kim, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon and co-founder of the Advanced Institute for Plastic Surgery, a California-based plastic surgery group offering advanced cosmetic procedures for the face and body.