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Cosmetic procedures include a wide variety of surgeries and treatments that are performed not for essential medical reasons but primarily to improve an individual’s appearance. These procedures are performed by a doctor known as a cosmetic surgeon or a plastic surgeon. Because cosmetic surgery is typically not an essential medical procedure, it is often not covered by health insurance. In some cases, however, cosmetic surgery can be used to repair congenital defects or damage from an injury in order to improve a person’s appearance.

Types of Cosmetic Surgery

Hundreds of procedures fall under the umbrella of cosmetic procedures. Some of the common ones include tummy tucks, breast implants, facelifts, nose surgery and liposuction. Not all procedures are surgical, however. For example, there are non-surgical treatments available to improve the overall appearance of the skin, such as microdermabrasion, laser skin resurfacing and chemical peels. In addition, some conditions -- like the disease vitiligo, for example, in which the skin loses color -- can be treated with the application of makeup, self-tanner, skin dye, skin medication or light treatments.

When it comes to repairing the body after an illness, injury or congenital defect, surgeries to repair a cleft lip or cleft palate are common cosmetic procedures. Women can also get a breast reconstruction if they had one or both breasts removed because of breast cancer. Scars can also be repaired after skin cancer or an injury.

Benefits vs. Risks

The benefits of cosmetic surgery come primarily in how people feel about themselves based on the improvement in their appearance. However, most types of cosmetic surgery carry some risks. For example, bleeding, infection and scarring are potential risks associated with any type of surgery. Breast implants have a potential to leak over time. Liposuction can cause burns, numbness or accidental organ puncture. Each type of cosmetic surgery has its own set of risks, making it important to weigh those risks against the potential benefits of whatever procedure is being considered.

SOURCES: American Society of Plastic Surgeons; Society for Women’s Health Research; American Academy of Dermatology

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