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Cosmetic procedures: Are they safe for people 65 and older?

Senior citizens women
More people 65 and older are having procedures that can make them look younger.
Do you have your heart set on having a cosmetic procedure but worry that you may be too old to have it safely? Research suggests that your health may actually be more important than your age.

In a large U.S. study designed to find out whether cosmetic surgery is safe for people 65 years of age and older, researchers examined the records of 129,007 patients who had cosmetic surgery. Most patients were younger than 65, but doctors also treated people aged 65 to 93.

To answer the question of safety, researchers looked at whether the patients who were 65 or older had more serious complications after cosmetic surgery than the younger patients. They found that the risk of having a serious complication was about the same between the two age groups.

There was one exception. Those 65 and older who had a tummy tuck developed more serious complications than did the younger patients.

During this study, the researchers also discovered that the 65+ patients were in better health than the younger patients. They were less likely to smoke and more likely to be at a healthy weight.

The records also revealed that the younger patients were more likely than the older patients to develop a complication, such as deep vein thrombosis (a serious complication), after a surgeon performed more than 1 cosmetic procedure during a single surgical session.

These findings led the researchers to conclude that the surgeons screened the patients 65 and older more carefully. It seems that the surgeons only operated on older patients who were in good health.

Are you 65+ and considering a cosmetic procedure?

While your health plays an important role, your results also depend largely on the skill and experience of the person performing the procedure.

A board-certified dermatologist who performs cosmetic procedures has the education, experience, and expertise required to:

  • Evaluate you and determine whether a procedure is safe for you

  • Perform a cosmetic procedure safely

Before performing a cosmetic procedure, a board-certified dermatologist considers your:

  • Overall health

  • Risk factors, such as a medical condition, which could make a procedure unsafe

  • Medications

  • Skin’s condition

  • Desired results and which procedure (or combination of procedures) can help

Only after evaluating you will a board-certified dermatologist tell you whether a cosmetic procedure is safe and can give you the results you seek.

A dermatologist’s training and experience make this doctor uniquely qualified to evaluate you this way. To become a dermatologist, one must first graduate from medical school and then continue on in medical school to successfully complete 3 or more years of training in dermatology.

When someone performing a cosmetic procedure lacks this expertise, complications are more common. In fact, dermatologists treat many people who develop a complication after getting a cosmetic procedure from someone who lacks this expertise.

The complications dermatologists treat include bruising, changes to a person’s skin color, burns, infections, scars, swelling, and “frozen” facial expressions.

Dermatologists perform more cosmetic procedures than any other type of doctor.

Derm performing a cosmetic procedure

Ask questions to find a qualified provider

If you’re considering a cosmetic procedure, you can find out whether the person is qualified to perform your cosmetic procedure by asking questions. You will find the questions to ask at, Who should provide your cosmetic treatment?

Consider safety before price

Insurance does not cover the cost of cosmetic procedures. Since you have to pay the entire cost, it can be tempting to look for the lowest price. Dermatologists caution that safety should be your first concern.

While the cost of a cosmetic procedure can be lower at a salon or spa, you may pay more in the long run if something goes wrong. A complication, such as a burn or scar, can affect your appearance and your health.

If you are interested in having a cosmetic procedure, you can locate a board-certified dermatologist at, Find a dermatologist - Use Specialty and choose Cosmetic Dermatology.

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Images Getty Images

References American Academy of Dermatology. “Cosmetic treatment from unqualified providers may result in complications.” News release issued February 16, 2018.

Yeslev M, Gupta V, et al. “Safety of safety of cosmetic procedures in elderly and octogenarian patients.” Aesthet Surg J. 2015;35(7):864-73.