Stay informed about cosmetic surgery

Learn about cosmetic surgery in Australia and how to make the safest choice.

Types of cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery changes a person’s physical appearance.

Cosmetic surgery refers to procedures that involve cutting beneath the skin, such as:

  • breast implants
  • tummy tuck (abdominoplasty)
  • nose surgery (rhinoplasty)
  • surgical face lifts.

Some cosmetic procedures do not involve cutting beneath the skin, such as:

  • cosmetic injectables (such as Botox and dermal fillers)
  • laser skin treatments
  • dermabrasion
  • cryolipolysis (fat freezing).

These are still called cosmetic procedures because they change a person’s physical appearance.

The terms “cosmetic surgery” and “cosmetic procedure” are often used interchangeably.

Finding credible information

To make an informed choice about cosmetic surgery, you should rely on credible sources of information.

Credible sources of information include:

Unreliable sources of information can put your health at risk.  Be wary of information from:

  • social media
  • online reviews
  • patient testimonials.

These sources are not always factual, credible or genuine. 

Patient testimonials are often used to sell a service, rather than provide accurate information. They do not indicate the level of expertise, quality, or safety of a service.

Remember, other people’s experiences may not be typical and might be different to yours.

Before your cosmetic surgery

Doing your research before cosmetic surgery is essential. Make sure you have reliable information about who will be doing the procedure and where it will take place.  

To make a safe and informed decision about your cosmetic surgery, you should:

  • choose an appropriately qualified medical practitioner
  • check your surgery will take place in a licenced facility
  • understand the risks of the surgery
  • understand the plan for your recovery
  • know what to do if something goes wrong.

Choose a qualified medical practitioner

Your practitioner should be registered with the Medical Board of Australia. 

You can check if someone is registered on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) register of practitioners. You can also see their qualifications and if there are conditions or limitations on procedures they can perform.

Searching the register may not tell you enough about a practitioner’s skills and qualifications to make an informed decision. They may be a registered practitioner but have limited experience or knowledge of the specific procedure or surgery you want.

To choose someone who is knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced in performing your surgery, you should ask questions in your consultation. Use our question guide to find out about a practitioner’s qualifications, experience, and commitment to your care.

If you are not satisfied or comfortable with their answers, seek a second or third opinion. If in doubt, your general practitioner (GP) can help you find a suitable specialist.

Understanding practitioner qualifications

Medical practitioners have different levels of training and experience. The following table outlines qualifications and experience of cosmetic practitioners in Australia:

Term Qualifications and experience Years of training
Cosmetic Surgeon

Currently, any registered doctor with a medical degree can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon. They don’t have to undertake any further formal training in surgery beyond their initial medical training.  

If your practitioner identifies as a cosmetic surgeon, you should ask them about their skills and experience. 

Minimum 5 years medical education and training
Specialist Surgeon

A specialist surgeon has specialist surgical training. For example, in general surgery, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, obstetrics or gynaecology. 

A specialist surgeon will have the letters ‘FRACS, FRANZCO or FRANZCOG after their name.

Medical degree plus 8-12 years of additional training

We are working alongside state and territory governments to change the cosmetic surgery industry

Check your surgery will take place in a licenced facility

All states and territories restrict where cosmetic surgeries can take place. This is for patient health and safety. In some jurisdictions, certain surgeries must occur in licenced facilities.

Check the requirements in the state or territory where you are planning to have your cosmetic surgery. You should also find out whether your cosmetic surgery is on the list of treatments that must occur at a licenced private health facility or hospital.

If something doesn’t feel right about the location of your procedure, ask further questions or cancel your appointment.

Understand the risks and know your surgery

Every cosmetic surgery involves risks. It is important to talk to your practitioner and understand:

  • what will happen during the surgery
  • the risks and possible complications
  • the recovery process
  • what results you can expect and how long they will last
  • what to do if you have any concerns about the results of the surgery.

Read our question guide to help you prepare for your conversation.

Understand the plan for your recovery 

Recovery and aftercare can be as important for your health and wellbeing as the quality of the surgery itself. If there are complications with your recovery, you should know who to contact and who will support you.

Ask your practitioner to give you a plan for your recovery and aftercare, particularly if your surgery requires general anaesthesia. If they cannot do this, you should go somewhere else for your surgery.

Know what to do if something goes wrong

In an emergency, seek treatment at a hospital emergency department or call 000.

If you have concerns about the outcome of your surgery or quality of care, you can contact the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra). Patients can make confidential complaints on 1300 361 041.

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