How to look at plastic surgery before & after photos like a pro

When you’re thinking about having cosmetic surgery, patient before and after galleries are a natural first place to start. How else are you going to see what’s possible? Plus, it’s fun!

Looking at photos the right way can help you get better cosmetic surgery results. Being able to recognize a great result for your body type and goals will help you find the right surgeon for your needs and articulate your goals to your surgeon. Ultimately, you’ll feel more confident in your decisions about surgery.

Focus on patients who look like you

To get the most out of your gallery gazing, hone in on before photos that remind you of yourself. You might see what you think is the most beautiful breast augmentation ever, but if that patient has a totally different “before” breast shape than you do, the results won’t tell you much about what breast augmentation might achieve for you personally.

Among the “before” patients that resemble you, take note of the results you like best. Also note any results you don’t particularly love to help your surgeon better understand your aesthetic goals. Be ready to point them out to a surgeon at your consult. Our patient photo gallery has a handy “Add to Fav’s” option that lets you save your favorites and share them with your doctor before your consultation.

Liposuction Patient B&A
Two different liposuction patients, two different body types, two different goals—both loved their results!

Signs of superb surgeon skill

You can’t tell everything about a plastic surgeon by looking at photos, but you can identify signs of excellent work, such as:

  • Symmetry is maintained or improved after surgery. Symmetry and proportion are foundations of beauty; a skilled plastic surgeon will prioritize these in her work. Not all asymmetry can be totally corrected, but you should notice a change in the right direction.
  • Scars are thin, neat, and placed inconspicuously. All surgery leaves scars, and if you’re looking at nude examples, you will likely see them. A well-placed, properly healed scar will not “jump out” at you, and if the patient is wearing underwear in the photos, it should be apparent that the surgeon placed incisions thoughtfully, so that undergarments will conceal them as much as possible.
  • You see a variety of patients who look natural after surgery. Skillfully executed plastic surgery helps a patient look like a better version of herself.
This body lift patient looks natural following surgery, and scars have faded significantly.

Possible red flags in a photo gallery

  • Results look exactly alike. Even if they’re all excellent results, if every patient seems to look the same before and have similar results after, that indicates you may have found a one-trick pony. The most skilled plastic surgeons will be able to achieve beautiful results for a variety of body shapes, sizes, and ages, and personalize those results to a patient’s proportions and desired outcome.
  • The lighting, pose, zoom effect, or other photography details change between the before and afters. Variations in patient pose (i.e., frowning in the before and smiling in the after) or lighting can make results look better or worse than they actually are. Rarely will surgeons use these tricks to obscure mediocre results; often it’s just sloppy photography. Don’t automatically discount a surgeon for such inconsistencies, but do view the results with appropriate scrutiny.
  • Things look a little too perfect. Plastic surgeons want to showcase their best work, but we also want patients to get a realistic idea about procedure outcomes. Personally, I’d put more stock in a photo gallery where most of the results look great, but some reflect the challenges posed by a patient’s anatomy.
  • Scars are bright red and conspicuous. This can be offputting in a photo; it’s a sign that “after” photos were taken too soon after surgery. If you like the results other than the scarring, ask the plastic surgeon to see after photos of patients at least 6 months after their procedures.

While looking at before and after photos online is a great way to start your search for the right surgeon, there’s no substitute for an in-person consultation.

Contact us today to schedule your personal consult with one of our doctors