Oops! The Costs and Risks of Reversing Plastic Surgery

Oops! The Costs and Risks of Reversing Plastic Surgery
Photo by Joeyy Lee / Unsplash

“Beauty,” said Plato famously, “lies in the eyes of the beholder.” And when those beholding eyes include millions of Snapchatters and TikTokers and Instagrammers, the pressure to conform to a social-media-driven ideal of beauty can be enormous.

And fleeting. What was “in” just a few years ago is fast becoming “out.”

Changing lipstick colors or hair styles to create your new “look” (and we mean men, women, and non-binary here) is relatively easy. But reversing cosmetic surgery undertaken for the Brazilian Butt Lift (BLL) or the cute up-turned nose to embrace today’s more natural-let-it-all-hang-out look is costly and potentially dangerous.


The reasons for reversing cosmetic surgery of course go beyond the whims of social media addicts. Implants can leak, for example. Augmented lips and cheeks may not suit an aging face. What looked good on a middle-aged body can look downright silly on a senior citizen, and that can create serious psychological issues.

“It’s all about making you look natural and matching where you are at your current stage of life,” Dr. Rod J. Rohrich, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Dallas, Texas, told Fashionista in August. 

Is it Reversible?

Non-surgical procedures or injectables like Botox or dermal fillers, or skin tightening, and resurfacing are “temporary” fixes and will not last forever. Reversing them to get your original body back can be just a matter of cancelling your regular appointments to tweak the treatment.

Surgical procedures such as nose jobs or BBLs restructure the muscles and tissues of the body to achieve the desired, “permanent” results. This is more difficult, potentially lengthy, and costly.

So, what to do? Begin by understanding the difference between a “revision” (a procedure performed to fix a complication or miscommunication) and a “reversion” (the patient no longer wants the result achieved by the surgery). 

“Reversions” are the hard ones, and — depending on the type of procedures you want to have reversed — they may not be possible. A surgeon can’t just replace areas of the body they may have removed.

How it Works

Here’s a short list of some of the more prevalent procedures and what you can do about them.

Breast enhancement

One of the more prevalent forms of cosmetic surgery: according to The Aesthetic Society there were 364,753 breast augmentations performed in 2021; however, there was a robust uptick in the number of procedures going for the opposite effect. Over the same period, 147,684 women had their implants removed and replaced (up 32% from 2020) while another 71,284 had their implants removed but not replaced (a 47% jump).

Having the original implants removed all together or removed and replaced with smaller implants is pretty standard procedure. However, the tissue and skin around your breasts will have changed over the course of time to accommodate the implants, so you may need additional surgery to reshape the original tissue once the implant is removed.

Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) 

It’s been 15 or so years since the Kardashian-themed craze for bigger butts took off. Early adopters may now be regretting their choice, given the current emphasis on natural, more athletic body types. Recent media comments by New York City board-certified plastic surgeon Dr Matthew Schulman explain the surgical challenge: “We need to remove fat in very specific locations to provide a smaller shape that is still attractive.”

And that depends on whether you’ve beefed up your butt with injected fat or with implants. Fat injections into the gluteal muscle have been condemned in recent years due to the associated fatal risk of fat embolism. This makes extraction difficult and can involve several appointments. Implants, on the other hand, can be removed, but some fat replacement may also be needed to reshape the butt. And this, too can require multiple sessions over many months.

The perky nose

One of the most prevalent forms of plastic surgery, especially among teenagers. And those kids who wanted the upturned little nose so popular in the 80s and 90s went through quite a lot to get it: a lot of cartilage removal and bridge-bone whittling, for example.

Today, not only has that perky look become a bit passe, as time goes by perkiness can become problematic: those upturned noses can become pinched and angular eventually, producing a dramatically aging effect. Returning to a more “normal” nose means cannibalizing other parts of your body for replacement parts: rib cartilage for the bridge; for the tip, soft, flexible ear cartilage.

Facial fat  

Slimming down: If you’re missing that sculpted chin and jaw, you may be tempted to blame it on buccal fat, which runs from the lower cheek, along the jaw, and up into the temples. But rather than removing buccal fat to reveal the sculptured face they dreamed of, some patients – particularly those who weren’t ideal candidates in the first place – can end up looking skeletal, older. Since this part of the face is of necessity quite mobile (chewing, smiling, talking…) replacing the fat requires careful surveillance and several doctor’s appointments.

Filling up: Those full, pouty lips, overly pumped-up faces, and foxy eyebrows are increasingly out. The Aesthetic Society 2021 survey mentioned above indicates that dermal filler reversals were up 57% last year.

The procedure is relatively straightforward: implants can be removed or downsized without much difficulty. The lip tissue is surprisingly malleable; HA gels used to increase lip size can be dissolved by your plastic surgeon with the injectable enzyme hyaluronidase. However, some procedures, are considered irreversible, so check with your doctor before getting your hopes up.

Mind over Matter

The quest for beauty is never-ending and extends to all parts of the body, for men and women alike. Today’s media onslaught submits us to perfect images constantly. All the more reason to consider, before dipping into your savings, the psychological reasons fueling your desire for surgical change — and will you still want it when the current craze has run its course? Perhaps a new outfit or an updated lipstick would do the trick?