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16 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Plastic Surgeons

Unless you yourself are a plastic surgeon, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about what they do. The specialty was born to help those who were wounded in war, but is now heavily supported by people who want to look better. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but most of us will never be able to afford such surgery, or else are unwilling to undergo surgery without a medical reason. But you might very well be interested in this fascinating career and the details that go with it.


Watch enough reality television and you’ll eventually spot a plastic surgeon taking a black marker to the bare torso of a patient. Matthew Schulman, M.D., a plastic surgeon based in Manhattan, says that surgeons are basically acting as topographers, marking areas of the body that may change shape or become less visible when a patient is lying down. “We’re drawing landmarks for ourselves because a person looks different when on the table,” he says. “I might circle where the fat is thickest, or where the nipple is while standing.” No special medical ink is used: It’s just a Sharpie.


That gangster-movie cliché of having to modify your face to avoid being spotted after offering damning testimony? It’s true. Kress has operated on several government witnesses, and they can forget about follow-up visits. “I’ve had Federal Marshals come in and tell me, ‘This is the only time you’re going to see this guy, so give him whatever instructions he needs,’” he says. Kress has also worked on covert military operatives who have had their name and image published in media and run the risk of being recognized.

Those are just two of the 16 secrets of plastic surgeons that you can learn about at mental_floss.

(Image credit: © Photographer - James C. Mutter/Facial Plastic Surgeon Babak Azizadeh, MD)

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