Anthony Youn, M.D., is a holistic plastic surgeon, but you may be surprised to learn that he actually doesn’t recommend plastic surgery—at least right off the bat. “The goal of being a plastic surgeon should not be trying to get somebody into the operating room—which is what we’ve always been taught—but it should be the opposite of that,” he explains on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. “How do we keep [patients] out of the operating room and use surgery as a last resort?”
Now, you might hear the term “holistic plastic surgery” and think it has something to do with “vegan” Botox or organic filler—but according to Youn, it’s more about the approach than the techniques themselves. He explains, “There are so many things we can do short of surgery to look and feel our best, and those are the things we really need to focus on first.”
Who does Youn turn down and why?
Again, Youn likes to see cosmetic surgery as a last resort—an option to turn to after you’ve genuinely tried your hand at other avenues. “I turn down one out of every five or six patients who come to see me, and usually the answer is because they have unrealistic expectations,” he states.
Here’s an example: When Youn receives liposuction requests, “I get people who say, ‘Just lipo my whole body down,’ and that’s just not the way that it goes,” he says. See, if someone wants to contour a stubborn area, that’s one thing, but for those who want an entire weight loss procedure? There are other less invasive ways to reach that goal.
Additionally, Youn likes to make long-term recommendations for skin longevity before finally resorting to surgery. (Find some of his tips here.) For instance, he won’t perform any surgical skin care treatments on patients who smoke—because the procedure is only a Band-Aid for the damage underneath the surface. “I can tell if somebody is a smoker the moment I meet them because you can see it in the quality of their skin,” he says. “Their skin is drier. They’ve got more wrinkles.” It’s perhaps an extreme example, but the point is that Youn likes to get to the bottom of his patients’ motivations—and if they don’t take care of their skin and body, he views surgery as an unreasonable step.
He also believes that cosmetic procedures are catering to a younger and younger crowd: “There have been articles about [teens] having plastic surgery because they’re getting bullied,” he notes. “That bothers me because the idea is not, ‘Oh, you’re getting bullied, so let’s change you.’ We need to change the actions of the person who’s bullying you.” To that end, Youn doesn’t see any patients under 18 years old.
So…who does he operate on?
All that being said, Youn is a plastic surgeon—and he does perform cosmetic procedures on select patients.
To circle back to the liposuction example: Yes, he suggests other avenues to take if patients want to lose weight overall. “But at the same time, we also need to be cognizant that we all have different genetics,” says Youn. “And your genetics may predispose you to having a double chin, even though you are in fantastic shape and you take great care of yourself. But your mom had a double chin, and now you have a double chin—and no matter what you do, no matter what you eat, no matter how much you work out, that double chin is always going to be there.”
If you wanted to contour the area with surgery, Youn might consider this a reasonable case—although, he still offers options without going under the knife (like cryotherapy, for instance). It’s all about looking at the big picture and deciphering which procedures could be reduced with other less invasive methods.
Holistic plastic surgery is more about the approach than the materials—while Youn does operate on select patients (with traditional, safe tools and techniques, might we add), he views cosmetic surgery as a last resort for most people—it’s invasive, after all, and not without the risk of complications. And according to Youn, sometimes the best skin longevity practices happen outside the operating room.