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Buyer Beware: Think Twice Before That Botox Flash Sale

Flash sale sites like Groupon are great for things like massages, especially if you are already familiar with the person offering the service, but for cosmetic procedures? “Very risky behavior!” says plastic surgeon Michael Olding MD.

First one has to ask the question: Why would someone be offering a procedure at a deep discount?, says Olding. “In business terms, that service is referred to as a “loss leader”(i.e. a product is sold cheap or at a “loss”, to “lead” you to the business where you are likely to purchase other items selling at regular prices,” says Olding. You see it all the time at grocery stores who advertise that a particular product is offered below its traditional value. How can they afford to do that? Well, says Olding, in the grocery store, while you’re there purchasing that product, you will likely be purchasing a lot of other products which makes up for the loss. In the case of a cosmetic surgery Groupon, it may entice you to purchase other more expensive “items” (so to speak), says Olding.

What’s wrong with that? A lot!

“Unlike the grocery store, where you are purchasing a product, even something as simple as botox or fillers have potential complications which can be quite significant and include droopy eyelid (ptosis) and even blindness!” says Dr. Olding.  And some people are using counterfeit forms of botox. The take home message is that you need to get it from a reputable physician who can evaluate you based on education, board certification, and experience — all of which are important to consider before having a procedure, even a non-surgical procedure. Failure to consider each of these could save you money initially, but could “cost” you far more, permanent problems, says Dr. Olding.

Education goes hand in hand with board certification, says Olding. And it is not just ANY board. “It is THE American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Although many doctors tell patients that they are board certified, one has to look closer to make sure they didn’t get certified by a board that requires nothing more than a weekend course to be board certified. The unsuspecting public has no idea!” says Olding.

Board certification in Plastic Surgery requires years of rigorous training in an accredited training program and then the candidate must pass an exam at the end of their training in order to be board certified by the ABMS, says Olding. (And a lot of people don’t pass!)

Experience is also important. “I am certified to do cleft lip and palate repairs. I haven’t done one for over 20 years, and I would not attempt one. I do what I have expertise in, and I do it a lot: cosmetic surgery. I could do a groupon for cleft lip and palate, but it would not be unethical from my perspective,” Olding says.

Olding shares there are situations with doctors who may offer flash sales who may claim to do a procedure, but it doesn’t mean they know how to do it, or do it well. Everyone needs to do their homework. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASPS) not only requires board certification by the ABMS, but they have to follow a code of ethics, says Olding, and they have to have demonstrated significant experience in aesthetic plastic surgery, so that is often a good place to begin a search. “I would recommend that people use their computers to research the perspective doctor instead of looking for flash sales on it!” says Olding.

Doing your homework

“The most common ways these days to” do your homework” are the computer reviews, word of mouth (from more than one mouth by the way!), recommendations from your primary care doctor, contacting the ABMS, or contacting the ASAPS if they are a plastic surgeon and make certain they are who they claim to be,’ says Olding.

While Dr. Olding doesn’t believe any of the treatments are more acceptable to do via flash site sales, there are ones that are less problematic are the ones that have fewer potential complications. But remember, says Olding, every procedure is potentially dangerous in the wrong hands. “But the potential complications associated with say liposuction or any surgical procedure are in general potentially greater than for say the non-surgical procedures like botulism injections. However, it is important to realize that if the potential complication rate for a procedure is only 1% and you are that 1% that ends up with a permanent problem following a procedure, it might as well have been a 100% complication rate!” Olding says.

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