What Exactly Is a Plastic Surgery Reversal? Experts Explain


    Newport Beach, CA plastic surgeon Sanjay Grover, MD has a very smart aesthetic-surgery analogy that he likes to use to remind patients that any kind of procedure should not be taken lightly.

    “Unlike a new fad for a hairstyle—like the Jennifer Aniston ‘do of the 90s—some surgical outcomes cannot be easily reversed.”

    To that end, he calls the recent rise of “plastic surgery reversals” an “interesting topic,” and explains that it should not be so quickly coupled with its cousin of the revision surgery.

    “A revision implies something didn’t go quite as expected or desired,” Dr. Grover explains. “Perhaps the body didn’t heal as planned or the surgeon wasn’t able to get the result they had hoped for or even, perhaps, the body developed a capsular contracture around a breast implant. A reversal, on the other hand, is reversing the result of a previous procedure or surgery that may have gone as planned or desired, yet the person now wants to change it back to their original state.”

    While he doesn’t fully blame social media, Dr. Grover does say new fads and trends in the aesthetics world are quickly disseminated and glamorized by it. “For example, look at all the BBLs, fox-eye lifts, exaggerated pouty lips, over-resected nose, etc. Other reasons may be that many new apps allow people to enhance or sculpt their face or body in a way that is not real—yet that new image is now disseminated to the masses and others may want to look that way.”

    Encino, CA plastic surgeon George Sanders, MD also classifies a plastic-surgery reversal as an “undoing,” and calls out similar specifics.

    “A reversal is about undergoing another procedure in an attempt to undo the original procedure and regain the former appearance,” he says. “I can see it happening with a procedure that was done to cause a person to look like someone or something else—like the ‘fox-eye’ look that was popular recently.

    On the other hand, a revision is about improving a result obtained from a procedure, not trying to undo it—like a breast-implant revision to reposition an implant. You’re improving upon what was obtained with the original operation.”

    Over at Nashville plastic surgeon Daniel Hatef, MD’s practice, he says he’s most recently been doing reversal consultations for browlifts, upper lip lifts and breast augmentations.

    “The latter not for BII, but just because patients decide they don’t want them, concern for issues with breastfeeding with implants in, and hearing about BII and ALCL and they just want them out,” he explains. “The former two: I honestly have never done the operation for browlift reversal. In those upper lip lift patients, I’ve only performed two revisions, and they weren’t necessarily ‘reversals,’ but revisions where I took more skin out laterally to make the outer portion of their lip look like the central portion.”

    Eugene, OR plastic surgeon Mark Jewell, MD also says there may not be a straightforward definition of what a reversal versus a revision means: “It’s hard to say. But it is impossible to reverse a rhinoplasty, facelift, breast reduction or abdominoplasty. I suppose that you can reverse a breast augmentation by removing implants.”

    One thing is certain—and this is according to statistics—stresses La Jolla, CA plastic surgeon Robert Singer, MD: The majority of people who have plastic surgery are glad they had it done.

    “When receiving aesthetic surgery from a board-certified plastic surgeon who properly screens patients and explains what is realistic and unrealistic, there is a high degree of success,” he explains.

    And, while Dr. Singer stresses that even a successful reversal won’t get you back to square one, he does say one area he sees patients asking about modifications is when it comes to the matter of ‘trends.’ “When that trend goes away, so does the desire to have that look,” he says, also pointing to social media.

    “Overall, there’s a small percentage of revisions and almost no requests for reversals. It’s very rare. It’s not like there’s an eraser at the end of the scalpel, and a ‘reversal’ won’t take it back to exactly the way it was before surgery.”