As technology becomes more sophisticated and consumers become savvier about their care, plastic surgeons are utilizing both invasive and non-invasive procedures to help their patients achieve the best and most natural looks possible. Get the details on the differences between invasive and non-invasive options, why doctors combine procedures and tips for working with a surgeon.

The Difference Between Invasive and Non-Invasive Cosmetic Procedures

Invasive cosmetic procedures include anything that goes under or through the skin surgically, says Alan H. Gold, MD, former president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. These procedures, which involve the surgical alteration of a person’s appearance, can be done as a result of aging or a person’s desire to change her appearance. Examples of invasive plastic surgery include:

  • Liposuction
  • Breast augmentation
  • Tummy tucks
  • Nose jobs
  • Facelifts

Non-invasive procedures are those that do not involve an incision, including:

  • Laser treatment
  • Intense pulsed light
  • Radiofrequency and ultrasound skin tightening

These technologies are used for any skin care or body shaping procedure that can be done with a laser and without the use of surgery. Minimally invasive procedures are those that involve injections with a needle like Botox, Juvederm, Restylane and fat injections. These procedures also do not require surgery.

Why Combine Invasive and Non-Invasive Cosmetic Procedures?

Whether you should combine certain procedures depends completely on the individual and their needs, Gold says. Some patients may not be ready for several invasive procedures at once, making it more common to use both invasive and non-invasive treatments together.

“If someone’s not ready for surgery on one part of their face but is on another, combining procedures works for the natural balance of their face,” says Robert M. Schwarcz, MD, FACS. “I would rather [combine procedures] for balance rather than do two invasive procedures prematurely.”

While it’s not uncommon to do multiple procedures at the same time, they don’t always have to be in the same area of the face or body. It all depends on the patient, but in most cases combination procedures are skin rejuvenation or remodeling with a non-invasive procedure in addition to surgical facial remodeling, Gold says. Surgical body procedures are not normally combined with non-invasive procedures.

Combining procedures allows surgeons to dramatically improve the condition of a person’s skin while correcting other issues surgically, such as a facelift with a laser treatment to improve the condition of the skin, Gold says. These procedures can help patients to maintain a natural look with a more harmonious result.

Adding non-invasive procedures to surgical ones also allows surgeons to treat a broader range of concerns, complaints and signs of aging than they’d be able to with surgery alone. “The rapidly expanding number of non-invasive procedures enables us to treat things that we were unable to treat before,” Gold says. “They enable us to provide a quality of skin change that we were unable to provide before with only surgery.”

The following surgical procedures can often be enhanced with an additional, non-invasive procedure, such as laser resurfacing:

  • Facelift
  • Neck lift
  • Chin surgery
  • Eyelid surgery
  • Liposuction
  • Tummy tuck

These procedures remove loose skin and reposition volume without changing the quality of the skin. Combining these surgeries with non-invasive procedures improves the skin’s quality and allows surgeons to be more conservative with an invasive procedure and limit overcorrecting.

Tips for Choosing Procedures with a Surgeon

While researching their options before seeing a doctor, patients have learned that there are many different ways and techniques to perform a procedure, Dr. Schwarcz says. While it’s important to be informed about your surgery, make sure to also find a doctor who makes you feel comfortable and won’t jump into surgical procedures prematurely, he says.

“People are more educated and