01/04/2014 10:04 BST | Updated 01/06/2014 06:59 BST

Needle or Knife: What Is the Future of Cosmetic Surgery in Britain?

With so many cosmetic procedures available in the UK, it's often difficult to know which is the right option.

The biggest debate which continues to rumble on is whether cosmetic surgery offers better results to non-surgical treatments. But is it actually more likely that a mixture of the two is often the key to patients getting the best results?

As the UK cosmetic surgery industry continues to grow - it's set to top £3.6 billion by 2015 according to recent figures- there's obviously no shortage of British consumers choosing to undergo appearance-enhancing treatments, leaving many asking what the future holds for cosmetic surgery. Are traditional surgical procedures being replaced by non-surgical options like lasers, radiofrequency and creams, as men and women across the UK seek cheaper, less invasive alternatives to looking younger?

Spring annually sees a surge in Brits hitting clinics hoping to look and feel great in their swimwear, and according to a One Poll survey by The Cosmetic Surgery Guide, as many as 2 in 3 consider elective treatment before going on their summer holidays.

With two thirds of procedures now being classed as non-surgical, we should ask whether the rise in knife-free treatments indicates the demise of traditional cosmetic surgery, or the start of an exciting new trend for combined treatments.


Surgery is realistically still the only way to get long-term results. When it comes to reducing the signs of ageing significantly, a facelift (for example) will offer the patient a more lasting effect than a non-surgical alternative. In the hands of a skilled plastic surgeon, the results of going under the knife can be outstanding, in some cases taking years off a patient's perceived age.

Technique and safety has improved drastically in the last decade, but surgery is invasive and with that comes the associated risks. It's also not a cheap option, and can see inaccessible to many.


You can get amazing results without going under the knife at half the cost, and every year sees the launch of new devices or treatments which can offer noticeable results. Fat reduction continues to rise in popularity, with the latest RF systems like Vanquish offering patients inch loss without the down-time associated with traditional (and often painful) fat-removal procedures like liposuction.

While these treatments have their place, they can't perform miracles. If you have significant changes to make, the non-surgical alternatives may not offer a long term solution. Also, although much less expensive than traditional cosmetic surgery, the results are not usually permanent. If multiple treatments are required over the years to maintain the effect of the procedure the ongoing cost can slowly creep up.

Combined Treatments

For many practitioners in the UK, the best results actually come from a mixture of procedures tailored to the individual. Combining surgical and non-invasive treatments is seen as the future of cosmetic surgery, as experts mix the best of both worlds to form superior results.

I find many of the surgeons I speak to are now choosing to offering non-surgical options in their clinics to not only meet demand, but also ensure the best results.

Whichever option is chosen, the most important thing to consider is safety. Research is key, and choosing a treatment and practitioner should not be taken lightly. It's important to remember there are risks associated with ALL procedures, and no one should undertake any form of cosmetic or aesthetic enhancement without understanding and recognising them.

Surgical or not, I think it's vital patients also have realistic expectations which are managed by their consultant. After all, the success of a procedure or combination of treatments, is measured by how the patient feels proceeding the experience, right?