There are people who refuse to post any image of themselves online without altering the image in some way. We really need to think about how it is affecting our mental health or self-confidence, if it is causing mental disorders that we’re not even aware of. There’s a fine line between using technology to make yourself look better and feel better about yourself, and then there’s the extreme of becoming obsessed with these technological aids and this obsession with beauty turning into a mental illness.
As a part of our series about how technology will be changing the beauty industry over the next five years, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Mark Youssef.
Mark Youssef, MD is the Medical Director and Founder of YOUnique Cosmetic Surgery, located only steps from the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California. As a Diplomate of the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery with more than sixteen years’ experience, he specializes in surgical enhancements of the face and body, as well as minimally invasive cosmetic procedures. Recognized by his peers in Plastic Surgery Practice Magazine as one of the most distinguished cosmetic surgeons in the country, Dr. Youssef has become the cosmetic surgeon many celebrities, entertainers, business executives and even fellow physicians rely on for precision cosmetic enhancements and natural-looking results. Dr. Youssef graduated with honors from the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine. He completed his residency and training at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, where he went on to become a staff physician. Dr. Youssef is also an active member of the American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery, the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, the American Society of Cosmetic Breast Surgery and the American Medical Association.
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
How did I become an expert in this Brazilian Butt Lift? The popularity of this procedure has been rising over the past two decades. And because we’re in Santa Monica, we’re in the mecca of Southern California, the mecca of cosmetic surgery. This is where people come to seek out experts in this field. After doing scores of these lifts, I decided to write about it in order to dispel the many myths that exist about the procedure as well as some of its risks and dangers. I think people need access to this information so that they can make well-informed decisions about their own body, about their own health. So that’s what led me to write the book, The Art of the Brazilian Butt Lift, and I must say that it’s really nice to be recognized by my colleagues as being an expert in this field. It’s a small niche, one that people like Kim Kardashian, Iggy Azalea, Jennifer Lopez, and others have helped make so popular, and in turn, the medical procedures to mimic these looks have become more popular. That’s really what dragged many of us into this field of cosmetic surgery.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
In my book, I refer to one patient as Flat Booty Judy, but this same scenario has happened in many types of consultations, not just when it comes to the rear end, our caboose. When patients come in, many are often self-conscious about some part of their body they feel is disproportionate. It’s very nice to be able to tell a patient who’s nearly in tears because they don’t fit in jeans well, or their butt looks flat when they wear certain clothing, that you can move fat from where they genetically have too much and transfer it to the buttocks to accentuate what they want to accentuate and really boost their self-confidence. So Flat Booty Judy comes in and she’s a typical patient who’s self-conscious, maybe a little depressed and down, wearing baggy clothing because she doesn’t like how she looks in clothes. After the consultation, she decides to do the procedure. We picked areas of fat where she doesn’t want them and took that fat and transferred it during the surgery to make her buttocks more lifted, rounder, and give her a bit more of that hourglass shape. A few months after the surgery, she came in to the office and she’s almost unrecognizable! She’s walking taller, she’s more confident, she has a smile on her face, she’s wearing the type of clothes she’s always wanted to, and that’s what makes my job the most rewarding in seeing not only how people look after their surgery, but how they feel.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways of lessons that others can learn from that?
It’s kind of weird because my career really started sixteen years ago, but this wave of the Brazilian Butt Lift’s popularity is more of a recent phenomenon. So it’s not necessarily about the popularity of my career, but the popularity of this procedure.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are several people, several great mentors I’ve been privileged to know along the way. One of the people who really inspired me, and was kind enough to write the introduction to my book, was Dr. Michael Salzhauer, also known as Dr. Miami. He has a wonderful and busy practice in Miami, Florida and he has been an inspiration to a lot of us. He’s probably done more of these procedures than anyone in the country and I really take my hat off to him. He’s been a very dear friend and colleague of mine throughout the years.
OK super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The beauty industry today has access to technology that was inconceivable only a short time ago. Can you tell us about the “cutting edge” (pardon the pun) technologies that you are working with or introducing? How do you think that will help people?
This actually does have a particularly recent development in the Brazilian Butt Lift. Some of these developments are even more recent than the publication of the book. Over the last few months, there have been advances in technology that have helped doctors make this procedure safer. One of the criticisms of the BBL is that it has had a higher risk factor than other cosmetic surgeries. In fact, the risk of death in Brazilian Butt Lift is about one in 3,000, which is considered fairly high compared with other types of liposuction and other types of procedures. And the reason is that when you’re injecting the fat into the buttocks, there is a risk of introducing that fat into the venous system and you can get a pulmonary embolism, and that can be lethal. Over the last several months, there have been new ultrasound techniques that show how the fat is being injected, and new studies that show how certain regions of the buttocks are safer to inject than others, which areas we should avoid, and certain depths that we should avoid beneath the gluteal muscles. So there have been some recent technologies both in studies instructing doctors on how to do these procedures safer and better as well as new equipment that we can use that reduces the danger, especially ultrasound-guided injections.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Yes, I believe the drawbacks pertain to all of these apps that are related to social media. Instagram has filters, Snapchat has filters, you can find filters that change your face, alter your body, make you thinner, make your hips wider, or whatever you want. There are people who refuse to post any image of themselves online without altering the image in some way. We really need to think about how it is affecting our mental health or self-confidence, if it is causing mental disorders that we’re not even aware of. There’s a fine line between using technology to make yourself look better and feel better about yourself, and then there’s the extreme of becoming obsessed with these technological aids and this obsession with beauty turning into a mental illness.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the “beauty-tech” industry?
I think what’s exciting about our industry, particularly in cosmetic surgery, is that it’s always changing. There’s always new technology, there are always new procedures, always less invasive ways to get better results, new things that come out that help us reduce recovery time, accomplishing results that used to be surgical and making them non-surgical. New devices. It’s always a fun, exciting field. I never do the same thing day after day. I always get to do something different every day. And every year, I do things differently than I did them the year before. That, for me, is very exciting.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
One thing that concerns me is the sheer amount of misinformation that is being thrown out there for public consumption. Especially with social media. Almost anyone who is not credentialed can talk about any subject, give people advice, recommendations on cosmetic surgery and we even see some people who are not licensed physicians at all doing illegal procedures in their backyards. When a procedure becomes popular, when a certain celebrity makes something popular, we start to have a lot of black market stuff pop up related to that procedure. I think that’s what concerns people like us the most because this is what makes some of these procedures dangerous and even life-threatening. When misinformation is given online — and that’s where many people go first for information — and people go to someone who is not licensed in a particular procedure and may practice in an unsafe way, that’s one of the biggest concerns in this field.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share 5 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?
1. Practice good posture — standing tall makes you feel more confident and conveys a better image to others.
2. Stop worrying about what others think of you — caring too much about what others think might negatively affect how good you feel about yourself.
3. Exercise and good diet — a balanced, healthy diet and regular exercise have been proven to make you feel better inside and out.
4. Hydrate — drinking water helps keep the skin looking vibrant and younger. Being dehydrated can make wrinkles more prominent.
5. Always wear a smile — studies show that people who smile more feel better about themselves.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to make people feel good about themselves without necessarily changing their appearance. Yes, that could put me right out of business, but right now, a lot of people come to me for the wrong reasons. They come to me because they’ve caught their husbands cheating with younger women and now they want to look younger themselves. Or they are being bullied at school about their big nose and they want to change that nose. What I would love to see happen is a movement of people feeling great about themselves and having the self-confidence to come in for the right reasons, not because they feel as if they have to, but because they want to as sort of an add-on, even though they’re eternally happy to begin with. I think when people come to my office for the wrong reasons, they wind up not always being happy with the external change because the external change doesn’t always improve the internal image. So I’d love to start a movement of making people happy with themselves. I feel that especially with the younger generation, when they’re so focused on how they look and how they present themselves, and how many times they Photoshop or Facetune or filter their images, I feel that could lead to feeling a bit unhappy with yourself before you even do anything. Let’s try to be happy and self-confident first before we alter our appearance.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Personally, I like Abe Lincoln’s famous quote: “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Or, we could combine a number of other more recent philosophies and come up with this suggestion: “You don’t have to look perfect to feel perfect.” That’s really an important life lesson to learn, I think.
How can our readers follow you online?
They can go to www.youniquecosmeticsurgery.com
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.