By Charlotte Hilton Andersen
November 26, 2013

Holistic medicine is easy to comprehend, but holistic plastic surgery sounds simply oxymoronic. Yet a few doctors have taken on the label, saying seeking an enhancement involves the mind, body, and even soul.

Holistic plastic surgeons use the same products and injectables and perform the same treatments as regular plastic surgeons. And any good surgeon first prepares his patients physically, mentally, and nutritionally for surgery, says David Shafer, M.D., a New York City double board-certified plastic surgeon.

Holistic surgeons go further, however. For example, New York City surgeon Shirley Madhere, M.D., branches out to less conventional treatments such as reiki (energy healing), acupuncture, homeopathy, mesotherapy (a non-surgical cosmetic medicinal treatment popular in France), and manual lymphatic drainage massage, which she claims speeds recovery and lessens swelling post-surgery.

Madhere believes that while most good surgeons make pre-operation recommendations for patients to see therapists, trainers, nutritionists, and the like, not all of them explain why and how these things will help their clients. Education makes someone more likely to follow through, and builds greater trust between doctor and patient, she adds.

Steven Davis, M.D., who practices in New Jersey, is another convert. "Holistic surgeons strive to improve every patient's quality of health and well-being," he says, "because there are other things that impact the results of the procedure besides the surgery itself." [Tweet this!] These psychological issues can cause patients to be unsatisfied with even the most beautiful surgery, Madhere adds, saying she wants to help people remember who they really are and reconnect with that person on a deep level. "Beauty is still wellness, and everything in the body is connected. Even though you're operating on one part, the whole body is experiencing it."

But Shafer says not everyone wants or needs such an intensive approach. "Some patients just want the procedure and then to get on with their day, while for others, the treatment may be much more significant or impactful and require a more comprehensive approach," he says. "You have to read the patient and get an understanding of what they are looking for when they come to your office."

Another issue is the unregulated nature of some holistic treatments and the name itself-which means anyone can call himself "holistic" since the term doesn't actually mean anything, Shafer says. [Tweet this fact!] "Patients should know exactly what constitutes a surgeon's approach," he says. "Are they defining this as a comprehensive approach to achieve a better outcome, or are they using this as a cover to sell unneeded or unnecessary products or services?"

Madhere acknowledges the current lack of regulation and says she's very careful about the experts she refers her patients to, personally attesting to each one, from dentist to dietician to facialist. Still, as with any doctor, you should research a plastic surgeon to be sure he or she has completed a fellowship in plastic surgery and is certified. Same goes for any alternative treatments or services that a surgeon refers you to: Be sure to know the provider's credentials and if any technology or medication involved is FDA-approved, Shafer advises.

"In most cases I think it is healthy for patients to think outside of the box, as long as they are not undergoing liposuction in someone's kitchen or having industrial grade motor oil injected into their lips," he says.