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What I learned from rhinoplasty - surgical VS non-surgical

Written by
Chloe James

Rhinoplasties have been a staple in aesthetic medicine since the 1800s, but when I decided in 2019 that I wanted one, I knew close to nothing. I wanted to change the shape of my nose, and the obvious way to do that was a nose job. Within a week of deciding it was the path for me, I’d found a doctor, booked a consultation, and blocked out dates in my diary where I thought I could spare a few days at home before I debuted my new nose.

But was that the right solution for me? A rhinoplasty is a complex surgical procedure. It may take just hours to perform, but the final result is a whole other story. Would non-surgical rhinoplasty – quicker, cheaper but with limits – have been a better option?

In the end, I underwent both procedures in the space of two years, so am well-placed to share my experiences on the surgical vs non-surgical debate; equally positive – but definitely very different.

Rhinoplasty

Consultation

Once I’d decided I was ready to get a nose job, it was full steam ahead. I booked in with a surgeon I’d researched into the late hours of the night, and then followed up with another later that same week.

In my determination to find the right person for the job ASAP, I’d focused more on information from doctors and clinics than former rhinoplasty patients, but one tip that did stick with me was this: don’t just go with the first opinion.

Ultimately, I ended up choosing the second. Both doctors knew what I wanted to change about my nose without me saying a word: a bulbous tip, that was especially prominent from a three-quarter view. What endeared me more to the second was that they immediately ruled out performing a full rhinoplasty. Insisting that he liked the bridge of my nose, he instead suggested a rhinotip procedure – almost identical to a standard rhinoplasty, except it only deals with cartilage and not bone. That meant no broken nose, less bruising, and a quicker recovery.

There were a few tests first to assess whether I was physically fit enough to undergo surgery. Then I booked in for my operation – scheduled two months later – and was sent away with novel-length leaflets on what to expect both on the day and beyond.

The day of surgery

The day of my surgery meant no food, only water, and much to my disappointment, removing my acrylic nails. What made the latter easier to forgive was the fact that I didn’t feel nervous in the slightest – only excited to get the day over and done with.

It helped that my surgery was scheduled early in the day, so there was only really time for my surgeon to come and review my treatment plan before I was put under general anaesthetic and the operation was underway.

There are two main techniques for rhinoplasty – open and closed – with each offering its own pros and cons. My surgeon opted for the former. This meant that during surgery a small incision was made along the columella (that bit of skin between your nostrils), giving him full access to the inside of my nose.

Not that I was aware of any of it. What felt like a few seconds after falling asleep, I woke up in a post-op room, very confused and feeling like my face was fuller than usual. The nurse could immediately see how I felt; she soon explained that it was the packing in my nose, inserted to absorb anything gross.

For the rest of the day, I waited for the pain to hit – and it didn’t. I suspect this was mostly thanks to the fact my nose wasn’t broken, but when I brought this up to a nurse midday (panicking that I was, somehow, recovering wrongly if I wasn’t in pain) she just laughed and told me that everyone says that.

That’s not to say I wasn’t uncomfortable. Thanks to the packing, you have to breathe – and sneeze – through your mouth. The breathing part is easy; it just feels like you have a cold. Sneezing on the other hand? Until this point, I wasn’t even aware there were two different ways to sneeze, and I started dreading the moment I’d have to figure out how. That came soon after midnight and was probably the most painful part of the day (which says a lot).

After an awkward night’s sleep with my head propped up on a neck pillow, it was nearly time to leave. The surgeon gave me a recap of my surgery, a nurse brought me my painkillers, and my packing was removed. Warning: this is unpleasant. The packing reaches far up into the nose, so it feels like someone is tugging from somewhere near your brain. It’s over fast – and I absolutely overdramatised it in the moment – but by that point I was ready to leave and get home.

Recovery

Remember when I said I’d blocked out a few days to stay home before debuting my new nose? That was extremely optimistic. I left the hospital under strict instructions to stay home for the next week until I could have my stitches removed and my nose properly cleaned. In the meantime, I had a fetching bandage plastered across my nose and some cotton wool stuck just above my top lip to catch anything that came out of my nose for the first three days. It was a strong look.

Thankfully, the week passed quickly. That pain I’d been dreading never came, with the painkillers assigned to my bedside table where I believe they’re still gathering dust today. The faintest, palest yellow bruising blossomed under my eyes on day two but was gone by day five.

Recovery wasn’t difficult – but it was annoying at times. While it was a great opportunity to binge watch TV, I also couldn’t shower, wear my glasses, exercise, or apply my skincare properly.

Once the bandage and stitches were removed after week one, it would be a lie to say I didn’t panic. The swelling hit me hard, transforming my nose into something radically different from the finished result. While the worst was gone after another two weeks or so, the residual swelling lingered. Nobody but me could tell (or at least so my friends and family said) but that didn’t stop me from taking weekly update pictures to track its progress.

My surgeon had a lot of patience – which was tough, considering how often I emailed him – and repeatedly convinced me to trust the process, comforting me with the fact that it was only taking longer because I have thicker skin.

He was right. Every few months or so my nose would look completely different. Eventually, ten months post-surgery, he gave me a steroid shot to bring it down further. For me, this was the golden bullet. Within a few days, it was as if the skin had been vacuum-packed down to its final shape.

Non-surgical rhinoplasty

Consultation

Most people undergo a non-surgical rhinoplasty before a surgical procedure, as a test-run of sorts before committing to a full operation. I ended up doing it the other way around.

Two years after my original rhinoplasty, I had a new dent in my nose – the result of a minor accident that definitely didn’t warrant a revision but was enough to impact my newfound confidence.

Just like my rhinoplasty surgeon, my practitioner knew why I was there straight away. This wasn’t my first-time receiving filler, but she ran through the risks and side-effects anyway – as well chatting through her own suggestions for my treatment.

The day of non-surgical rhinoplasty

I opted to undergo my non-surgical rhinoplasty on the same day of my consultation so, once my practitioner had gone through the formalities, I prepped for treatment. This was the longest part of the entire experience. Sitting there for 15 minutes, my nose gradually grew tingly and numb as an anaesthetic cream kicked into effect.

Thanks to the cream, the whole thing was pretty much painless. There were a few faint scratches as my practitioner injected me once in the bridge of my nose (where I wanted to mask the dent) and, at her suggestion, just under the tip to counteract it and give my nose a slight lift.

Combined, I was genuinely shocked by the results. While I’d presumed it would be easy enough to improve the issues, the filler managed to completely counteract them – restoring my nose to its former self.

Recovery

For the first two days, I had a red scratch at the injection sites. One faded quickly, while another scabbed up – completely at my own fault, as I couldn’t resist scratching it. My nose did swell ever so slightly too, noticeable to nobody but me. After a week, the only way you could tell I’d been injected with anything was by the results themselves.

As filler does eventually get metabolised by the body, the results weren’t permanent. Filler in the nose tends to last longer than in other facial features – namely because it doesn’t move as much as your lips, for example – but the filler in the tip disappeared first after around four months. I’m going to assume that’s because when the nose does move, it’s this area. The filler in the bridge lasted almost twice this long.

Rhinoplasty VS non-surgical rhinoplasty

Nobody knew exactly what I’d had done after both my surgical and non-surgical rhinoplasty. They just knew that I looked slightly different, which is exactly what I wanted – subtle, flattering changes that complemented my features, without radically transforming my face.

After undergoing my non-surgical rhinoplasty, I have wondered if I would’ve been better off opting for that in the first place. I was amazed by how much lifting and smoothing just one syringe could achieve. But I know that it couldn’t have fully solved what I didn’t like about my nose in the first place – and the number of syringes necessary would not be cost effective in the long run. Surgical rhinoplasty is a one-time cost, between 22,500 SAR and 56,000 SAR, while the filler alternative can cost 2,000 SAR to 5,500 SAR, and can be needed twice a year, for as long as you would like to see the results.

Personally, I think non-surgical rhinoplasty is great for small fixes, or to even trial run the results you might want from a surgical procedure in the future. But for me, I prefer surgical. It takes some patience – but it’s worth it to feel more comfortable in your own skin forever.

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