Sylvia’s rhinoplasty: experience and story

Nouveau columnist Sylvia Schaffrath (48) hated her nose and went to the plastic surgeon.

Cosmetic doctors and surgeons are busier than ever. Thanks to all the Zoom, Skype and other video meetings where we have ample opportunity to study our face in great detail. The result: a long waiting list for eyelid surgery, a smoother face and/or fuller lips.

After all, why keep walking around with droopy eyelids if you don’t have to?

More and more people are deciding on beauty surgery. If ten years ago it was a taboo to beautify yourself, now almost no one is surprised. After all, why keep walking around with, say, droopy eyelids if you don’t have to?

Because the majority of people choose private clinics, exact figures are not available, but about 400,000 procedures take place in the Netherlands each year. That includes botox and fillers, called “non-surgical procedures.

‘My nose is big, angular, pointy and has a bump at the top’

I opted for nasal surgery. In fact, for as long as I can remember, I have hated my nose. It is large, angular, pointed and has a hump at the top. Around age 12, I really became aware of the thing. I got “funny” comments like “That nose comes around the corner first, then you,” or they said I looked like a rat….

My husband does not know other than that I think my nose is an ugly thing. I always complain about it and had been toying with the idea of a rhinoplasty for years. He doesn’t think that’s necessary. ‘It’s your nose, it’s beautiful and it suits you,’ he says. But no matter how well he can argue, he will not win this discussion. I see what I see.

‘Photos en profil simply don’t exist – I’ll take care of that’

In photos, my face is dominated by my nose and photos en profil simply do not exist – I’ll take care of that. In groups, I am constantly aware of my nose and constantly turn so that as few people as possible see the side of my face. Even at traffic lights, I’m working on it; if someone is standing next to me and I notice them looking at me, I turn my face away. Yes, I see that there are people with an even bigger, or more angular nose, or both. And I am sincerely happy for them that they are, seemingly, satisfied with it. But I’m not.

Waiting for the big day

Last March, I tied the knot. After thoroughly researching the various options, clinics and surgeons, I made an appointment at the Maastricht MOOI clinic. With plastic surgeon René van der Hulst, who is also a professor and trainer, I talk at length about my rationale, the risks, the pros and cons and the treatment. He also looks at my nose inside and out to determine if a correction is possible at all.

I am happily “approved. After that, I have to be photographed. En profil. Up close. Ai. Finally, Van der Hulst says that, above all, I should let everything sink in quietly and then let it be known.

After hours of googling, talking to my husband and another phone call to the clinic, I’m out: I’m going to do it. Now it’s waiting for the big day.

‘I wonder how ugly my nose really is now. Is it really “operationally ugly”?

That wait lasts a whopping 83 days. That doesn’t help. Suddenly I think: why do I even want this? I wonder how ugly my nose really is. Is it really “surgery-ugly” or “just-better-ugly”? What if I don’t like the result?

And the surgery isn’t nothing, I’m told. I go under full anesthesia. I get tampons up my nose for 24 hours. I am not allowed six weeks of sports, six weeks of no glasses on my nose. No bending over for a week. My nose remains extremely sensitive for about four months. No makeup for three weeks. No facials, no exfoliating.

‘You really don’t want to sneeze through your new, über-sensitive nose’

And: sneezing through your mouth. You really don’t want to sneeze through your new, über-sensitive nose, because that can cause post-bleeding. But how to do it? It turns out to be very simple: if you open your mouth, things will happen.

Do I really want this? Yes. But just as much, I am nervous. And why am I telling almost no one? It’s not like I’m going to do anything illegal. Still, I fear the reactions. “How shallow can you be?” “Don’t you have any real problems? I bristle at these thoughts. Because even if people think all kinds of things about it, who cares? I’m doing this for myself.

‘People with heart failure, appendicitis, those need surgery’

Still, I don’t like being called out for being shallow. And I no longer feel like the eternal “You must be content with yourself as you are. I don’t feel like having to defend myself.

Nose bump removal

On the other hand, I understand comments like this. People with heart failure, appendicitis, they need surgery. My rhinoplasty is not medically necessary.

Day of rhinoplasty

Finally, the day of surgery arrives. I am nervous, but quickly under sail. Back in the department, it’s time for a selfie, after all, we live in 2021. That I share the up-close-and-personal photo with my husband makes sense to me and is not exciting, but a minute later I also send it to Nouveau because I already know I want to write an article about it. I notice that I become happy. I have a new nose!

‘At night I feel like I have a snotty cold and I look like Hannibal Lecter’

At night I feel like I have a snotty cold and I look like Hannibal Lecter, but I am not in a lick of pain. The tampons in my nose are really annoying though.

Experience rhinoplasty

My throat feels raw from the oxygen intubation, so I cough a lot. But coughing means pressure on my head, and therefore on my new, oh so fragile and sensitive nose. My menu consists of several small servings of whipped ice cream. Soft, sweet and cold, that helps.

Unsuspected side effects

Chewing does not go as normal. It feels a bit like after “major maintenance” at the dentist, with stiff, heavy jaws and numb lips as mementos. The sushi ordered does not go in with chopsticks, but in small pieces and with fingers. This takes about four days. Brushing teeth doesn’t go well either. I just trade in the electric brush for an old-fashioned, size S. My mouth barely opens and I have to brush really carefully. Washing my hair is out of the question for the first week, so I take refuge in dry shampoo. Read more about recovery after rhinoplasty here.

before and after photo rhinoplasty

But then. After a week, the cast may come off. This is now my nose! And even though I can see the variegated spots on my face, and it’s still thick, I already think it’s SO pretty!

‘I did this for me and I’m incredibly happy about it’

People who see me with any regularity do not notice my new nose. Then, of course, you might wonder if I did it for nothing.

rhinoplasty experiences

The answer is no. Because to all the (pseudo-)psychologists who talk about idleness and superficiality: I did this for me and I am incredibly happy about it. I didn’t need a perfect nose, I just wanted a normal nose. One that suits my face. And I have those now.

This report previously appeared in the print edition of Nouveau (c) 2021. Follow Sylvia on