Cut and paste beauty

Cut and paste beauty

My curiosity spiked when my favourite French TV channel featured a 60-year-old French woman who,on her granddaughter’s advice

My curiosity spiked when my favourite French TV channel featured a 60-year-old French woman who,on her granddaughter’s advice,went to Tunisia to iron out her wrinkles. France has long been known for aesthetic surgery,but Tunisia?

Credit rating companies such as Standard & Poor,Moody’s and Fitch have all declared a negative economic outlook for Tunisia. Unemployment at 14 per cent is building up pressure as more than half of the population is under age 25. But when it comes to medical tourism,this North African country is booming. An estimated $2 billion is spent annually by about 6.5 million tourists for plastic surgery. Price is the biggest draw. A facelift that costs between 4,000 to 6,000 pounds in UK,is less than half in Tunisia. Similarly,breast enhancement would cost about 15,000 pounds in UK whereas together with airfare and 5-star hotel accommodation,you’d spend just 5,000 pounds in Tunis. For liposuction in a sophisticated,out-of-the-box Mediterranean coast aesthetic surgery holiday camp in Tunisia,all you need is 2,000 pounds.

There’s risk in any surgery,cosmetic or otherwise. The French grandmother’s attempt to remove “crow’s feet” at her eyes’ edges with botox injections was a failure. It deformed her facial features. She was so depressed and disappointed that she went on to analyse how women can be so fragile and vain. She chastised herself that she bore self-inflicted pain and spent an enormous amount in the hope of regaining youthful skin. She bewailed how others totally alter their looks with plastic surgery,say with a nose job or removing bags under the eyes,to conform to some standard archetype of how women should look,as dictated by men.

This tendency to conform became very apparent in the Reddit website pictures of 20 beauty queens contesting for Miss Korea 2013. Readers were hard pressed to differentiate them; almost all had slender figures,pointy chins,narrow noses,eyes flat below and rounded on top. Speculations are rife that cosmetic procedures have made the contestants all look alike. When her school pictures emerged,where she’s looking very different,last year’s Miss Korea Kim Yu-Mi admitted to going under the knife,“I never said I was born beautiful.” In fact according to released reports,South Koreans have more plastic surgery done than any other nation,with one in every 77 choosing the knife or the needle. Last year,20 per cent women aged 19 to 49 in Seoul admitted they wanted to look more “Western.” Double eyelid surgery that makes eyes seem bigger while reducing excess upper eyelid skin is the most popular. Cosmetic surgery has become so common that even singer Psy,whose Gangnam Style song became a global hit,had said his recording company was urging him to undergo plastic surgery.


The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ISAPS) showed that 15 million people worldwide underwent plastic surgery to enhance their looks in 2011. The US tops the list with over 3 million procedures,21 per cent of the global total,done by 5,950 licensed plastic surgeons. Brazil comes second,with 1.5 million procedures,highest number of male breast reductions,female buttock augmentations and vaginal rejuvenations,among others. China with 1 million procedures is third,mostly with nose rhinoplasty. Cosmetic surgery is also done to increase sexual pleasure as is evident from the numerous spam ads on the lines of “Enlarge your tool” that’s viral on every computer. Men say they go for phalloplasty not just to appear more macho in front of women but because a small size bothers them when they go into the swimming pool.

Using slang language for aesthetic surgery perhaps takes the scare out of a serious medical procedure. “Fat removal,” the most prevalent invasive procedure,is easier to accept that lipoplasty. The second most in-demand is “boob job,” or augmenting breasts with fat grafting,saline,or silicone gel prosthetics. The next popular surgeries are “eyelid lifts” and “tummy tucks” or abdominoplasty where the stomach is stitched up to take in less food so it can reshape itself out of a paunch. “Brazilian butt lift” is buttocks enhancement using silicone implants. Brazilians are so obsessed with plastic surgery that it’s offered free or discounted to poor people in 220 clinics. Dr Ivo Pitanguy,Brazil’s celebrated plastic surgeon pioneered the notion that like psychoanalysis,beauty treatments can act in much the same way to help free patients from crippling neuroses. He says,“The poor have the right to be beautiful,too.”

New kinds of problems are also surfacing for cosmetic surgery. “Computer face” is wrinkles that come from working too long in front of the screen. Peer in longer at the computer,and you can get “turkey neck” or loose skin around the jaw and chin,with wrinkles around the forehead and eyes. Deep creases stretching from mouth to jaw line are “marionette lines” while “frown lines” or “elevens” refer to wrinkles between the eyebrows and “smoker’s lines” are creases bordering the lips. “Banana roll” is buttocks with excess fat.

Such names may take the fear out of surgery,but the fright that can grip us all is what the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery is saying,“The constant downward gaze caused by smartphone use may be causing some individuals to experience more lines and creases on their neck than would appear naturally. Even if your face maintains its youthful volume,signs of aging on the neck can give you away.” The only cure for not looking prematurely old is giving up your smartphone. But can you afford to do that?

Shombit is an international consultant to top management on differentiating business strategy with execution excellence (