Cosmetic enhancement has fuelled a booming industry and turned plastic surgeons into millionaires in the U.K.
More than 22,000 operations were carried out on men and women in 2005, an increase of 35 per cent on 2004. The number of women opting for cosmetic surgery increased by a third to 19,601. Male interest also increased, particularly for facial alterations and for anti-ageing operations.
Cosmetic breast surgeries touched a record 8355 procedures in 2005. Of these, breast augmentations, the commonest procedure in cosmetic surgery, costing £4,000-plus, increased over 50 per cent to 5,655 surgeries. The rest were breast reductions, less than half as popular with 2,700 procedures, up less than 10 per cent on 2004.
Anti-ageing procedures involving nips and tucks—tummy tucks, facelifts, eyelid surgery and brow lifts—also boomed with increases of between a third and a half.
According to the figures published by the 170-member British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), men are increasingly opting for aesthetic perfection with the number of cosmetic operations up 80 per cent, from 1,348 to 2,440. Still they account for just 11 per cent of the total. The most popular cosmetic surgery among men is rhinoplasty—the nose job.
The 170 members of BAAPS, the top surgeons in the business, They carried out 22,041 operations last year, up from 16,367 in 2004.
Over 100,000 cosmetic procedures are carried out in the U.K. every year, including treatments like Botox for wrinkles and laser peels for skin rejuvenation, by cosmetic surgeons. The rising trend is driven by celebrities who spend recklessly to remodel themselves, instilling anxiety in young people about their appearance and distress in the older ones at the signs of ageing. Television programs like Nip and Tuck and magazine promotions extolling the benefits of cosmetic surgery have driven the trend.
Though welcomed by some surgeons, the trend has alarmed others. Douglas McGeorge, the president-elect of BAAPS, said: "When performed under the right circumstances aesthetic surgery can have a very positive psychological impact and improve a patient's quality of life."
Adam Searle, the current president of BAAPS, differed: "With the increasing media coverage that provides the public with ever more information on what surgical procedures might achieve, it is essential our members promote responsible practices."
There is also a campaign among plastic surgeons to prevent commercial companies from "trivializing and degrading" the speciality. Two of the leading providers of cosmetic surgery came under fire by BAAPS last autumn for using hard-core sales techniques. Magazines were attacked for offering "extreme makeovers" as prizes in competitions, and reality television programs for "sensationalist coverage" of the issue.
Mr Searle, a consultant plastic surgeon who treats cancer patients in London, has been at the forefront of campaigns by the association in the past year to prevent commercial companies from "trivializing and degrading" the specialty.
He said: "The trivialisation and commoditisation of medical procedures is appalling. It seems to have come down to the level of loyalty cards, money-off vouchers, competition prizes and even a raffle prize of a procedure of your choice. This belittling of the seriousness of undertaking a medical procedure degrades not only our specialty but also the medical profession as a whole."
Sasha Rakoff, of campaign group Object, added: "Vulnerable, often young, people are being fooled into believing their only chance at happiness is by changing themselves into what the media, fashion and sex industry tells them beauty is. A generation of young girls have no other role models other than surgically enhanced glamour models such as Jordan. It's very sad."
A clampdown on cosmetic surgery clinics was announced by the UK government in January 2005. In future, all clinics will be subject to regular inspection by the Healthcare Commission, the NHS watchdog, and specific information will have to be made available to every patient before an operation.
Most Popular Procedures
Breast augmentation: 5,655 (up 51.4%)
Blepharoplasty (eyelids): 3,415 (up 50.2%)
Breast Reduction: 2,700 (up 9.3%)
Face/Neck Lift: 2,279 (up 42.1%)
Rhinoplasty: 2,268 (up 34.7%)
Abdominoplasty: 1,869 (up 24.4%)
Liposuction (major): 1,436 (up 24.9%)
Otoplasty (ears): 1,176 (up 28.1%)
Liposuction (minor): 663 (up 9.6%)
Brow lifts: 580 (up 34.8%)