The pursuit of beauty has never been easy. Throughout the ages, women have subjected themselves to all society’s view of what beautiful women should look like. In 10th century China small feet were deemed attractive and highly desired, so much so that girls as young as five would go through the agonising pain of having their feet broken at the arch to stop it from growing. Such barbaric methods are no longer practised but women are still finding new ways of torturing themselves, all in the name of beauty.
Psychologist Phillip Hodson and spokesperson for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACPS) explains: “The reason for society’s obsession with beauty goes back for society’s obsession with beauty goes back centuries when women were value for their looks over their abilities. It didn’t matter if you were a good homemaker or a good cook- beauty was a prized aspect for women. “And with images of beautiful women thrown at us at every surprisingly, India fourth (where cosmetic surgery has experienced a 15 % growth in the past three years). ASAPS predicts that more people will spend money on Anti-Wrinkle Injections, breast implants, liposuction and even burn implants. With this growing demand there are now procedures to correct any flaw, whether you want a bigger bum or smaller waist.
The pursuit for beauty usually begins with the perfect body. More women are shunning the traditional methods of exercising and eating well, opting instead for quick fixes like tummy tucks and liposuction.
“Sometimes there are professional reasons for having cosmetic surgery,” explains Dr Al-Ayoubi, opportunity, from billboards and new stands to televisions and computer screens, the pressure to look beautiful is stronger than ever.
“We live in a world of mirrors where pictures of beautiful women are easily accessible,” explains Hodson. “The modern world has now discovered High Definition, which means we can get a closer look at our favourite celebrities. It makes us envious and we want to mimic them.”
These days beauty is a big business. Research by Co-operative Insurance found that the average woman will spend approximately £180,000 on beauty products during her lifetime. Another survey but luxury beauty brand Crème de la Mer found that over two third of women felt their confidence comes from how good they look. Previous studies have also shown that beautiful extreme beauty. What lengths would you go to, to get the perfect face and body?
“The other day I treated two models who had beautiful bodies, maybe a size 10-12, but they had areas of fat around the hips and bottom they wanted removed. They told me how they were losing jobs because they couldn’t shift the weight and there were specific measurements they had to fit. These girls were fit and healthy, going to the gym regularly, but this fat just wouldn’t shift. I used Smart Lipo to shave and sculpt the fat from the hips completely.”
But for some women a toned tummy and perky breasts simply aren’t enough. With new, more extreme treatments and procedure cropping up all the time it has become easier to change your body than it ever was before.
Limb lengthening is one such procedure, allowing women to alter their height and help them achieve the perfect modelesque figure. The controversial procedure is now available at the Ilizarov Scientific Centre in Russia, and involves women are more likely to be rich and successful than a plain Jane.
“The standard of beauty is higher now that it’s ever been,” says Hodson. “This makes most of us feel inferior and more susceptible to trying out the latest “miracle treatment that promises beauty”.
But Dr Ayham Al-Ayoubi, plastic surgeon and Medical Direct of the London Medical & Aesthetic Clinic on Harley Street (www.lmaclinic.com) argues that “women want to feel confident in their own skin. They often have surgery to boost their confidence and for their own self esteem.”
Along with the latest lotions and potions comes the surge in cosmetic surgery. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) found last year that the number of surgical procedures had risen by 6.7%, breast augmentation being the most popular procedure. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), the USA remains the world’s top spay for cosmetic surgery with Brazil coming in second, China third and, most having the shin bone broken and then attached to a mental frame. This excruciatingly painful treatment can take up to a year and costs tens of thousands of pounds, but patients are comforted by the promise of up to one foot of extra height.
Women are also turning to surgery for a designer vagina. The procedure known as labiality has gained popularity within the last few years.
“Excess skin can make the labia hang down and look unnatural, which can be uncomfortable when pulled during sex,” says plastic surgeon Angelica Kavouni which specialises in labiaplasties. “It’s because very popular. I see 4-5 women a week and I operate on 2-3 a week. ”surprisingly, Angelica claims that many of her clients are south-Asian, although most are unwilling to speak about it openly, due to the sensitive nature of the operation. For some procedure like this can seem unnecessary bizarre even, but Angeluca argues that there are psychological benefits: “The procedure is not medically necessary, however, these women are affected psychologically especially in terms of relationships, so for them, the procedure is imperative for a healthy sex life.”
Achieving the supermodel body might be within the average woman’s reach now but such extreme procedures are not without risk. Earlier this year Lidvian Zelaya died from complications after having a butt lift. She had travelled to a Florida clinic after vowing to “look good” for the New Year. Another shocking example of cosmetic surgery gone wrong in US reality TV star, Heidi Montag, who came close to death after undergoing ten surgical procedures in one day.
The perception of beauty varies from culture to culture, but there is a set of rules that are universal to beauty- big eyes, a small chin, high cheekbones and full lips. Scientists even go as far as to claim that beautiful people have a perfectly symmetrical face. The Asian community also hold the belief that beauty is connected to light skin and light eyes. Aishwarya Rai, dubbed the most beautiful women in the world, is known for her light blue eyes. Many women attempt to recreate her look with coloured contacts but a new operation now allows you to change your eye colour permanently. The procedure, which isn’t licensed in Europe and is exclusively available in a clinic based in Panama. It involves inserting a coloured lens inside the eye, over the iris. Although the results are instant, there are several risks.
Shenise Ferrell, thought to be the first person in the UK to undergo this treatment, suffered from blurred vision and sight problem after having the implant in her eyes. Once back to the UK, Farrell was immediately sent to hospital where surgeons battled to save her sight.
There is also a growing number of people who are using surgery to conceal their ethnicity. According to statistics released by the ASAPS, ethic cosmetic plastic surgery procedure are the fastest growing trend and have increased by 11%. One example of this can be found among east-Asian who are opting for a blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), which involves creating a more prominent, “western looking” eyelid. It’s also become the most popular procedure in Asia. For south- Asians, skin colour is still a big issue with many people still conforming to the idea that paler skin is more beautiful. Today, the skin lightening cosmetic industry is a multi-million pound business. Most products are sold on the black market as their ingredients have been banned across Europe and Asia. Yet despite the obvious health risks, women are flocking to buy into the skin lightening trend.
Dr Ayham Al-Ayoubi is sceptical about such extreme procedures. “I’m not a big fan of extreme radical changes because you are completely changing the look of the face and there are occasionally psychological issues involved. In very extreme cases where patients come to see me wanting huge changes, I may refer them to a special psychiatric clinic first. My philosophy is enhancing but preserving natural beauty.”
And in a bid to keep up with the western world, demand for plastic surgery has surged in south- Asia. Dr Abdul Babar, a plastic surgeon based in Pakistan, Lahore, notes a growing demand for people who seek nose jobs and tummy tucks: “During the last few years there’s been a tremendous increase in the number of patients seeking cosmetic surgery in Pakistan,” he says. “Some want to enhance their chances of marriage and finding a better life partner, other for a better job opportunity.” Dr Babar explains a need to keep up with the times as a big factor when his patients come to him. “Like anywhere else in the world there is an increase in demand due to better awareness through the media and internet, but there is a conflict with religious beliefs”.
Society is obsessed with beauty and appearances. Men and women alike are forever pursuing ways to improve themselves, whether it’s something as simple as brushing your teeth to keep them looking clean or something more extreme like a facelift.
“We can’t all be beautiful,” argues Hodson. “It’s the luck of the draw and the luck of whether fashion trends match your look at the particular time.”
But if there are now ways to permanently beautify ones self shouldn’t we take advantage of that? “Since the ancient times people have tried to make themselves look beautiful,” says Dr Kavouni. “Today, it’s easier, safer, quicker and cheaper.”
If beauty equates happiness then surely we should all be going under the knife. Dr Kavouni is hesitant to declare surgery as a road to happiness. “Something like happiness is difficult to define. But surgery can certainly make you more confident. “Hodson also argues: “Everyone wants to look beautiful. It can make you more successful, but what we forget is that the ageing process can close all the doors.” Even with all the anti-ageing treatments and procedures out there Hodson maintains that to achieve true beauty we should start with our minds: “It’s the biggest thing in the universe and if we use our brain to change the way we think we wouldn’t need surgery. Start with your personality and develop skills to like yourself. Surgery is risky and develops skills to like yourself. Surgery is risky and betting that it’ll make you happier is a bad idea. If you’re not beautiful- get a personality.”
To view Dr Ayoubi in the Media click here.