Hello, good looks
Stories by SHAHANAAZ HABIB
The quest to look good through plastic and cosmetic surgery, which used to be the domain of women, has now caught on with men and even teenagers.
LET’S face it. Good-looking people seem to have an easier time in life.
There is research that says the attractive ones find it easier to get jobs (compared with someone less attractive with the same qualification and experience), to get promotions and even close deals.
And, of course, the “lookers” are heavily sought after by the opposite sex.
Is it any wonder then that people are trying all sorts of ways, including plastic and cosmetic surgery as well as the countless other aesthetic procedures, in their quest to look good?
This craze, which used to be the domain of women, has now caught on with men – and even teenagers.
“Like it or not, people judge a book by its cover. Looking good has become a necessity all over the world. It has become a part of life,” says aesthetic physician Dr Alice Prethima.
She says that in the old days, when a person was out of shape and looked bad, people accepted it and merely said “she has aged, she has put on weight”. For a male, they would comment that “he’s prosperous, he ate too much good food”.
But things have changed.
“These days, people think the person is lazy and won’t do anything for himself.”
She believes that just like exercise and supplements, cosmetic surgery and procedures are becoming a way of life as the country becomes more prosperous and people have the means to strive for good health and to look better.
“It’s in the subconscious. It is common in any living species that they will be attracted to a better-looking person. The reason is that a better-looking person is supposed to be more fertile and healthier and that will go towards progeny.
“If a person looks good, is fit and takes care of himself, then people would think they can take care of the family, the office or the community. The brain thinks that way. It’s natural,” says Dr Prethima, who has been running an aesthetic clinic for 11 years.
Concurring, consultant plastic and cosmetic surgeon Dr Heng Kien Seng believes it is human nature to want to look at beautiful things and people.
“There is research that shows that even at kindergarten, children actually pay more attention to a better-looking teacher than an unattractive one,” he points out.
Between 1% and 2% of Dr Heng’s clients these days are teenagers.
Kids below 18 need parental consent for cosmetic procedures and some parents are giving the go-ahead.
Sometimes the teenagers are the ones who want the surgery; at other times it is the parents who want it for their kids.
“Parents are more aware of the competition out there. They actually bring their children in for enhancements, like doing a double eyelid and a nose job, to put them in the same or higher category as their peers,” he says.
“When the kids feel their features are not as beautiful as they want, they will persuade their parents to bring them in. A lot of parents have gone through this themselves; that’s why they are willing to bring their children in.”
Men want it too
Teenage girls and boys are even coming in for botox treatment although the number is still very small, he says.
And there are girls under 18 coming in for a breast job.
Dr Prethima says mothers are concerned when their daughters have undeveloped breasts or have one breast smaller than the other, so they bring their girls in for treatment.
“They want to do it before the girl becomes an adult and starts dating,” she adds.
About 5% of her clients are under 18, she reveals.
Over the years, men too have become more conscious of their looks and have undergone cosmetic and other aesthetic procedures.
They are game for botox, fillers, liposuction, buttocks implants, laser treatments, acne scarring treatment, eye-bag removal, and even penis enlargement.
“Guys like minimally invasive trends. They do not want to be seen as looking too ‘plastic’ or as having had things done on themselves,” says Dr Prethima.
She finds that men also hate pain and having to come in every week, so they prefer to get the procedure done in one go.
Even so, there is a marked increase in the numbers going under the knife for specialised surgeries like getting a six-pack abdomen and the V-shape male body. This is done through a body sculpting technique called Vaser Assisted High Definition Liposelection, which uses fat as building blocks to create the illusion of a six-pack.
Dr Heng, one of the few cosmetic surgeons trained in this area of expertise, claims that the sculptured six-pack abdomen lasts even longer than the muscled torso that you get from gym workouts! He says he performs about 30 to 40 of the procedures a year.
While some are fine with the surgical way to enhance themselves because the results are more or less permanent or long lasting, the growing trend these days is for minimally invasive or non-invasive cosmetic procedures where the results are temporary, lasting a few months or even a year or two.
Among the minimally and non-invasive procedures are botox, fillers, lasers, thermage, freezing the fat, fat-melting, permanent hair removal, body shaping, hymen repair, vagina tightening, and penis enlargement.
“People are looking for minimal downtime and safe techniques with minimum pain,” says aesthetic physician Dr Inder Kaur.
“People want to walk into the clinic, do the procedure and be able to walk out immediately after it, with no need for general anaesthesia or a hospital stay.”
One non-surgical cosmetic procedure people are raving about these days is PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma), which Dr Inder says are “aesthetic stem cells”.
However, Malaysian Association of Plastic, Aesthetic and Craniomaxillofacial (Mapacs) president Dr Peter Wong advises caution, pointing out that the procedure is still largely experimental.
“It still requires a lot of further trials and clinical studies before its effectiveness and safety can be established and accepted for facial rejuvenation treatments in general,” he says.
Currently, there are 60 plastic surgeons (20 in full-time private practice) and about 100 aesthetic doctors in the country.
Dr Wong says non-surgical or minimally invasive cosmetic procedures are more popular and accounts for about 90% of all cosmetic procedures these days.
“Even so, conventional surgical procedures such as facelifts, liposculpture, mammoplasty, eyelid surgery and rhinoplasties are here to stay,” he says.
But aesthetic doctors like Datuk Dr Joginder Singh believe temporary solutions are the way to go.
“If you do a non-invasive procedure, it is temporary. Fashion changes with time, and you are ready and looking forward to the changes every six to 12 months – just like the fashion industry,” he says.
Other than aesthetic doctors and cosmetic and plastic surgeons, there are thousands of beauty salons that are also in the cosmetic industry business. Some even perform cosmetic surgeries like liposuction, breast augmentation, and the double eyelid and nose jobs!
These carry a greater risk. Each body reacts differently and people have died after a liposuction, especially those carried out in beauty saloons.
What happens if there is an infection? Would the beauty salons know what to do? What if there are complications when administering the local anaesthesia?
Dr Prethima says a person can have an allergic reaction to an injectable procedure at any time.
At hospitals and registered clinics, they have a doctor at hand and emergency resuscitation facilities for such eventualities. But beauty salons have nothing of that sort.
“It’s scary that people would do injectable procedures in the back room of a beauty salon or a hair salon. If anything goes wrong, it can be dangerous,” warns Dr Prethima.
“And they can’t even claim for damages because it is not the forte of beauty salons to carry out those injectable procedures in the first place.”
She also points out that a lot of beauty centres use the names of overseas “doctors” (whose qualifications are dubious) to give them a touch of legitimacy.
The long-awaited Cosmetology Bill would provide clear guidelines on procedures a beauty salon can and cannot do.
Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr V. Surendranathan says it is shocking that less than 10 % of the people going for cosmetic procedures do research before undergoing cosmetic surgery.
The person should look up the Malaysian Medical Council website to see if the doctor is registered there, check the doctor’s qualifications, talk to the nurses and find if there are botched cases, and visit the facilities including the operating theatre, he advises.
“The onus is on you. When you buy a car, you ask around for people’s opinions. How come you don’t do that when going for a breast job or liposuction?”