Demand is firm amid sagging oil prices

Despite turbulent financial times as the price of oil tumbles people are still willing to invest in the psychological and physical improvement they believe can be achieved by cosmetic enhancements.

“There is no recession, just an ongoing increase [in business],” says Vasilica Baltateanu of Vasilica Aesthetics. Razan Alzayani / The National
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Sales of luxury goods are slowing but plastic surgeons’ business is roaring. Men and women of all ages and nationalities are making use of cosmetic treatments to improve their opportunities at work and their psychological wellbeing.

DUBAI // Plastic surgeons say that business is booming, even though sales of luxury consumer goods are sliding.

Despite falling oil prices, people were willing to invest in the psychological and physical benefits of cosmetic surgery, said Dr Sanjay Parashar, founder of the Cocoona Centre for Aesthetic Transformation.

“So far there has not been any negative effect of any so-called recession on this industry,” he said.

“We have recorded a high growth in the first two months of the year compared to last year.

“I feel people are still spending on their health, wellbeing and appearance. They may not be making major investments in other industries, but the aesthetic industry seems to be steadily growing.”

Rather than seeing a slowdown in plastic surgery business, people are spending more than before, according to Vasilica Baltateanu, founder of Vasilica Aesthetics, a plastic surgery consultancy.

“There is no recession, just an ongoing increase [in business],” she said.

Despite cutbacks in other sectors, people remained willing to spend on their looks, particularly non-surgical enhancements, said Dr Maurizio Viel of London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery in Dubai.

“For some patients, economic conditions do not deter their desire to feel and look better,” he said.

“This might improve their working opportunities, as it improves their confidence. So they see it as an investment.”

According to the latest statistics from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, more than 20 million surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures were performed around the world in 2014.

Dr Viel said plastic surgery was gaining popularity with men and women of all ages and nationalities.

“If you put together a dinner party for 20 people, it is most likely that 80 per cent of your table would have dabbled with some sort of plastic surgery, especially if the average age at your table is between 25 and 65 years old,” he said.

As plastic surgery thrives, it is also bucking the trend when compared to the luxury goods market that has been hit by declines in consumer spending, according to Amna Abbas, a research analyst at Euromonitor.

“The luxury goods market in the UAE is increasingly being driven by value-conscious purchases, rather than impulsive ones, a trend that is new to a country known for its extravagant spending,” she said.

“With the cost of living rising and falling oil prices, more consumers are comparing prices online before making a purchase in the stores.”

Ms Abbas also said sales of luxury goods had been slowing.

In contrast, cosmetic surgery and enhancements have become so popular in Dubai that there is one such treatment taking place every hour, according to Ms Baltateanu’s estimate.

Furthermore, the number of medical tourists availing themselves of plastic surgery in the UAE has been rising.

Dr Luiz Toledo, scientific director of the Emirates Plastic Surgery Society, said there had been a steady increase in the number of foreign clients. He had patients from 82 countries last year.

“Medical tourists in my clinic were 7 per cent in 2013, 9 per cent in 2014 and 11 per cent in 2015,” said Dr Toledo.

“Dubai is attracting the right kind of medical tourist – one that seeks a high-quality service and a short vacation in one of the best destinations in the world.

“They usually don’t come here because it’s cheap but because it’s good.”

Dr Matteo Vigo, who practices at the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital in Dubai, has also noticed a surge in overseas patients.

He said the number of international patients rose to 11,400 last year from 10,000 in 2014.

Dr Parashar said about 750,000 medical tourists visited Dubai last year, and about 12 per cent of them sought cosmetic surgery.