The Instagram generation is driving Dubai's booming cosmetic surgery industry - in some cases to the point of addiction - surgeons said as they met in the city for an annual summit that is among the largest of its kind.
Medics spoke of the boom in demand for buttock implants, the sharp increase in the number of male patients and the demand for skin tightening after dramatic weight loss, at the Dubai International Symposium for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Surgically enhanced buttocks have overtaken breast implants as the cosmetic surgery of choice as many women strive to achieve the ‘Kardashian’ effect.
While doctors reported a 30 per cent increase in the number of men enquiring about cosmetic surgery in Dubai, psychologists have seen an increase in patients being treated for plastic surgery addiction.
“Women are still more impacted by social media and the demand to look a certain way, but men are catching up fast, especially in north America and we are now seeing that here,” said Dr Bander Al Aithan, a plastic surgeon from Saudi Arabia at the Bella Roma Medical and Aesthetic Surgery Centre.
“Ten years ago, a big behind was not seen as a sign of beauty in white women. That’s changed in recent years largely due to the impact of celebrities like Kim Kardashian.
“In the Middle East, women are choosing to have bigger breasts, but we try and advise patients to what suits their ethnicity.”
Botox remains the most popular non-invasive treatment of choice for men and women, followed by soft tissue fillers in women and laser hair removal in men.
The industry is worth more than US$10 billion a year in the US, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
And by some estimates Dubai has more plastic surgeons per capita than any other city in the world.
“We have extreme requests at the surgery, such as women asking for huge breasts,” said Dr Al Aithan.
“We tell the patient although it’s possible, it’s not advisable as it can damage tissue. If I think the procedure will harm the patient, I’ll decline to do it.
“Many women now want to show off their behinds, it is a trend from South America.
“Surgery is booming, and butt surgery is now more popular than breast surgery.”
Cosmetic specialists speaking at the conference said more people are also choosing non-invasive procedures to boost appearances, like Botox and fillers because they have a quick turnaround and are cheaper than surgery – although the effects usually only last six months.
Non-surgical nose jobs are now available, using Botox to relax nasal muscles and fillers to smooth out kinks.
Patients can see changes within days, rather than the six months it takes for rhinoplasty to take full effect.
“Plastic surgery is always evolving and progressing, but we have to be careful we don’t quickly adopt new trends before they’re fully researched,” said Dr Zuhair Al Fardan, a breast and body contouring expert in Dubai.
“In the last ten years I’ve seen a big increase in the number of men asking for cosmetic surgery, with figures rising from 10 per cent of my patients to nearer 30 per cent.
“People now want to look a certain way, and it is also more acceptable in society for men to have cosmetic surgery.”
Surgeons said male professionals aged between 31 and 40 were the most likely to seek plastic surgery.
Dr Al Fardan said the increase in bariatric surgery, driven by rising obesity rates is also helping fuel the cosmetic surgery industry, as more people seek corrective procedures after rapid weight loss.
The Bariatric and Metabolic Institute Abu Dhabi at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City has said operations on morbidly obese patients has increased by more than 5,000 cases a year.
“We know for a fact that 90 per cent of morbidly obese patients who have had bariatric surgery will need some kind of cosmetic surgery for skin tightening,” Dr Al Fardan said.
“The demand for this is always getting higher as these patients will not be able to live with this excess skin.”
Some patients are hard to please, doctors said, with those seeking repeat surgeries potentially suffering from body dysmorphia.
It is a recognised mental health disorder characterised by an obsessive perception that an aspect of one’s body is severely flawed and requires corrective surgery.
“Plastic surgery addiction is something we are seeing a lot of here in Dubai,” said Reem Shaheen, a counselling psychologist at the Clear Minds Centre.
“Women are over sexualised, and in the Arab world they are valued for their looks more than elsewhere, so there is more demand for them to look a certain way to keep their husbands.
“People always want more and they are never satisfied. It is expensive, but extremely accessible.
“This can lead to an unhealthy addiction.”