Going under the knife to look good

SOUTH African women, like their counterparts in other parts of the world, are increasingly going under the knife in their quest to achieve glamorous magazine looks.

SOUTH African women, like their counterparts in other parts of the world, are increasingly going under the knife in their quest to achieve glamorous magazine looks.

And cost does not seem to deter them.

Ellies Ndobe, a leading Johannesburg plastic surgeon, says cosmetic surgery is no longer a preserve of the idle, rich and bored.

Ndobe attributes the increase in the number to the advent of improved surgical methods and television makeover shows that are making cosmetic surgery appear commonplace and trendy.

He says many of the procedures are purely cosmetic in nature, but many settle between reconstructive and cosmetic correction. Breast augmentation is the most popular procedure. It costs about R40000. Until yesterday when the government announced that only specialists should perform such procedures, you could get your breasts augmented for R10000 by a general practitioner. Facelifts cost about R55000, while tummy tucks will set you back R42000, depending on the surgeon.

Although some surgeons have seen a decrease in the overall number of patients - particularly celebrities - due to the global recession, breast augmentation and rhinoplasty (nose job) still remain very popular.

"Most patients who do boob jobs are those who have experienced gradual breast shrinkage or sagging following one or more pregnancies and those women who have small breasts naturally."

Over the past few years in Golihood, we have seen a plastic surgery explosion among celebrities, with the likes of Mshoza, Sandy Ngema and Khanyi Mbau, Uyanda Mbuli, Masechaba Dlengezele, Pam Andrews and Doris Msibi joining the queen of plastic surgery Felicia Mabuza-Suttle.

Meanwhile, celebs such as Edith Venter, Noeleen Maholwana-Sangqu and singer Sunette Bridges admit they've had no surgical and anti-aging cosmetic treatment such as Botox. Actress Connie Ferguson and businesswoman Precious Motsepe have had some work done on their best assets but do not want to talk about it.

Not all celebs get their money's worth though. For Mshoza, who has had several things done on her, including pumping up the cup size early this year, looking good has been a very costly exercise. She says she has been in pain since she had a botched boob job that left her with an uneven pair. She also lost sensation to the nipple area.

Ndobe confirms that they no longer deal with high-class clients only.

"We have seen a new phenomenon of middle-class clients," says Ndobe.

"Most women from 45 and upwards tend to opt for tummy tucks, breast lifts and facelifts, while younger clients go for breast augmentations and liposuction."

More and more teenagers from rich black families are also choosing to go under the knife to correct their looks, with laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, rhinoplasty, otoplasty (cosmetic ear surgery) and chemical peels in a quest for perfection.

Clinical psychologist Asiphe Ndlela says the growing trend may be linked to images of body beautiful celebrities and people's desire to be like them.

Equally interesting is the growing trend of scalpel safaris - overseas tourists buying holiday packages to South Africa to undergo cosmetic surgery.

Already a growing trend in Brazil and Argentina, South Africa has been a preferred destination since 2003, with an increasing number of patients coming for breast augmentation, liposuction, facelifts, tummy tucks, eyelid surgery and nose reshaping as well as dentistry.

According to Mediscapes, which sells cosmetic surgery packages, these tourists, who are taking advantage of the low currency and South Africa's medical excellence, leave for an exotic vacation in South Africa, have the surgery, relax and recover before returning home a completely new, rejuvenated person.

In the UK, a facelift costs about R90000. Here you can get it for about R30000 - including flights, and a two-week stay in a top hotel.

Tummy tucks cost about R30000 in South Africa, compared to R60000 in Britain. Eye treatment - such as bag removal, laser eye lift and brow lift costs about R10200, compared with between R20000 to R40000 in the UK.