Cosmetic-surgery tourism, vanity trips — whatever you want to call it, the number of people opting for plastic surgery abroad is on the rise. Estimates suggest a growth of approximately 15-25% each year, while Mintel reports that adults aged 25-34 are the most trusting of foreign cosmetic surgery clinics — and, according to the surgeons, it's mainly women booking their flights.
"Much of the appeal in traveling abroad for cosmetic surgery is the lower cost," said Jack Duckett, senior consumer lifestyles analyst at Mintel. "Like many things, cosmetic surgery is often much cheaper abroad," Dr. Cavale adds. "For example, surgery in Turkey is less than half the cost compared to the UK." Dr. Viel also mentions that the rise could be because there is no longer a stigma attached to plastic surgery. "People tend to be very open about their treatments, talking to friends and family, and even posting about it on social media," he says, while Duckett suggested that the popularity could also be attributed to these countries offering a vacation experience during the recovery period. Poolside Negroni post-nose job? No wonder many see it as one of the better ways to recuperate.
Dr. Cavale pinpoints abdominoplasty (tummy tucks), breast augmentation, buttock implants, fillers and fat transfers, and brachioplasty (arm lifts) among the more common procedures booked abroad. But here's the million-dollar question: Is it really as safe as some of us believe?
"Most countries ensure that a high level of quality care is maintained with all surgery, but this isn't the case everywhere," says Dr. Viel. According to Dr. Cavale, part of the issue is returning home after surgery as quickly as some women do — usually one to two weeks. Over a five-year period, he has seen 24 women who have had serious problems following cosmetic surgery abroad. "If you have problems once home, it can be very difficult to then get ahold of your surgeon," he explains. "Eventually, many of these women end up in their local NHS department. There can also be a problem with quality, like with breast implants, and treating infection, because bacteria are different around the world."
However, the continuing incline suggests women won't be deterred. "Anyone considering a treatment should research the clinic and surgeon to find out as much as possible about the credentials and reputation of whom they are seeing," advises Dr. Viel. "It's also imperative to have a consultation with the surgeon performing the procedure beforehand to be sure that they qualify you for the surgery and explain the procedure in detail, including complications. Remember, though — there may be little to no follow-ups, and should complications appear, you may struggle to find a local surgeon that will help."
Ahead, four women's experiences of going under the knife abroad...