ABU DHABI // More men in the UAE are seeking cosmetic surgery and at far younger ages than men in the West.
Private cosmetic surgery centres report a spike in the number of male patients.
When the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital opened in Dubai Healthcare City in 2008 about 10 per cent of its patients were male. Now, men make up more than a quarter of its roughly 3,000 patients. The most common procedures among the young are rhinoplasty and liposuction, both starting at Dh15,000, and chest reduction. Older patients opt for eyelid surgery and facelifts.
“Cosmetic surgery is not something to be ashamed of any more, but a sign of beauty, power, success, health and youth,” said Dr Ioannis Michael Salivaras, medical director of the hospital.
At CosmeSurge, which has seven centres, one in every five patients is male. Dr Mazen Max Sawaf, its medical director, attributes the trend to the competitive job market and a culture that accepts multiple marriages and emphasises image.
“Marriages are not like before,” he said. “They used to be a permanent institution. Now the divorce rate is high. And should they not divorce they marry a second wife. They’re in their mid-forties and feel they have the money and the means. They want somebody who’s half their age. And they’d love psychologically to feel she’s not marrying them for their money. If they look attractive it enhances their choices in the marriage market.”
Changing expectations among women also play a role, Dr Sawaf said.“We used to say beauty is the woman’s capital and the beauty of a man is his capital. It’s sexist but it was true. Today this is changing. The liberated woman wants somebody who looks good, too.”
Most of Dr Sawaf’s male patients at Cosmesurge’s two centres in the United States are between 55 and 65, while in the UAE they are 35 to 45, partly because of the overall youth of the UAE population.
An older clientele in the US means patients are looking for anti-aging solutions. In the UAE, more invasive procedures are requested, such as body contouring.
At the American British Surgical and Medical Centre in Dubai, nearly 40 per cent of its 400 cosmetic surgery patients are male, up from 20 per cent in 2010. Among the most popular procedures are liposuction and hi-definition liposculpturing, where surgeons “sculpt a six-pack” on the abdomen. The price starts at Dh30,000.
“The weather is hot, people don’t move around much and are used to eating on the go,” said Vasilica Baltateanu, the centre’s patient coordinator. “That makes them prone to gaining weight. But we do not operate until the patient is in a safe weight zone. They must have a normal body mass index.”
Surgeons often reject patients who perceive liposuction as a solution to their weight problems.
“Obesity is a disease, and as a disease it has a treatment, whether it’s diet, exercise or bariatric surgery,” Dr Salivaras said. “For sure liposuction is not the treatment. We tell him to treat his obesity, cut down his weight then do the aesthetic procedures. Obesity is not an aesthetic issue, it’s a health issue.”
Gynaecomastia, the enlargement of male breasts, is another condition many plastic surgeons see. Chest reduction is a common procedure in the Middle East, Dr Sawaf said. “They hide it with their traditional clothes when they’re in the Middle East but when they travel or go on the beach they can’t. It’s really embarrassing.”
The condition is usually caused by abnormal hormone levels or excessive weight, said Dr Allen Rezai, founder of Elite Cosmetic Surgery in Dubai Healthcare City.
Although there is no link between gynaecomastia and breast cancer, it could be an indication of hormone imbalance or testicular cancer. “Before you operate you have to send the patient to an endocrinologist to check hormone levels,” he said.
It is the quality of the surgeon and the patient’s awareness of the risks that determine a patient’s outlook, Dr Salivaras said.
“At the end of the day, it all comes down to the surgeon,” he said. “It’s his ethical responsibility to be sensitive to the patient’s health needs.”