Cosmetic enhancement procedures – so-called lunchtime treatments – are gaining in popularity. Image Credit: ANM Archives

It’s 11am and Indian businesswoman A Malhotra* is waiting for her lunchtime
rhinoplasty procedure to begin at a plastic surgery clinic in Jumeirah, Dubai.

“I had a surgical nose job done – it was more button like – to make it perfect about a decade ago, but I think it’s time for a tweak,” says the 41-year-old.

“Also, my nostrils look a bit too flared out to me. They need some reshaping,”  she quips, flipping through a magazine, waiting for the anaesthetic cream to kick in.

Twenty minutes later she is chaperoned to the surgical table by a nurse where her plastic surgeon arrives with another nurse armed with a tray of three syringes – two with hyaluronic acid filler and one with Botox.

As the doctor checks Malhotra’s profile minutely from every angle possible, the businesswoman chirps, “My husband says the lack of a perfect nose is a minor flaw but who needs flaws? And while you’re at it don’t forget my nostrils.”

The surgeon murmurs in agreement and after the sound of the snap of rubber gloves being pulled on, he begins to draw lines on to Malhotra’s nasal area with the expertise of an artist.

Next, he injects the filler to plump up the nose. “It doesn’t hurt at all,” Malhotra exclaims, as the nurse gently swabs the dot of blood that appears after the surgeon withdraws the needle. She then applies an ice pack to prevent the skin tissue from swelling.

Before Malhotra can blink, the doctor whips out the Botox syringe. “This will give your nasal tip some elevation,’’ he says, injecting the solution into the tip of her nose. Job done, he steps back and looks at his handiwork. Satisfied, he retires to his office.

It’s all over in less than 45 minutes and Malhotra, albeit having a slightly red nose, is extremely happy. “The results will be visible in a week or so,” she says, examining her face in the clinic mirror. “If I like it, I will definitely be back for something else. If anyone notices, I’ll tell them I’m coming down with a cold.”

She slips into a cubicle where she exchanges her hospital gown for her blouse and designer jacket and is on her way back to work with barely a hint of having undergone cosmetic surgery in the time it takes to eat lunch.

Improving your look in 45 minutes

Welcome to the age of fast plastic surgery. From Botox injections to collagen fillers, chemical peels to non-surgical face-lifts, cosmetic enhancement procedures – so-called lunchtime treatments – are gaining in popularity.

Despite sagging global financial figures, the beauty market is apparently booming if recent reports are any indication. While Britons spend around £2.3billion (Dh13.4billion) a year on cosmetic treatments, Americans spent  $10.1billion (Dh38billion) last year on procedures including Botox, chemical peels and laser treatments that smooth out wrinkles.

These procedures can generally be done in about an hour with no downtime, allowing the patient to return to work and their normal lives afterwards. So it’s no surprise that in the city known for its superlatives, lunchtime  procedures are becoming hugely popular.

No one knows the precise figures for the UAE, but, whether it’s for vanity, or to give yourself a competitive edge – the demand for procedures here has surged.
As far back as in 2009, while the global economic downturn was at its height
– cosmetic surgeon Hassan Galadari told Gulf News the boom for plastic surgery was to compete for work.

“You have to look good when seeking a job,” he said. “These procedures are
now available and affordable to most people.”

Along with the boom, came the demand for quicker, less painful procedures with short recovery time and instant results. Now, if you want to look younger/thinner/different you don’t have to wait.

Luckily, with the bevy of injectables available in the market from Botox to fillers, looking better is as easy as ordering a tuna sandwich to go. While Hyaluronan injections temporarily smooth wrinkles by adding volume under  the skin with effects typically lasting for six months, Botox, in simple terms a protein, is popularly used for various cosmetic and medical procedures to fill, shape, sculpt, lift, plump and erase lines – all in less than an hour.

And it’s precisely these procedures, explains Dr Sanjay Kumar Parashar, Specialist Plastic Surgeon and Director of Cocoona Centre for Aesthetic Transformation in Dubai, which make up as much as 40 per cent of his business.

“Lunchtime procedures such as fillers, Botox, face and neck lifts, cellulite reduction and body toning are becoming very popular because of the technologies involved – ranging from selective laser machines, and safe filler materials to sophisticated devices like silhouette threads – which make the procedure safer with less downtime, allowing people to return to their normal routine quicker,” he says.

So instead of going under the knife, busy housewives or businessman can cut years off their appearance without anyone knowing what they’ve had done during their lunch hour. “I have Botox injected every six months to stop the lines before they even start,” says 30-year-old Dubai-based publicist Nadia Ahmad whose smooth and blemish-free face is testimony to her lunchtime quick-fix sessions.

“I even tell my younger sister, who is 25, to get it done... it’s no big deal.”

Putting the brakes on ageing The idea of halting ageing in its tracks is another factor  otivating the surge of “in and out” procedures, explains plastic surgeon Dr Maurizio Viel at London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery.

“In the past, surgeons used noninvasive treatments to treat problems such as lines and wrinkles after they became very visible. But now it’s actually being viewed as a preventative anti-ageing treatment to stop wrinkles before they even start,” he says.

“Affordability is another motivator as lunchtime procedures are less expensive
compared to the Eighties and Nineties when these were reserved for the rich and famous.”

A recent BBC survey showed that 51 per cent of young women would have surgery
to improve their looks and make themselves appear more perfect. Social media is also playing its part – the rise of Facebook, where pictures are posted up online for everyone to scrutinise, means people are willing to try ‘light’ procedures and plastic surgery.

“They’re less afraid,” says Dr Viel. “Also, there are great alternatives to fillers such as using your own fat, which is more permanent. Patients like it because there is no chance of allergic reactions.”

Several plastic surgeons underscore the fact that those seeking cosmetic
surgery are attracted to Dubai because of its central location in the region, wide choice of clinics and very strict regulations on quality.

“Dubai is a fast-growing economy with a very high quality of lifestyle and people are exposed to glamour, fashion, mall culture, beaches and outdoor activities, all of which can trigger an enhanced sense of self-consciousness towards one’s own appearance,” explains Dr Parashar.

“Also there is more openness among people who now talk freely about their procedures to family and friends – indicated by the huge word of mouth referral that we receive at our centre.”

Then there’s the reality TV and celebrity culture that depicts cosmetic surgery as more common, easy to do and an absolutely accepted way to stop ageing and enhance our looks.

“Add to this are less risks, minimum downtime with significant improvement to treat facial wrinkles, ageing process, acne scars, skin sagging, cellulite, and fat bulges,” he adds.

Surprisingly, women aren’t the only ones in search of perfection and Dr Viel says that in his practice men make up about 30 per cent of the lunchtime treatments, especially ‘Mantox’ (Botox) and ‘anti-sweatox’ (to reduce sweating).

“They like to be quick and fast and don’t generally like to hang around,” he says. “Overall lunchtime treatments suit their lifestyle; in fact, some businessmen actually have Botox treatments before they enter big negotiations so that they can pull a ‘poker face’ during these meetings. They have told me that it puts off their opponents who can’t read their expressions.

“Some men are motivated because of the highly competitive nature of their work, and they want to look young to compete with the new generation coming in; or because they have younger wives so they want to look and feel younger.”

Botox tops the wish list

Botox is the undisputed king of all anti-ageing lunchtime procedures simply because it can have subtle and fast results. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there was a 5 per cent increase overall in the number of Botox procedures performed since 2010, says Dr Viel.

“Some wrinkles are caused by repeated contraction of muscles in the face and often over time, these creases can lead to a persistent frown and a more aged appearance,” he says.

“Botox works by blocking impulses from the nerve to the tiny facial muscles that are related to expression lines and subsequently relaxes the muscles so they become chemically relaxed for an average of three to four months.”

After the injection, there may be tiny bumps on the face that will disappear after 20 minutes.

“Botox and fillers offer a quick-fix with little to no downtime and are perfect for people on busy schedules,” Dr Viel says. And while the treatment itself takes just 15 minutes, the effect kicks in in about three to five days and it’s two weeks for the final result to show the full effect.

At Cocoona, Dr Sanjay performs around 25 to 30 Botox procedures every week for wrinkle reduction, for migraine, excessive underarm sweating and other indications such as brow lift, myoclonic facial twitches, neck lift, smile  correction, and jaw reduction.

“The average age for Botox for wrinkles is between ages 30 to 35; however I have had patients as young as 22 to reduce frown lines or reduce excessive perspiration under arms,” he says.

One fan of fillers and botox is Natasha Bennett, an operations manager of a cosmetic surgery clinic and in her 30s.

“Working in the beauty industry, I have to look my best, but also be able to show people that you don’t have to look artificial after having minor procedures,” she says.

“This summer I noticed some lines and areas where I had lost some volume in my face so decided to make some minor improvements. I first had Botox some years ago while I was on a training course in the UK. However, once it wore off, I didn’t have it done again until  recently. Even now I have a very small amount,  which makes the lines not as apparent.

“I had filler for the first time this year and even though I’ve worked in the industry the whole of my professional life, I was still apprehensive. Very few people including me have a symmetrical face. By having filler I was able to create this.

“Around my chin area I had lost some volume, by adding a very small amount of filler my face shape softened and the expression lines were less visible. I was never unhappy about the way I looked, but I didn’t realise until having the procedure how much better I could look with just a 30-minute procedure.”

Is it really as easy as a dental check-up?

Once considered clandestine and risky, lunchtime procedures are now being touted as easy as going for a dental check-up. But this simplified notion is a myth, says Dr Parashar.

“Many patients are in denial that complications may occur, healing can be

delayed and they can get back to their lifestyle without much delay,” he says. “All medical procedures carry a certain amount of risk. Some of these risks include bleeding, infection, skin burns, scarring, unnatural results, reaction and allergies which are minimized by experience, knowledge of the technology/product/ tissue response and proper evaluation.”

Procedures respond differently on patients so while a Botox treatment may work well for one person, he says it may cause problems such as saggy eyelids or unnatural results in another.

Patients also need to be aware of the risks involved if they opt for basement bargain discount. Dr Viel says, “Be sure that your surgeon uses Botox from reputable companies.”

The same rule holds true for fillers.

One individual who is very unhappy with her procedure is Julie Smith* who had her upper lip filled five years ago. “I was so excited at the prospect of getting my upper lip plumped up before my tenth wedding anniversary that I did  it in haste,” she admits. “The doctor convinced me that this new filler was cost-effective and injected an entire syringe into my upper lip which took about 30 minutes and hurt badly.”

Hoping that the lip, which had nearly doubled in size, was just the result of swelling, Julie applied ice packs and waited – and waited.

“The following week my lip resembled a fat bumpy slug,” she says.

“My husband was horrified but I consoled myself that it could be fixed. At the follow-up, the nurse brusquely told me it was only residual swelling and the doctor was in surgery. I tried calling her and when I finally did manage to  reach her, she very casually told me to wait for six months.’’

Julie later learnt that the cheaper filler used gave permanent results. “Five years later I still look the same.”

Choose your filler wisely

“Permanent should not be the first choice of filler,” warns Dr Parashar. “Instead, there are safer fillers such as hyaluronic acid (HA) based fillers that are more natural and are similar to HA found in body tissue.” These do not incite tissue reaction and do not move inside the tissue unlike its permanent counterpart.

Safer fillers include Restylane and Juvéderm and the procedure for filling, adds Dr Viel, takes 15 to 20 minutes, depending on where they are to be injected, but results are immediate and should last eight months to one year.

“There might be a bit of swelling that might take 15 to 30 minutes to subside. However if it’s fat that’s injected, that may take longer to subside.”

Disturbingly, a study carried out for the Girl Guides, in November 2009, discovered that half of secondary school girls admitted planning to have plastic surgery when they are older.

So as it becomes cheaper, easier and faster, expect to line up behind younger and younger customers at a plastic surgery clinic near you – all flicking through a menu of treatments alongside one of lunchtime treats to eat once
their quick fix is over.