Having studied in Canada for four years, coming back to Egypt was quite a shock in several different respects. One of the most striking however, was the prevalence of plastic surgery among people I know who are my age–in their early and mid-twenties. At first, I completely dismissed the idea and treated the phenomenon as ridiculous, but not long after, I found myself examining my body in front of the mirror trying to figure out what could possibly be changed or fixed. This is when I realized what "peer pressure" really is.
Speaking to Hisham el-Minawi, assistant professor of plastic surgery at Cairo University, confirmed my view on the phenomenon. He says that he receives women from all age groups that want to have plastic surgery, however, young women in their twenties form a large portion of this group. And surprisingly, the phenomenon is not restricted to a certain social class or to those in specific fields of employment.
The plastic surgery hype started in Egypt as early as 1998, mainly due to the influence of the internet and satellite television. Previously, women had to go abroad to get things done, however the introduction of non-surgical and less invasive procedures paved the way for more women to get their problem areas fixed without the side effects of surgery. These procedures led women to consider the possibilities of surgery as a beautification option. The use of local anesthetics rather than general anesthetics also made the procedures safer.
“Women in their twenties usually go for liposuction because of a new fashion in clothes, and a breast reduction so that they can wear bikinis comfortably,” says el-Minawi. Both liposuction and breast reduction help women look better in swimming suits.
The introduction of low-rise pants has led women to believe they have problems in the abdominal area, mainly love handles, which was not a problem for earlier generations. This phenomenon has led to an increase in the number of young women asking for liposuctions.
Many women today still want to look pretty without the risk of surgery. Thanks to non-surgical procedures, their wishes can come true.
Hussein Ghanem, a cosmetic and consultant dermatologist believes the prevalence of surgery has diminished over the past ten years, as some non-surgical treatments have replaced surgery. For example, deformities in the nose can now be cured using fillers instead of a nose job, and lipolysis can be used instead of liposuction in some cases–although it is only 70 percent effective. Lipolysis is most effective in localized areas, such as love handles, double chins, and small bellies.
According to Ghanem, the most widespread treatment is lip augmentation, because women want to look like the Lebanese stars they see on TV.
“Social pressure to look ideal physically is to blame for the increase in the use of these treatments by young women,” says Ghanem, adding that people who usually decide to have these types of treatments already have a healthy lifestyle and are looking to improve their physicality, not just get an easy fix.
Speaking to some of the young women who went through surgical treatments confirmed el-Minawi’s speculations.
“I got a nose job done when I was 19 years old, because I felt uncomfortable with the shape of my nose. I did not like how my nose looked after surgery but I got used to it later on,” explains Dalia, a pharmacist in a multinational company. She said she would consider other procedures if she felt they were necessary.
Nour, a 24 year old financial analyst, just had a liposuction. She says she felt very uncomfortable with her thighs and is very pleased with how the surgery turned out. She would definitely consider another surgery in the future if she feels it would make her feel more comfortable with a certain body part.
Both young women said they felt comfortable going under the knife partially because local anesthetic, not general anesthetic would be used.
Over a year ago, when Jad Choeri, the Lebanese singer, portrayed Arabs in his video clip “Funky Arabs” as plastic surgery-obsessed party animals, many Egyptians voiced their anger online. However, thinking about the phenomenon today, could we fit that image any more perfectly?