Everywhere you look, there are print ads, radio spots and glossy magazines promoting the latest 'non-invasive' cosmetic treatments to help you look more beautiful. Botox, dermal fillers and hair transplants are promoted as simple, walk-in procedures.
In a country preoccupied with physical appearance, this acts as a lure for many unsuspecting people, leading to a boom in cosmetic procedures.
While cosmetic surgeries are performed within the safe confines of a hospital, it is the non-surgical or semi-surgical work performed in hole-in-the-wall clinics, run by poorly trained doctors that have experts worried.
"Often, the people performing procedures in these small clinics are not adequately trained to do the job; who is there to check their credentials?" says Dr Shahin Nooreyezdan, senior consultant cosmetic and plastic surgery at New Delhi's Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.
More deceptive is the concept of med-spas. The number of medical spas - hybrids of medical clinics and day spas - is mushrooming across metro cities. Soaring costs make people look for cheaper alternatives and these medical spas provide cosmetic procedures at a fraction of what a certified cosmetic surgeon or hospital would charge.
Dr Sunil Choudhary, director, institute of aesthetic and reconstructive surgery at Max Healthcare, recently treated a doctor who, in order to get a fairer complexion, ended up with deeply stained skin. "It was a side effect of a laser treatment gone wrong," says Choudhary. "He went to one of the clinics that claimed quicker results with 100% success. He actually burnt his skin; the person doing the treatment doesn't seem to have been adequately trained."
Experts say semi-surgical procedures also require semi-sterile settings and basic surgical norms to be followed. Often these are not, raising the risk of infection. "Popular as it is, cosmetic surgery is far less regulated than other areas of medicine like dermatology, dentistry, gynaecology or an ordinary MBBS. Some surgeons seem to be getting away all too easily with some alarmingly unprofessional conduct," says Dr Nooreyezdan.
As cosmetic procedures becomes more common, the risks associated begin to be under-estimated too, doctors say. People see friends get botox in their lunch breaks, for instance, and start to think that these are procedures as risk-free as styling your hair.
The truth is, there are several potential complications to be considered, especially for procedures conducted in non-medical settings - complications such as an allergic reaction to anesthesia and wound infections.
"The truth is, nobody should solicit patients, especially not with the kind of spurious before-and-after advertising, which is itself often doctored. Every procedure has a downtime; there's a recovery period," says Dr Choudhary.
These med-spas might appear tempting but they too can prove risky as most are not equipped to deal with complications.
Considering how easily a doctor can open and operate a cosmetic procedures clinic without specialised training, if an individual chooses to go to a cosmetic surgeon, he/she needs to be sure that they are a specialist in the field. If one is tempted to try out a particular clinic, a thorough background check of the surgeon is a must.
"I have known of cases where personal trainers were giving botox shots, which appalled me. These are effective techniques. I am not against them. But they must be carefully performed," says Dr Nooreyezdan.