Women want Brazilian-born supermodel Gisele Bundchen’s flawless body, Scarlett Johansson’s luscious lips and Natalie Portman’s pert nose. All men want is a six-pack.
This does not mean that any six-pack will do. The most sougt-after abs were Mark The Fighter Wahlberg’s, followed by G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra star Channing Tatum, and Ralph Lauren model Tyson Beckford.
Surgically-derived washboard abs have not yet replaced gruelling exercise regimens in India, even though the technique — called abdominal etching — is available in select centres. It’s a lot like liposuction, say surgeons, where excess belly fat is sucked out and muscles sculpted into an enviable six-pack.
The reason why it hasn’t taken off is because the procedure is painful and swelling takes months to go, making the procedure worth the pain only for those whose life — or career — depends on enviable abs.
With increasing income and self-obsession, cosmetic surgery is the fastest growing elective surgery in the world. In some parts of the world, it’s become as acceptable as braces to fix crooked teeth, contact lenses to get rid of unsought glasses, or hair colour to cover graying hair.
“We will soon look at wrinkles the way we look at cracked or discoloured teeth: remnants of the past, just something to be fixed. You already see young women smoking and sitting in the sun, knowing that they can just get rid of the wrinkles anytime they want,” writes Dr Nancy Etcoff, a psychologist at the Harvard Medical School in her book, Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty.
India is getting there. Among people undeterred by the scalpel in their search for physical perfection here, breast implants, thigh reshaping, liposuction and nose jobs are the most sought-after surgeries among women. Among men, it’s noses jobs, abdominal liposuction and scar corrections followed closely by breast reduction surgery and penis enlargement.
For most people, the first encounter with cosmetic surgery is through non-surgical procedures such as laser resurfacing. Middle-class India is following in the footsteps of Hillary Clinton, Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett. and Gwyneth Paltrow using laser resurfacing to smoothen fine lines.
Chemical peels works well for fine lines around the eyes and mouth, but does not improve sagging skin. Mild peels are done using alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), glycolic acid or some fruit acids, which are components of most anti-ageing creams. Since phenol peels can interfere with the skin’s ability to tan, causing redness and sunburns, it is not recommended for Asian skin.
Next in popularity are thread lifts that are used to iron out wrinkles. The half-hour procedure involves inserting suture threads in the subcutaneous layer of the skin, which is then pulled up to make it appear fuller. The effect lasts for 3-5 years for people in their forties.
The popularity of Botox — a paralysing neurotoxin that is injected in the skin to make it immobile, and therefore, wrinkle-free — has doubled in the past one year, with most neighbourhood clinics offering this wrinkle-filling treatment for Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 per sitting, depending on whether you want to smooth out crow’s feet around the eyes or frown lines on the forehead or around the mouth. Since botox is absorbed by the body over time, its effect is temporary and the treatment has to be repeated every four months for a smooth look.
It seems only the ignorant and the cash-strapped have to live with what they were born with. The rest can shop for younger, prettier and fitter selves at cosmetic centres armed with credit cards and photographs of their favourite celebrities.