In the world of selfies and social media, teenagers want to look perfect this academic year, as do newly married couples, and young working professionals who can cough up a few thousand for that surgically enhanced hot bod or nuanced nose.
Tweak, post, tweet, repeat.
Indians have moved beyond corrective cosmetic surgeries. The obsession today is with perfection, say cosmetic surgeons. As a result, an increasing number of young Indians, especially in the 18 to 25 age group, are now going under the knife. Doctors say that under-25s now make up nearly 70 per cent of the crowds in the Out Patient Department (OPD) clinics of cosmetic surgeons across India.
"The whole focus of plastic surgery has shifted from looking younger to looking in shape. Youngsters in this age group are usually coming in before entering a new phase in their life - starting college, a new job or getting married," says Dr Sunil Choudhary, director, Institute of Aesthetic & Reconstructive Surgery, Max Healthcare, Delhi.
For men it is breast reduction and hair transplant. Women are still lapping up the more popular procedures like liposuction (fat removal) and rhinoplasty (nose job).
Reena Kumar, 18, a first year Delhi University student, feels her life has taken 'an about-turn' since she got a nose job in April. "It's been three months but the compliments haven't stopped. I am happy that my nose looks sharper now. This has boosted my overall confidence," says Kumar. "The crowd in my college is quite chic. I felt like I had to correct my nose to fit in."
Delhi student Reena Kumar, 18, got a nose job three months ago ‘to fit in with her chic college crowd’. (HT Photo: Arijit Sen & Virendra Singh Gosain)
Her parents' support put her at ease. "We don't need to make a diagnosis. Youngsters come in having done their own research. They know what they want. They come prepared to get operated," says Dr Vijay Kakkar, senior consultant of plastic surgery at Delhi's Saroj Super Speciality Hospital, who operated on Kumar. About 25 per cent of Kakkars' patients have come in for rhinoplasty.
Mumbai-based homeopath Rahul Pandirkar, 29, underwent a hair transplant in 2013, after he became too embarrassed of his scanty hair. "The balding patch looked ugly," says Pandirkar. "Looks being an integral part of our lives today, I decided to undergo a hair transplant. I thought looking better would also help me find a better match."
Rahul Pandirkar, 29, a Mumbai-based homeopath, says he got a hair transplant in 2013, to gain confidence and find a good match. (HT Photo: Arijit sen & Virendra Singh Gosain)
And so he did. Pandirkar got married in February. "Everyone wants to look younger these days, and a balding patch usually makes men look older than their actual age. But I wanted to look my age," says Pandirkar, of the transplant that cost him five lakhs. Happy with the results, he has recommended it to at least 50 of his own patients.
Dr Viral Desai, cosmetic & plastic surgeon at Mumbai's DHI India & CPLSS cosmetic surgery clinic, says that Rahul's was a typical case of loss of confidence. "In his private practice as a homeopath, he would have many one-on-one interactions with patients," says Desai. "Since no amount of medicines, application or laser therapy proved to be of any help, we felt that transplant was the only option."
Beauty and the idea of how one looks is eternal, yet the quest to look perfect in an age of computerised symmetry is new. Often the subscriber of this belief is a generation that lives, breathes and expresses through the social media.
"We are immersed in a consumerist culture where beauty and appearances are far more significant than what they used to be, and the younger generation is far more social," says Dr Kiran Naik, cosmetic surgeon at Mumbai's Nanavati Hospital. "This has enhanced their awareness of how they look on Facebook, Instagram and in real life while meeting friends. The selfie phenomenon is a prime example."
For 23-year-old Kalpana S*, it was all about rectifying her "broad nose". "While growing up I knew my nose wasn't right for my face," says the Mumbai-based fashion design graduate. "I have wanted a nose job ever since I was 19. I would see how the beauty of celebrities was often attributed to cosmetic surgeries. It was then that I decided to get a nose job done."
In November 2014 she finally took the plunge. Funded by her parents, the surgery cost her a little over a lakh.
Dr Thomas, a senior cosmetic surgeon at Breach Candy Hospital, who operated on Kalpana, feels that given her career as a fashion designer, the surgery was justified. "Photographs have become exceedingly important nowadays. Every minute feature feels blown up in a close-up," says Dr Thomas. "So we considered a common laundry list before starting the surgery."
Though the demand for cosmetic procedures among youngsters has risen, doctors warn against falling prey to lucrative advertisements. "There should be a genuine need for surgery," says Dr Lokesh Kumar, head of plastic surgery department at BLK Super-speciality Hospital. "The person is psychologically assessed. We work in tandem with psychologists to counsel youngsters who have unrealistic expectations and think their life will change after the procedure."
(* Full name withheld on request)
Beauty by the blade
As of 2011, India stood fourth among the 25 countries where cosmetic procedures are performed. The US, Brazil and China topped the list
Rhinoplasty, liposuction and hair transplant are among some of the most popular procedures in India.
5.2% of all cosmetic procedures worldwide are performed in India.
15 million people resorted to cosmetic surgery in 2011, out of which 4,66,231 were Indians.
(Source: International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons).
"A lot of times, we counsel youngsters against surgery. Some of them suffer from what's called body dysmorphic disorder, where the concern over a deformity outdoes the deformity itself. That is unhealthy.
Dr Sunil Choudhary, director of Institute of Aesthetic & Reconstructive Surgery, Max Healthcare, Delhi.
On the cards
A look at the most popular procedures, and what they cost:
Hair transplant: Rs 80,000 to Rs 2 lakh
Liposuction (fat removal): Rs 60,000 to Rs 2 lakh
Rhinoplasty(nose job): Rs 80,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh
Gynecomastia(breast reduction): Rs 75,000 to Rs 85,000
Laser treatment (for hair reduction): Rs 6,000 per sitting