IT professional, Anita*, 51, was ecstatic when she lost 15 kg in just five months. But, the sudden weight loss had ended up making her look much older. Last month, she borrowed money from friends to get a facelift at a clinic in Bandra. “I was tired of looking fat. My marriage and work life were being affected and that’s when I decided to lose weight. I nearly starved and lost all the extra kilos but I ended up looking much older,” said Anita, who spent Rs 75,000 on the cosmetic procedure.
Plastic surgeons across India are treating more and more people like Anita who find their skin hanging in folds after quick weight-loss diets and bariatric surgeries. “Most people have a very rosy picture in their heads when they undergo bariatric surgeries. Those who lose a large volume of weight have acres of skin hanging off their bodies which require aesthetic corrective surgeries,” said Dr Anup Dhir, secretary, Indian Association of Aesthetic Surgeons, adding that at least 10% of the patients coming in for cosmetic procedures are those who have had drastic weight loss in a short time.
The number of patients demanding such surgeries, doctors said, increases during this time of the year, with weddings and New Year parties nearing. “We have a 20-year-old man who had slipped into depression after he lost weight. Many people are not aware that losing weight may not necessarily translate into a better appearance. Most of these are people who have lost weight with crash-diets or by taking weight loss pills,” said, Dr Apratim Goel, dermatologist who treated Anita. “There is an at least 20% rise in the number of weight-loss patients undergoing cosmetic procedures,” she said.
Dr Goel said gradual weight-loss may not necessarily result in sagging skin, which is the most common complication of sudden weight loss. Doctors say facelifts and other body contouring procedures such as breast and abdomen lifts are routinely prescribed for weight-loss patients. “These patients are not the regular, healthy ones. They are nutritionally deprived and may take longer to heal. In some patients, we perform at least three to six surgeries to give them a near-normal look,” Dr Dhir said.
The cost of the procedures may vary from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, depending on the type of clinic and number of sittings needed.
Cosmetic surgery after weight-loss is one of the fastest growing fields in plastic surgery, said Dr Ajaya Kashyap, director, cosmetology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, New Delhi. “Six years ago, such procedures were non-existent, but this year we had at least 25 patients who underwent surgeries post weight loss. When you have massive weight loss, the skin does not go back to its pre-expansion stage and hence upper and lower body lifts are routinely done to get rid of the sagging skin,” he said.
“We have post-bariatric surgery physiotherapy and massage sessions for our patients, which reduce the need for such cosmetic procedures,” said Dr Manish Motwani, bariatric surgeon, Aastha Clinic, Mumbai.
Experts say that in the West, there are surgeons who specialise in performing cosmetic procedures on people who have undergone weight loss. Doctors attributed the rise in such surgeries to the growing popularity of bariatric (weight-loss) surgery. “Usually we have seen that the elderly require such surgeries as their skin lacks elasticity. We counsel patients about the outcome of weight loss surgeries, one of which is loose skin. Many usually tuck their hanging skin inside their clothes and are comfortable with their appearance,” said Dr Ramen Goel, bariatric surgeon, Hinduja Healthcare, Mumbai.
Last year, Amit Lakhanpal, 29, a real estate developer from Airoli, underwent a cosmetic procedure to get rid of the flaps of excess skin on his arms and tummy. Lakhanpal underwent the cosmetic surgery a year after he underwent bariatric surgery at Aastha Health Clinic, Mulund. “I weighed about 220 kg and weight-loss surgery was the only option. After the weight loss, I had excess skin on my arms and tummy, which had to be removed surgically,” said Lakhanpal who is now slated to undergo another bariatric surgery to lose more weight. Lakhanpal has spent close to Rs 2 lakh on the cosmetic procedure.
Dr Chytra V Anand, cosmetologist, who runs a chain of clinics in Hyderabad and Chennai, said the mushrooming of bariatric surgery facilities has resulted in the rise in the number of people undergoing cosmetic procedures. “Sagging skin and hollowing of the face is the most common outcomes of weight-loss surgeries. I perform at least three to four procedures every week for such patients. Most of them require a procedure to reposition their belly button and many women need a breast lift procedure,” said Dr Anand, who runs Kosmoderma Skin and Laser Clinic.
(names of patients changed to protect identity)