Bragging rights?

  • Health
  • Sunday, 05 Jan 2003


ARIANA blows the 45 candles on her chocolate-flavoured birthday cake. Her birthday wish is to look younger as her dressing mirror has been showing a wrinkled her. And to make her wish come true, the socialite’s present to herself is a face-lift. 

The middle-aged woman is a typical client for cosmetic plastic surgery, says Dr Morthy, a doctor who specialises in skin care therapy. She can be pigeonholed into one group of Malaysian women who go under the knife to make themselves look young and healthy. These women are above 45 years, moneyed, and are facing the inevitable effects of ageing. 

The procedures commonly requested by these women are face-lifts and S-lifts (a more refined face lift procedure) as they want to maintain their youthful appearance. “This mature group goes for plastic surgery because they have developed eye bags and sagging skin, and they want to push back the tide of time,” Dr Morthy explains. “Their reason is quite straightforward. There is no psychological element.” 

However, there’s another group of women who opt for plastic surgery. “There is a psychological element in their desire to enhance their looks,” the skin care consultant says, adding that he has noticed the trend in the last three years. 

These women are aged from 20 to 30 and they are not satisfied with their appearance. “They do not have physical afflictions such as a cleft lip, but they are unsatisfied with their looks. They insist on surgical procedures, especially double eyelids, augmented cheekbones and sharper noses,’’ observes Dr Morthy. 

The 20-something woman is needled into surgery because her friends have repeatedly commented on the imperfection of her nose or eyes. Or, she may be suffering from severe emotional turmoil, such as abandonment by her husband. “That brings a certain lack of confidence in their appearance and makes them search for some answers. And they decide to go for a cosmetic surgical procedure, thinking that it will make them look better and they will win back their confidence to return to society,” he says. 

However, these women will never be satisfied with the results. “They will come back for more (plastic surgery) and more. It is just that they are never happy with their looks,” Dr Morthy says. 

“What they need is psychological counselling, not surgery. They need counselling on whether they need (plastic surgery) or not. If they don’t need it, they should be discouraged from going for the procedure,’’ he adds. 

Unhappiness with looks is not a male trait. That is why it is rare for men to opt for plastic surgery.  

“Men are less conscious about their looks,” Dr Morthy explains. And if a man does decide to enhance his appearance, he says, he is more likely go for liposuction rather than a face-lift. “Men are more concerned about their physical appearance rather than their facial appearance,” he notes, adding that his gender are more worried about “fat around the tummy”. 

After her plastic surgery, Ariana’s lips are sealed with the secret of her transformation. “Malaysians who go for plastic surgery are quite incognito about it,” Dr Morthy says. “For Westerners, undergoing plastic surgery is somewhat a status symbol, whereas here it is more a stigma,” he says.  

While a Californian woman may casually mention that she is going for a face-lift, an Asian will be reluctant to say the same thing. “For example, at a party, a Westerner will openly tell how much she paid for the surgery. For her to reveal that she has gone for surgery is like achieving status in society,” Dr Morthy says. But Asians, he adds, prefer people to think that their beauty is natural and not artificial or man-made. 

Malaysians are coy about undergoing plastic surgery as it is a new concept in the country. “In the West, plastic surgery has been there for more than 30 years, while in Malaysia, it has only become more common in the last 10 years or so,” he explains. “But with time, Malaysians will be more open about it and the stigma will turn into status.” 

Most of those who undergo plastic surgery deal with the stigma by lying. “Most of them (explain their fresher look) by saying they have gone for facial treatments, or are on a strict diet and exercise programme,” Dr Morthy says. “They never admit the fact that they have done plastic surgery, especially to their friends.” 

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