Modern ‘standards of beauty’ have become increasingly rigid—and has people turning to cosmetic surgery in order to achieve the ‘ideal’ look. From this massive demand sprang forth an alarming number of beauty parlours and independent cosmetic surgery outlets that offer invasive cosmetic procedures.

This article places the magnifying glass onto the booming cosmetic surgery industry that has been allowed to grow—but, due to the lack of proper regulatory mechanisms in place, has since raised safety concerns among public and the healthcare community.

14 million Chinese expected to have cosmetic surgery this year

Current estimates by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) reported that more than 21 million cosmetic procedures were done worldwide in 2015 alone. Out of these, South Korea lays claim to over 1 million procedures, third to only the United States (4 million) and Brazil (2 million)1.

South Korea has become almost synonymous with the term ‘cosmetic surgery’. The country is besieged by medical tourists seeking face lifts, eyelid surgery and the like. Many claims that procedures cost less in South Korea, and that their surgeons simply ‘do it better’2.

Says a Singaporean citizen who wishes to remain anonymous, “I didn’t even consider surgery in Singapore because it’s expensive and the surgeons here are not as skilled as the ones in Seoul2.”

However, getting cosmetic surgery in South Korea, or any hospital-based location can be very costly and may incur long waiting times. Several independent establishments offering cosmetic procedures have become popular in recent years—but, many are not as they appear. 

Cosmetic surgery industry likened to the ‘wild wild west’

One example is a strange loophole in the law in New South Wales (NSW), Australia which allows those with just a basic medical degree to perform cosmetic procedures without formal specialisation in plastic surgery. An exposé on these outlets in Sydney has revealed several dangerous practices such as Botox being administered by nurses with minimal doctor supervision and the unqualified use of anaesthesia3.

Bizarrely, a general practitioner-turned-operator of a rogue beauty outlet by the name of Les Blackstock has been openly advocating for patients to frequent unlicensed establishments for procedures. Blackstock claims that current laws that mandate licensing to perform breast augmentation procedures do not enhance patient safety. He also claims to be working towards bringing down implant costs3.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has voiced his concern on behalf of the community and is working towards prosecuting clinics that have been flouting regulations3.

The death of an Australian citizen who sought cosmetic surgery in a Malaysian clinic in 2014 highlights the dangers of operating independently. Thirty-one-year-old Leigh Aiple underwent an extensive battery of procedures—e.g. excess skin removal from his chest, a tummy tuck, liposuction, a thigh lift, lip filler, a chin tuck and upper eye lifts—in just two surgery sessions at the Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur4.

Mr Aiple was given leave to discharge just five days after his procedures. He was pronounced dead less than 24 hours after landing in Melbourne, Australia. A coroner’s report revealed the cause of death to be a blood clot in his lungs4.

According to a statement released by Seoul Metro (South Korea) on 28 Nov 28, the operator will impose a total ban on plastic surgery advertising when making contracts with advertising agencies from now on, while enforcing a stricter review of advertisements by launching a new review board. Photo credit: AFP/The Straits Times
According to a statement released by Seoul Metro (South Korea) on 28 Nov 28, the operator will impose a total ban on plastic surgery advertising when making contracts with advertising agencies from now on, while enforcing a stricter review of advertisements by launching a new review board. Photo credit: AFP/The Straits Times

Do not cut corners when it comes to cosmetic procedures

Multidisciplinary care, which is part and parcel of receiving treatment in a hospital, enables patients’ needs to be looked after adequately, and forms a ‘safety net’ of sorts. Nevertheless, the lure of cheap procedures may prove to be irresistible for many. Hong Kong’s notorious beauty procedure industry is still up and running despite mishaps that resulted on one death and three serious injuries5.

“Despite all the scandals, women continue to flock to unethical beauty vendors and untrained doctors for bogus and substandard beauty treatments,” comments Dr Feng Chi-shun, a medical commentator in Hong Kong. Although tighter regulations in the country have been proposed, implementation is predicted to take years5.

Indeed, it is difficult to combat years of subliminal messages that promote the ‘perfect body’. In recognition of the media’s role in pushing the masses towards plastic surgery, South Korea has since announced that advertisements for such procedures will be banned in all metro stations beginning from 2022.

Cosmetic surgery entails high risk procedures that are best done in a well-controlled and safe environment. Bear in mind, cutting corners are dangerous—and it comes with severe consequences. MIMS

Read more:
Malaysia cracks down on growing ozone therapy trend in local beauty industry
Disputes over the regulations on medical beauty services in Hong Kong
Malaysian cosmetic surgeon suspended for sleeping during liposuction procedure

Sources:
1. https://www.isaps.org/Media/Default/global-statistics/2016%20ISAPS%20Results.pdf
2. http://www.herworldplus.com/beauty/cosmetic-surgery-precautions-korean-beauty-trends-singapore-bad-botched-surgery-overseas
3. https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/cosmetic-surgery-rogue-operators-health-minister-calls-for-investigation/news-story/a5297252f77fd4936cfe358b7140c663
4. http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/health-problems/coroners-warning-after-cosmetic-surgery-death/news-story/8c0dcc551cfc9afbe64f5169d36cceba
5. http://www.todayonline.com/world/despite-deaths-still-no-action-hong-kong-beauty-industry
6. http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/2122116/south-korea-ban-plastic-surgery-ads-capitals-metro-2022