Plastic surgeons seeing an increase in repeat visitors
THESE days, one beauty fix is often not enough. Five plastic surgeons The Straits Times spoke to say they are seeing a rise in the number of repeat visitors to their clinics. Some doctors say they even have to turn away clients with unrealistic expectations.
A well-known Singaporean make-up artist made the news yesterday for suing a cosmetic surgeon after a botched nose job left a dent that took a year and a half and four operations to fix. The artist, Mr Yuan Sng, 39, had six other rhinoplasty procedures prior to visiting Dr Amaldass Dass, the husband of model Junita Simon. He has also gone under the knife for procedures including three chin augmentations, a facelift and double-eyelid surgery.
Plastic surgeon J.J. Chua, who runs a private practice at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, said repeat patients form 30 per cent of his total patient base. He turns away about one in 100 new customers. These people usually have demands that cannot be met, or want unsuitable procedures, said Dr Chua. “For example, the surgery may cause features to appear disproportionate,” he said, adding that 20 per cent of his patients eventually take up options other than what they initially ask for.
The Sloane Clinic Plastic Surgery Centre’s consultant plastic surgeon Tan Ying Chien said 40 per cent of his patients are repeat visitors. These customers are usually female working professionals in their 30s and highly educated, said Dr Tan, who is also a visiting consultant to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Singapore General Hospital. And he dismisses suggestions that such patients are addicted to surgery. “People nowadays are more well-read and knowledgeable about what kind of cosmetic procedures are available. They are not people who are addicted to plastic surgery,” he said.
Dr Marco Faria-Correa, a plastic surgeon at Gleneagles Medical Centre, said that there could be several reasons why someone would undergo multiple cosmetic enhancements. The client could be highly satisfied after a successful procedure, prompting him to follow up with more. Or the results of the operation could be different from what he had envisioned, meaning that he undergoes additional surgery to correct it.
Mr Sng, for one, has not ruled out more cosmetic enhancements. “Yes, of course I will still go for plastic surgery. I am not scared if it is done by a qualified professional,” he said. He is taking Dr Dass to court for fraudulent misrepresentation in addition to gross negligence and breach of duty of care. He claimed that Dr Dass gave the impression that he was qualified to perform the operation when he was in fact not registered with the Singapore Medical Council as a specialist in plastic surgery.
Guidelines from the council state that only plastic surgeons and ear, nose and throat surgeons are allowed to perform rhinoplasty, or plastic surgery on the nose. Those who flout the guidelines could be liable for disciplinary action by the council.
Rhinoplasty is one of the most difficult procedures in cosmetic surgery, said plastic surgeon Andrew Khoo, who runs a practice at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre. The nose is made up of many types of tissue – bone, cartilage, skin and fat – all in one small area. Designing the correct implant to fit the patient’s nose shape and inserting it properly can be complex as well, he said.
Plastic surgeons were surprised a procedure that would normally have taken about half an hour stretched to six hours in the case of Mr Sng’s nose job. Mr Sng said that all his other cosmetic procedures had been “very simple”. “There were no complications, just in and out of the operating theatre. It was so easy. That is why I was willing to go under the knife so many times.” He calls plastic surgery an “instant confidence booster”. “I am in the beauty business and people expect me to look good all the time. I am known in the industry for being good-looking. So if I can look better, why not?”
Local celebrity blogger Xiaxue agreed with the mindset. “I want to improve what I don’t like,” said the 26-year-old who has gone for a nose job and double-eyelid surgery, as well as Botox and lip fillers. Psychiatrist Adrian Wang said that plastic surgery no longer carries a stigma as it is more common and socially acceptable now. “Plastic surgery has become almost a reflection of status and spending power. It’s part of a shopping list – new shoes, check. New bag, check. New nose, check.”
But the doctor at Gleneagles Medical Centre said that he has seen about a 10 per cent increase over the last two years in patients who are grappling with body image issues. “Those who seek plastic surgery to enhance their body image could be very perfectionistic and exacting individuals who need to satisfy an internal ideal of what their physical appearance should be,” he added. He cautions that such individuals may be easily anxious or have low self-esteem.