In the plush offices of Harley Street surgeons, nipping and tucking is a fading art. Last year, just over 31,000 people underwent elective cosmetic surgery procedures in the UK, according to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. The total has jumped from pandemic lows but remains 20,000 below the high point in 2015.
Women still undergo most treatments. Despite predictions that so-called Bro-tox and other cosmetic work aimed at men would create a booming new sector, their share of the total has fallen from 10 per cent in 2009 to 7 per cent.
Global demand for aesthetic procedures remains high. But the market is shifting. Dermal fillers and wrinkle-freezing injections are cheaper and require less healing time than going under the knife. For those seeking surgery, overseas doctors charge lower rates. In countries like Turkey, patients can buy package deals that include flights, hotel stays and treatments.
The drop in UK cosmetic surgery is therefore a global anomaly. Worldwide, the cosmetic surgery and procedure market size was valued at $63bn in 2021 according to Grand View Research. It predicts that demand will more than double to $148bn by 2030. Americans undergo the highest number of surgical and non-surgical work, with over 7mn treatments carried out in 2021 according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. South Korea has the world’s highest number of surgeons.
Much of the increase is forecast to come from emerging markets such as Brazil, Mexico and India. Local demand is being boosted by patients travelling from the UK and elsewhere in search of cheaper bills. Liposuction, the most popular procedure in the world, can cost around £5,000 in the UK. In Turkey the same procedure costs half as much. Risks rise, however. Elective treatments tend not to be covered by insurance and health complications increase with travel. British plastic surgeons urge caution. Botched work is a bad look.
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