Mostly uncertified cosmetic centres a huge draw in Iraq
Baghdad - Samar Ahmad wasn’t happy with her new look after a cosmetic procedure to increase the volume of her lips at one of Baghdad’s numerous aesthetic centres.
“It does not resemble the voluptuous mouth of American actress Angelina Jolie. I will not hesitate to do it again and again until I get the shape I want,” said Ahmad, an avid user of Botox and fillers and who has already had a nose job.
The 43-year-old government employee said she embarked on a “beautification” spree despite the opposition of her husband, who, however, is an admirer of Lebanese celebrities Haifa Wehbe and Nancy Ajram, who are reputed to have gone under the knife numerous times.
“It is not about pleasing my husband, as much as gaining self-confidence and self-esteem. I feel better about myself especially as I grow older,” Ahmad said.
Cosmetic surgeries are in full swing in Baghdad, beauty salons are thriving and surgeons who have spent years performing reconstructive surgery to repair terrible disfigurements caused by war are trying to meet a surge in demand for elective cosmetic procedures.
Plastic surgeon Dr Ali Saadi warned against “the scary” rampant phenomenon that has led to the mushrooming of unqualified and uncertified cosmetic surgery centres that caused more harm than beauty.
“Most beauty salons are unreliable and do not abide by the criteria set by the Health Ministry and the order of physicians. They are money-makers seeking to drain the pockets of their clients regardless of the outcome of the surgery,” Saadi said.
Saadi said some physicians obtained licences for unqualified beauty salons in return for bribes.
“The surge in demand for cosmetic procedures is the main reason behind the phenomenal outspread of beauty centres. Iraqis are taking advantage of the relative improvement in security after 2007 to enhance their looks,” he said.
The trend has been fuelled by the arrival of satellite television, which, since 2003, has beamed into Iraqi living rooms the glamorous Arab and international celebrities who are known to be regular clients of cosmetic surgeons.
The results aren’t always what the patient expected, however. Accidents and mistakes have occurred in uncertified and poorly equipped centres, causing deformities and health problems.
Saadi said his clients include men, women and young girls who do not really need cosmetic enhancement.
“Botox and fillers are very popular among young university students who seek to augment their lips or certain spots of their face to look more attractive and fresh. Whereas, facelifts and fat reduction through liposuction are increasingly in demand among women of a certain age,” Saadi noted.
The most popular operation among all age brackets and both genders is rhinoplasty — the reshaping of the nose — family physician Dr Ahmad al-Radini said.
He said that a typical nose job, involving internal intervention to straighten cartilage and external beautification, charges range $1,500- $2,500. Liposuction can cost up to $4,000. Charges for fillers and Botox, respectively, are $150-$200 and $200- $250 per injection, depending on materials used.
“Unfortunately, there are dozens of centres, operating without any control, where serious medical mistakes and irreversible deformities have been committed because the material used is not original or expired,” Radini said, adding that the government should establish specialised institutes to form and train personnel to meet the increasing demand for cosmetic procedures.
There is no official survey of cosmetic centres in Iraq, which have been a booming business since 2003. A source at the Ministry of Health said cosmetic procedures are performed in more than 500 centres, of which only 50 are certified.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said inspection committees are bribed or pressured by influential parties financing unlicensed centres to give a positive assessment of their performance.
Plastic surgery in Iraq is turning into a collective obsession, reflecting openness in the conservative Iraqi society despite the prevailing religious rhetoric.
At the crowded Shaimaa’ Beauty centre in Baghdad’s al-Mansoor neighbourhood, 21-year-old Lama Aziz looked out of place. She has a beautiful face and slim body, which do not require any obvious improvement.
“I desire to have a ‘Texas jawline,’ which I consider as a mark of beauty,” she said. “It is true people admire my looks but the touches I seek improve my beauty and femininity.”
Saadi said the craze for cosmetic operations is a welcome change from treating the casualties of war and terrorism. He said Iraqi surgeons acquired unparalleled experience in fixing people, making conventional cosmetic operations a relatively easy task.