Although common in much of the western world, plastic surgery is something that is seen as an almost taboo subject by many. Nearly everyone has seen the effects of the surgeries either through celebrities who go under the knife, or popular ‘before and after photos’, however those who actually elect to have the surgeries performed are relatively few and far between.
Perhaps it is a result of the high cost, which is generally not covered by insurance, or just the stigma surrounding the practice of “enhancing” one’s body for vanity reasons, but the end result is the same. Most people choose not to be too open about having the surgeries performed.
This, however, is not true everywhere in the world. Brazilian culture has grown to be very open about plastic surgeries, and is a culture that believes everyone has the right to look beautiful. To better understand this Brazilian mindset, one must look at the history of the culture, what exactly is available, and the impact it could have going forward.
Brazilian clinics began giving out free plastic surgery procedures since 1997, opening the market to the poor and impoverished across the nation. The discounted or free surgeries were seen as a way to improve the lives of people throughout the country in a manner similar to a psychiatrist.
Many will agree that removing wrinkles is a minor task, but the effect that it can have on the patient is very important. People feel better about themselves when they are looking their best. For that reason, surgeons are willing to perform the surgeries as they believe they are truly improving the lives of the low income earners.
It is a culture that has asked the question as to why only the rich should be able to look beautiful. As there is not a true answer to that question, surgeons have now performed over 14,000 completely free procedures since 1997. Furthermore, since that time, over 200 clinics have popped up in Brazil offering either free or discounted rates.
Finally, it is not only the poor that have an interest in plastic surgery, as more than 11.5 million surgeries are done every year in Brazil. These come from not only the wealthy Brazilians, but also from international tourists seeking both affordable and high quality procedures.
Even still, the actual options for the poor are somewhat limited. Most of the clinics offering services only do so on a few days out of the year, leaving many poor Brazilians to spend months on a waiting list. Many of these surgeries are not the typical enhancements done by celebrities and socialites, but rather ones to subtly improve what some would consider defects to the human form.
One such procedure involves facial hair removal through the use of lasers. Women who experience unusual growth have time and time again explained their gratitude for the low cost procedures and the improved self-esteem they experience. Other surgeries for the poor include chemical peels, anti-cellulite treatments, and the use of Botox to reduce wrinkles.
Outsiders worry about the effect plastic surgery will have on the people of Brazil. The notion of beauty is forever changing and many doctors are concerned that too many people are electing to have too many optional surgeries.
Plastic surgeries, like any surgery, pose risks for the patients. In Brazil, plastic surgeries are being too much of the norm as people do not see them as a regular surgery, but rather as part of a beautification process. The poor of any society will often long to become part of the middle or upper class, but the cost of doing so may be too much.
Doctors outside of Brazil have agreed with the potential psychological benefits of having the procedures, but many feel that a line must be drawn in terms of what is too much. Recently, the Brazilian government has debated if breast reconstruction should be covered by the national healthcare system for cancer patients.
National healthcare already covers some plastic surgery procedures including gastroplasties and work to fix serious deformities. In a country that still faces threats from diseases including tuberculosis and dengue, many wonder if the priorities of the Brazilian people are not in line with the real concerns of the day.
Brazilian doctors, including Dr. Nelson Rosas, who is involved with the Brazilian Society of Aesthetic Medicine, have defended the culture to outsiders once again enforcing the benefits of the surgery; however the ideas do not seem to be spreading outside of Brazil.
Nevertheless, the low cost of the surgeries coupled with the experience and quality of the doctors has not stopped those throughout the world from traveling to Brazil with the sole intention of undergoing a beautification of their own.
Considering the comparative cost of surgical treatments in London, as well as the rest of Europe and North America, it is not likely that this practice will cease any time soon.
Alisha Webb is British writer working out of Barcelona, Spain. She holds an MA in Creative Writing. Her poetry and short-fiction have been published extensively across the world. She is a keen traveler, reader, and moviegoer.