When 18-year-old Mumbaikar Megha Kirloskar made it to the college of her choice at Delhi University in July, she treated herself to—no, not a new dress, or a bag or shoes, but a sexy pout and dark, arched eyebrows. “I was moving to a new city, going to meet new people, so it seemed like a good time to enhance my look,” she says. And all it took was Rs 20,000, which her father forked out, and a short trip to the clinic of Rashmi Shetty, the go-to cosmetologist for Mumbai’s young and hip. “Along with an eyebrow lift, Dr Shetty suggested I get my lips plumped too. I never thought of myself as pretty before, but I do feel I look quite attractive now,” says Kirloskar, who enjoys a chat about her new lips but wouldn’t pose for a photograph.
Beauty, it would seem, lies now not just with the beholder, but can be moulded to suit the beholden—and for a new generation, beautiful is a template that draws on ‘perfect’ faces plastered on fashion magazine covers, on television and in movies. And getting the star looks they have long worshipped doesn’t seem hard anymore, with cosmetic clinics mushrooming in every neighbourhood, small towns and big, openly wooing the young. Bee-stung lips, dramatic eyes, new dimples, even contoured butts are nearly as commonplace as over-the-counter medicines, with students and young professionals lining up for their share of customised beauty. As leading Cannes-based plastic surgeon Herve Raspaldo puts it, “Among the younger lot, the shift is towards beautification, rather than rejuvenation, and India is one of the biggest markets for correction surgery procedures.”
Fold down the middle A woman undergoes ‘Aryan eyelid’ surgery in Imphal, Manipur. (Photograph by BulluRaj)
In Bangalore, cosmetologist Chytra V. Anand has seen a 30 per cent jump in her student clientele in the last year. She offers a special ‘student discount’ at Kosmoderma, her skin and laser clinic. “April onwards, we get a lot of students who are preparing to go to college, so we also offer EMI options to help them pay for procedures,” says Anand. Non-surgical nose contouring, skin lightening, chemical peels, and breast augmentation are popular. “The trend is changing; today we have more clients coming in for beautification of teeth and gum contouring than medical issues like a root canal or cavity filling,” says aesthetic dentist Karishma Jaradi of Dentzz Dental Care Centre, Mumbai, who sees a lot of young clients during the wedding season or in preparation for a special occasion or festival. Like 23-year-old Mumbai-based advertising executive Swapna Kulkarni who, with a new job in hand, wanted to glam up just a little. “Everyone says I have a nice smile, but I wanted it to look flawless because my job involves regularly meeting clients. So I opted for a smile makeover. It got me whiter, more symmetrical teeth in three sittings,” says Swapna. She is, however, more careful about going under the knife, fearing side effects she has known friends to suffer.
Saurabh Tripathi, an 18-year-old from the hills of Uttarakhand who has just joined a premier Mumbai college, has no such qualms. “I have always been embarrassed about my appearance and crooked nose. I used be teased in school and I felt very lonely and under-confident,” he discloses. So when he saw some advertisements in the paper about cosmetic procedures, he decided to get a nose job and managed to convince his parents to shell out Rs 20,000 for it. “It’s been worth the money,” he declares, adding that he plans to return to the clinic for a touch-up when needed. Dr Shetty comes across hordes of students like Saurabh who are looking to establish “a new identity” at a transition point in their lives, and non-surgical fillers help them “look and feel better”. “I receive a lot under-age clients (under 18 years) hoping to get rid of chubby cheeks, double chins, acne, and I don’t treat them unless they are accompanied by their parents,” she says.
No doubt there is greater acceptability of cosmetic treatments—age no bar. A trend helped in no small part by a larger number of young people becoming independent and savvy enough to make their own decisions. For those flush with disposable incomes, cosmetic surgeries are becoming an easy, quickfix option for a variety of issues: Body image niggles? Check. Low self-esteem? Check. Aspirations of superstar-dom? Check. This is a generation extremely sure of what they want—and they view the heavy price tag that comes with cosmetic forays as just good investment, feels Sunil Choudhary, head of Plastic Surgery, Max Hospitals. “I call this the ‘Bollywood effect’. What the younger lot is looking for is subtleness and finesse surgeries. Even so, it is important to tell them that getting a cosmetic treatment won’t assure them of getting a good partner or landing a good job, which is often what their expectation is,” he says. A few of his clients, in fact, suffer from body dysmorphic disorder, where clients as young as 16 can be excessively concerned with a perceived physical defect. “These are the clients I turn away because they need help and are impossible to please.”
Out, damned spot Mole correction procedure at Dr Geeta Gera’s clinic in Indirapuram, Ghaziabad. (Photograph by Narendra Bisht)
That winning smile In Mumbai, Swapna Kulkarni is pleased with her ‘smile makeover’. (Photograph by Amit Haralkar)
“I know how important it is to look good,” says Swapna, echoing a sentiment common among the young. “It’s good to look presentable, but why not take it a step further and look your best?” she says. But beyond all the skin-deep beauty talk, the increasing attachment with and resorting to cosmetic cures does suggest a higher sense of insecurity. Is there way too much peer pressure and self-doubt for this increasingly self-conscious generation to handle? Priya, 21, a law student based in Noida, who would rather not reveal her last name because her parents and boyfriend still don’t know about her breast augmentation surgery, feels it has changed her life. “I had sagging breasts and by the time I got to college, I could not wear the kind of clothes I wanted. I was disturbed, and just not comfortable in my skin. So I did a lot of research on breast augmentation online, found a clinic near my house, and got the surgery done with the support of my best friend and financial help from my sister-in-law,” Priya says, in between giggles about how she loves to shop for bigger bras.
“Today, youngsters are looking for perfection, and their need for cosmetic treatments is just a reflection of how they look at themselves. Very often, it’s just a fixation, and before advising any treatment, we need to examine whether they have a body image disorder,” warns psychologist Dr Samir Malhotra, Max Hospitals. “Of late, parents visit me with their 12-year-old kids, worried about scars and acne, and I tell them that this is hardly the time they should worry about their skin and hair and looks,” says an exasperated Geeta Gera, a dermatologist based in Indirapuram, Ghaziabad. “Youngsters are way too conscious today, and it’s almost as though their entire confidence is based on how they look,” Dr Gera adds.
“Most of the time, I find cosmetic surgery can actually help depressed patients, making them more emotionally stable and confident,” says Ashutosh Mishra, who runs the La Belle Cosmetic Surgery Clinic in Noida. Hamsa B, 25, an MBA student in Bangalore whose parents are on the hunt for a groom, talks of a new self-assurance after her acne-removal. “I do feel more positive about finding a partner and also about facing interviews after I finish my course,” she says.
Being confident in one’s own skin, it would seem, is just a nip ’n tuck away.
Being busty comes at a price (The Eyes of the Beholden, Sep 10): international retail major Marks & Spencer has slapped a £2 surcharge on bra sizes from 30DD to 42G.
Lack of self esteem is root cause of cosmetic surgery. Those who are confident of their abilities do not need cructhes of "manufactured beauty". All surgery is vain if the top floor is vacant!
Any amount of surgery cannot bring about aura due to education and high thinking.
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