Elective plastic surgery has been a taboo topic in Africa for a long time. The pictures associated with those who have undergone plastic surgery are far from inspiring.
The look is never natural, leaning towards the obscene and most times hardly an improvement on the original. There are also rampant stories of people looking worse after plastic surgery or even dying while undergoing it.
However, is there another side to plastic surgery? Are there people who have gone through it and been happy and even proud of their new looks?
Colette, a 50-year old business woman had hated her nose for a long time. In her mind, it was too flared and attracted a lot of attention, overshadowing her other “better” features. When she turned 45 she decided to have rhinoplasty surgery in South Africa, after a lot of research.
Five years on, she is still happy with the results and says, “The only way anyone knows what I did is if they look at my old pictures.” She shows me a few old pictures from before the surgery and in all of them she is posing looking sideways. Now all her pictures have her staring straight into the camera.
Valentis Clinic in Nairobi is making it possible for Kenyans to have elective plastic surgery locally. Ran by Don Othoro and his partner Tilman Stasch, the clinic offers a variety of procedures ranging from non-invasive cosmetic procedures like Botox and Restylane fillers to breast lifts and liposuction.
Dr Tilman, the surgeon in the practice, tells me the prices are similar to what is charged in Europe due to high theatre costs. Depending on the procedure, the prices range from Ksh250,000 ($2,738) to Ksh500,000 ($5,476).
The advantage of having the surgery done locally is having your family close by to help you during recovery. He stresses the need for proper research, not only about the procedure, but about the doctor performing the surgery.
“There are places in the world that offer ‘discount’ plastic surgery but often you get a botched job. African skin also scars easily and the person doing the work needs to know how to deal with it,” said Dr Tilman.
I ask Colette about the social implication of her actions; her wide nose is seen as a typical African feature. Is she trying to erase that?
She takes some time to think about it. “I am still African, just with a smaller nose. The only way I could erase that is by changing the colour of my skin, which I have no interest in doing,” she says.
Dr Othoro, a cosmetic dermatologist, tells me they get many inquiries about skin bleaching. He is clear about this procedure. “We don’t do that here.”
His view of medicine is that people need to be whole in every aspect of their lives, from mental to physical. As such, before any surgery, clients who need to lose some weight are put on a diet and exercise regimen that helps them tone down and hopefully adopt healthy behaviour to carry them post-surgery.
Ageing is seen as a blessing, but ironically very few people want to look old. A $162 billion industry, according to BCC, has sprouted to help you look younger. Products targeted mainly at older women promise to help them stave off the physical signs of ageing.
I ask Dr Othoro about using cosmetic enhancements to look younger. He says he tries to make people look good for their age. His goal is to have a 40-year-old look like a “good 40” versus looking like a 20-year-old.
I finish off my research by talking to Colette and some of her friends. One woman who did not want to be named had what she calls a “mommy makeover” after having the last of her 4 children.
“I wanted to feel good about myself and not look like I had four children,” she says. Her makeover included losing 20kgs, having a breast augmentation, a tummy tuck and liposuction on her thighs.
She tells me she works hard to maintain her new body by working out four times a week. “I made an investment in myself and I plan on taking care of it. I am worth way more than any house or car and treat myself as such,” she said.