With 1,000 people going under the knife every year in Northern Ireland, cosmetic surgery can be a controversial issue.
While some women see a ‘nip and tuck’ as routine maintenance, for others it’s a life-changing experience.
Sixty-something sex siren Helen Mirren said recently, although she has not succumbed to surgery to enhance her face or that fabulous figure, she understood why some would, especially if it gives them confidence.
And women in Northern Ireland are at the sharp end of cosmetic surgery with breast augmentations the top operation at Belfast-based The Harley Medical Group.
Other popular body beautifying procedures include tummy tucks and breast lifts, both of which are the most common post-baby ops, accounting for 90% and 60% of The Harley Medical Group’s patients in each case.
But it’s not just yummy mummies who crave A-list looks. Chemical peels so beloved of the Hollywood set are making a fresh appearance in the most wanted anti-ageing treatments at The Harley Group, up a whopping 306%.
Fillers are also helping to bridge the age gap with a 26% increase at the clinic.
What’s more the clinic’s Mel Braham has claimed the group’s cosmetic surgery and non-surgical treatment market will grow by 20% this year, and they plan to open another eight clinics nationwide to tap into the demand.
Even the current economic doom and gloom apparently hasn’t dented our desires for physical perfection. The hugely popular Obagi Blue Peel was launched at the Belfast clinic last year and was dubbed the Recessionista's facelift by clinic staff due to its highly effective and long-lasting results.
Men are getting in on the act too with 5% more male patients booking in for ‘Boytox’ — male wrinkle relaxing injections and ‘Sweatox’, anti-sweat wrinkle relaxing injections.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Jordanstown-based Medi Cosmetic, said: “For many, cosmetic surgery is a step towards a happier life, and while this is the case for most, people must be realistic in their experiences.
“Cosmetic surgery will change how you look to an extent, but it will not change who you are inside.”
He added: “For those who choose to go through a cosmetic procedure the main benefit is that self-esteem can be restored and confidence increased.
“This is huge as self-esteem andn confidence can help people lead fuller, happier and more successful lives.”
The tummy tuck and breast lift
Gillian Lyttle, (31) is a transport manager. She has a daughter, Robyn (8) and lives in Lisburn. She says:
Two years ago I weighed 16 stones and four pounds. I’d been overweight for 10 years and had had enough of it. I was fed up losing weight a pound at a time so I joined LighterLife diet club in March 2008. By that July I had lost five stones and four pounds, but then I had excess skin which was sagging and covered with stretch marks.
It wasn’t fair. I looked okay standing up, but when I sat down there was a clump at my stomach and I felt like I did when I was overweight. I had to fold my boobs in half to get them into my bra.
I’d never considered plastic surgery before but all of sudden the idea came into my head so I did some research.
My parents had to lend me the £10,690 for a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) and breast lift (mastopexy).
At no stage did it enter my head that there might be complications with an anaesthetic, nor did I worry about the pain. I spoke to the surgeons at Medi Cosmetic in Jordanstown and was always confident there wouldn’t be any problems.
I had my op in October 2008. The first thing I thought when I woke up was ‘ouch’ as it was sore. My friend Nikki Marks came up to see me afterwards.I couldn’t see anything because of the bandages, but when I did it was unbelievable.
It has made me a happier person, a more confident person. I can wear what I like now so it’s lovely to go out and buy clothes off the peg. Before I could only get clothes from one shop and had an expensive collection of wide-fitting shoes.
I also met my current boyfriend, who I have been seeing for a year, after the surgery.
We met at work but if I hadn’t had the surgery and he had asked me out I would’ve said ‘no’. I would’ve thought he was winding me up.
My daughter knows I had surgery and now she can get her arms round me to give me a hug — before she couldn’t. I’ve lost my daughter’s weight in terms of stones.
Last year I wore a bikini on holiday for the first time in my life — it was unreal.
I would have more surgery if I could afford it. It is very addictive. I’d go for liposuction.
Now I have learned to look after my health with a healthy diet and exercise rather than eating junk food every day.”
Medi Cosmetic, Jordanstown, tel 9086 1186
The nose job
Claire Quinn (37) is a medical rep from Belfast. She lives with her husband Mark and children Olivia (6) and Rocco (7). She says:
About 16 years ago I was in a car crash and broke my nose. As it healed I was left with a lump which I didn’t mind at first but as time went on it irritated me more and more.
It was my husband who suggested I should go and get something done about it if it bothered me that much. I went for a consultation about five years ago.
My surgeon was fantastic and very honest with me. He told me that 40-50% of people aren’t happy with the results of their rhinoplasty. I could have had the full rhinoplasty and got a whole new nose but I just wanted this bump removed. I had a lot of pros and cons to consider as I have two children and it involved a general anaesthetic, but I decided to have it done.
I have quite a high pain threshold so I found it pretty easy. I was in plaster for a week or two but I was able to leave the house after 10 days even though I was pretty tired after the anaesthetic.
Not many people noticed any difference after the operation or if they did they couldn’t figure out why I looked different. The procedure was just a matter of shaving the bone; apparently it can be down under local anaesthetic these days.
I certainly wouldn’t rule out more work but you have to be sensible about it. It’s important to go to reputable surgeons and not get hooked on it. I’m never going to look like J-Lo and I’m happy with that.”
Fitzwilliam Clinic, Belfast, tel 9032 3888
The tummy tuck and liposuction
Ann Gregg (46) a homemaker is married to Kenneth. They have a son and daughter, Kenneth (18) and Carolyn (16) and live in Dundonald. She says:
I had been thinking about plastic surgery for a few years before I decided to get a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) and liposuction.
I had suffered from depression for several years following a bout of post natal depression, and my tummy was part of that. I called it my jelly belly. I hated it and felt disgusted by it. I wouldn’t let my husband Kenneth or my family see it.
This was having an affect on my relationship and myself. I was at the stage I would have cut it off myself, things got so bad.
I knew I wanted surgery, but didn’t know how we could afford it. But when I sat down and talked to Kenneth about it he knew how unhappy I was and got a personal loan to pay for the £6,500 procedure.
Shortly afterwards, I had my first visit with the Harley Medical Group and felt reassured enough to book in. Six weeks later I arrived at the clinic for the two night stay. I wanted it done in time for going on holiday to Majorca.
After my op there was very little pain, like a toothache or a headache nothing more which eased very quickly. The day Kenneth and Carolyn came to see me I stood at the top of the clinic’s stairs in my black corset, which has to be worn for six weeks. My husband just said ‘wow, I thought you would be in bed’, and I added ‘yes, but this is me, and you know what I’m like’.
My family and friends actually thought I’d sneaked in a boob job while I was in as my new flat stomach shows off my bust. I was ecstatic afterwards, and am still very happy. I made the right decision. When I went on holiday in Majorca six weeks later, I was showing off the tummy I had previously covered up.
I would recommend it to anyone. You only have one life and if something is making you unhappy and you can change it, then do it. It has affected my life in other ways too.
People who I thought were friends and had told me I could do with losing a few pounds off my tummy and that it was disgusting, stopped being my friends after I had the tummy tuck. I do think they were jealous, but I also know they weren’t real friends in the first place.
I have no plans for more surgery, although, if I did it would be a breast reduction as my double A boobs have become double Ds over time. I would not have a facelift as I think it is good to grow old gracefully.
I would never become addicted to surgery as I believe it is best for your body to look as natural as possible.”
The Harley Medical Group, tel 0870 608 0066
And how cosmetic surgery helps women after serious illness ...
Suzanne McTurk (36) is a medical rep who lives in Moira with her husband Stephen. She says:
I found out I had cancer in my left breast on August 26, 2008. That led to a single mastectomy and partial removal of my lymph nodes on September 6, 2008. It was a fast decision that had to be made, and at the same time as the mastectomy, I had an implant put in place of my left breast.
After the mastectomy I had course of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. There is a risk that implants can become misshapen from radiotherapy, but I felt that having it was important and it could be corrected later on.
Once the treatments had finished I had more reconstructive surgery in July 2009.
Fat was taken from my lower back and injected around the implant to make it softer and more natural. My right breast was uplifted at the same time to create alignment between the two.
I had thought that I might have my breasts uplifted before I was 40. I exercise a lot and I felt that they’d dropped because of that. Having breast cancer is obviously not the ideal way to have breast implants but I am happy with the result.
I actually think that they look fabulous. I don’t look like Jordan. In fact I don’t think anyone would notice that anything has been done at all.
I think having the implant done with the mastectomy was a very good thing. It gave me a lot of confidence. Even when I was undergoing the cancer treatment and lost my hair, I felt that I could look good because I had the right shape and I could dress nicely. I also think that having that shape there helped me to recover from the trauma of the mastectomy.
I’ve found my experience of breast surgery was quite manageable. After the first couple of days I didn’t have a lot of pain. It didn’t seem that invasive to me — I’ve had abdominal surgery in the past and it was much worse and took longer to get over.
The most painful part of the breast surgery was the fat being removed from my back as it made things like getting in and out of the car more difficult. I took two weeks off work after that operation.
My husband hadn’t thought I needed any work done before the cancer diagnosis but since then he’s been very supportive and impressed with the results.
I think cosmetic surgery is much more out in the open that it has been before. Women aren’t afraid to discuss it now and men get it too. People want to make themselves to look as good as possible
I feel the implant has served me very well — it gave me confidence as I was going through my treatment.”