Mecca of Plastic Surgery

Within the United States (with the exception of rural communities) the rate of cosmetic surgery procedures is high.  In 2005, more than 10 million plastic surgeries were completed.  This number includes minimally invasive treatments like Botox injections and laser hair removal.


According to the report, America’s five most common cosmetic surgeries in 2005 were:

  1. Liposuction:  323,605
  2. Nose reshaping:  298,413
  3. Breast augmentation:  291,350
  4. Eyelid surgery:  230,697
  5. Tummy tuck:  134,746


Current American society has a very specific vision of what constitutes beauty and is highly sensitive to physical traits.  Social pressure from the media and advertising, as well as personal perceptions created by these two influences are the main reasons people choose to go under the knife.  According to WebMD even sub ethnic groups within the United States look to plastic surgery to alter specific physical traits.


The three most commonly requested cosmetic surgeries varied by ethnic group:

  • Blacks:  Nose reshaping, liposuction and breast reduction
  • Asian Americans:  Nose reshaping, eyelid surgery and breast augmentation
  • Hispanics:  Breast augmentation, liposuction and nose reshaping


In our globalized society, it is difficult to determine if the current “need” for plastic surgery is cultural or if it is based on the media’s interpretation of the current meaning of physical beauty. Within the past few years foreigners have turned to Lebanon for plastic surgery.  In 2010 there was a 25% increase in foreigners traveling to Lebanon for plastic surgery. One doctor in Beirut El Haj says that her clients come mainly from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, the United States and some from Europe.  Demand has definitely been increasing. People want to look like the stars they admire — they want the nose, or the cheeks, or the teeth of certain celebrities. They want to look good.  Some news sources like The Daily Star are even calling Beirut a global leader in surgical embellishment – on par with or beating Brasilia and Miami.


According to Lebanon Now, the women in Lebanon who undergo plastic surgery do so to “achieve a Western standard of beauty (that) can be viewed as part of a phenomenon called the ‘beauty myth’”. (Lebanon Now)  Naomi Wolf, who has written a book on the topic, states that the ideas of beauty in Lebanon seem to be “tall, underweight-yet-full-breasted figure with flawless skin and delicately pointed nose” like Haifa Wehbe.  Current estimates are that 1.5 million cosmetic surgeries are performed in Lebanon every year.  Even local artist, Tagreed Darghouth, creates works based on Beirut’s love-affair with plastic surgery.  She states “Lebanese women hate [their] own noses and hips and breasts, because they don’t match the new [Western] standards of beauty.” (Lebanon Now)


            These Lebanese women, like American women, are not in the majority, even though the numbers of plastic surgery in both countries is rising rapidly. Within an increasing global market, more ideals of beauty are exchanged, creating more pressure on women to live up to these expectations.  Reem is a stunningly tall, thin and glamorous woman in her mid-twenties who lives in Beirut.  Like other Lebanese women, she explains how her attitude about her body is driven by these expectations.  She told Lebanon Now that she cannot go out without fixing herself up because “I don’t feel good in my skin if I do not.”  She goes to a hairdresser two hours a week, a beauty salon six hours a week, and shops for clothes three days a week, using up most of her money.  Reem has been on crash diets and had a rhinoplasty, which her father paid for as a gift, to get rid of a small bump on her nose.  She is also thinking of getting a tummy tuck when she finishes having children and a breast surgery if it becomes “necessary.”  This mindset is not far removed from that of many American women, whose perceptions of beauty are being driven so far by social pressures that they resort to surgical alterations of their bodies.








8 thoughts on “Mecca of Plastic Surgery

  1. Self-doubt and physical imperfections have plagued humans for a rather long time and I would venture to guess they will continue to do so for many many years.

    Just the topic of big noses has inspired us in many ways – none very good.

    Rostand’s play, “Cyrano de Bergerac” centers on a brilliant man who could have had any woman he wanted if not for his large nose and his insecurity with it:

    Oscar Wilde wrote the following:
    “There is nothing so difficult to marry as a large nose.”

    A picture from the nose job scene in Spaceballs:

    And a clip from Seinfeld where Kramer’s candor insults everybody but the person with the large nose:

    What is interesting are the differences cultures place on certain attributes or physical traits that people in other cultures just plain don’t even notice. You can see exactly how it works the way Katie broke down common surgeries by ethnicity.

  2. It’s interesting that people are traveling to Lebanon to receive plastic surgery? It the reason because it is cheaper? You would think that the money it takes to travel to Lebanon would not be worth the cost of a cheaper surgery if that is the case? It also seems a bit scary to travel to a foreign country and get a surgery that’s importance is so imperative. I know I honestly would not travel to another country where regulations and things might be different and not up to the standards of what I would want before receiving a surgery.

    1. Cosmetic tourists come to Lebanon because they can avoid judgment from their friends and family. Elias Chammas, a doctor who heads the Hazmieh International Medical Centre, a plastic surgery facility just outside of Beirut, said patients come to him from abroad because they want to keep their surgeries a secret. A woman who comes from the ultra-conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for instance, could easily get plastic surgery in Lebanon and tell her friends she was on vacation, he said.

  3. Personally, I think plastic surgery can be overrated no matter which country. I think it is very extreme for people to travel so far for beauty. People these days are willing to do anything for the price of beauty. Many people travel outside of the country for surgery because of price. It amazing how even Lebanese women share similar fears about their body just like American women. Its amazing to me that no matter what culture a woman is in they still share these thoughts and images of the perfect woman.

  4. I agree with you Kelcie, I find it crazy that women all over the world have some of the same insecurities. In a weird way I find this kind of positive in that we are always told that Middle Eastern people and cultures are so vastly different from American ones when in reality they struggle with the same day to day problems that American women and men have. Interesting to think about.

  5. Does it say why women travel to Lebanon for plastic surgery? With all the plastic surgery going on these days it is hard for people to define what real beauty is. People are so concerned what people will think of them and are worried that they aren’t beautiful enough. This concept is a global problem although we often do not think of it as one. I think it is sad that girls and women grow up comparing themselves to models and actresses that often are photo shopped. This article really shows the depth of the issue, that people across the world to become “more beautiful”. it is eye opening to show that this is a struggle everywhere, even in countries where people have to be concerned about daily violence.

  6. I would like to argue that what many people deem as physical “flaws” should not cause insecurity, however one should embrace it. The reason many women from all over the world have the same insecurities regarding their bodies is because the media perpetuates this wildly skewed view of what the physical manifestation of beauty is. Beauty is nothing more than who a person is, and a person is not their body. The physical is just a matter of chance/ luck.

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