Daniel Jackson

Why are ordinary British women blowing their savings on gruesome facelifts?

A ‘jobless mother of four’ from Cumbria has jetted off to Budapest for another round of cosmetic surgery. Andrea Dalzell has been saving child benefit money since 2003 for a string of procedures including face and eyebrow lifts, botox injections and a ‘designer vagina’.

At that price the question on my lips is ‘designed by whom?’ On Facebook the 48-year-old grandmother said her latest trip to Budapest (for a cheek and brow lift) cost £3,500. The package included flights, food and accommodation.

Without wishing to cast aspersions on her particular surgeon, at that price there’s a huge danger of corners being cut, so to speak. ‘Package surgery’ is still a relatively new phenomenon. The deals are targeted at web users who search for terms like ‘budget plastic surgery’ or ‘affordable boob job’.

In the last few years the middle classes have discovered low-end supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl. But surgery is different. On the whole, people on reasonable incomes wouldn’t look for a budget deal when it comes to deciding who’s going to cut open their faces.

These ads are targeted at a very specific working-class demographic. They’re looking for people for whom cosmetic surgery isn’t just about looking good. It’s also about showing you can afford the procedures in the first place. It’s a status symbol – if the results are good.

That’s a big ‘if’, even for people with unlimited amounts of cash to spend. Lifestyle magazines and websites love nothing better than documenting the plastic surgery disasters of celebrities. (Sample verdict from OK: ‘Tara Reid got a terrible boob job and liposuction in 2004, which resulted in saggy boobs and a ripply stomach. She got it all fixed in 2006, but those breasts still look kinda lop-sided to us!’)

It’s a even bigger ‘if’ when your budget is severely limited. Here’s the Mirror quoting 61-year-old ‘hairdresser and mum-of-one’ Cheryl Faunch from Colchester, who had a face, neck and upper-eye lift:

I had a local anaesthetic so I can remember some of the operation, and I was awake for the liposuction on my jowls, and everything seemed fine … On my last day I had my stitches out, but when I got home I noticed some stitches had been missed.

I went to see my dentist, who took them out free of charge. My face was bruised and swollen for six weeks, but when it went down my neck skin and jowls were still loose.

Too much had been taken off one eyebag, and not enough off the other. When you do a face-lift, you’re supposed to lift the muscles underneath and the skin, but he’d only lifted the skin.

Was Cheryl really surprised it went wrong? Her supposedly delicate surgery took place in Poland and cost £3,200. If that’s the deal, then satisfaction is not guaranteed. Yet it’s a lot of money for people, mostly women, who have to save up for it (and sometimes do so secretly, against the advice of friends and family).

The fad for cosmetic surgery in low-income communities is disastrous – the risks are idiotic given that you can’t get your old face back if surgery has been badly botched. But it’s also a reminder that the pressure to look good by giving nature a helping hand has never been greater, thanks in large part to mobile phones. And it starts young: teenage girls in deprived areas are quite happy to sport the much-mocked ‘trout pout’, because it shows they can afford botox.

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There’s not much we can do about that. Deploring ‘narcissism’ won’t make any difference. We could introduce tougher regulations for cometic surgeons in Britain, but there’s no law against visiting Eastern Europe for a bargain-basement facelift. Perhaps the best course of action is to name and shame travel agents offering ‘package surgery’. They certainly deserve it.


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