Plastic Surgery: Chic Plastique in Europe

Part five!

We’ve talked about South Korea, Latin America, and the US. This week, I’m tackling something a little bigger: Europe.

I know it seems overwhelming because it’s an entire continent spanning thousands of years of diverse culture and history. But altogether it wasn’t as challenging as I thought.

While South Korea may have come in first place, Greece and Italy were close competitors. They came in second and third, having very similar proportions of types of plastic surgery performed. Most were non-invasive skin and hair procedures, the rest a majority of breast, face, and fat surgeries. In 2011, a little over 142,000 procedures were performed total. Greece has a population of 11 million, so that comes out to 1 in 79 people having work done.

What’s most interesting is that Greece came in second during a severe economic crisis. Medical spending by the government drastically declined and hospital budgets were cut by 40 percent. So with all of these cuts in medical expenses, how exactly did the country manage to rise to second place?

Dr. Athanasios Athanasiou, a Greek cosmetic surgeon who was trained in the US, believes it’s because Greeks have a desire to be told they still look good, even when times are tough. A large part of Greek history and culture revolves around beauty, and humans are vain creatures, so the possibility isn’t that far off. It would seem that even though 35 percent of Greeks are uninsured, vanity still reins supreme.  Quick fun fact: breast surgeries are incredibly popular among invasive surgeries in Greece, and there were 592 penis enlargements in 2010.  That’s ten times the number of enlargements from other top countries.

But Matthew Josafat, a popular Greek psychiatrist, is quick to add that he fears the current financial situation could force women back into their roles as housewives. In the past, women’s social value was their beauty and ability to have children. The idea of women as independent persons hasn’t quite taken hold in Greece like it has in other parts of the world, and Josafat fears that lack of job opportunities could reverse the progress they’ve made.

Then there’s Italy, who came in third. Apparently, Botox and liposuction are the most popular procedures in the country of love. While they haven’t had the same financial hiccups as Greece, it seems that they’re nearly as passionate about snipping and injecting.

Vogue Italia has pointed out that Italian stars Alba Parietti and Valeria Marini have both admitted to having work done. Still, there are still other media sensations that are suspected of going under the knife, like Patty Pravo and Ornella Vanoni.

-2But of all the Italian stars, perhaps the most striking is Ornella Muti. She’s 58 but looks like she could be 25. Cosmetic surgery is obviously involved in her appearance. There is NO other possibility. The woman is positively stunning and almost 60 years old. It’s either surgery or magic.



And Italy has plenty of qualified doctors, like Dr. Fabio Fantozzi and twin doctors Maurizio and Roberto Viel, who even have their own Facebook page. From the looks of things, they share information pretty regularly and have just over 2600 likes. I’m not a believer of sharing information about plastic surgery over social media, but I will give them brownie points for sharing links and information on a healthy diet and why certain foods are good for your body. I don’t think we see enough of that.

As for other European countries, they may not be prominent on the map, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t participating. Remember how I talked about beauty tourism in the Latin American article? Europe has plenty of cosmetic destinations as well. You can find cosmetic surgery centers just about anywhere, and even though Greece and Italy are in the top three, plastic surgery is performed everywhere. Obvious cases in point are Vanilla Chamu and Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff.

When you look at post-procedure photos of Vanilla, you might suspect that she’s a Caucasian woman who’s gone under the knife. Except that Vanilla isn’t Caucasian. She’s Japanese.

rsz_-1(5)Apparently, Vanilla has this obsession with becoming a living French doll.  I realize that she isn’t European, but this does showcase the effect of culture on cosmetic surgery. She’s already spent 10 million yen (about $100,000) on 30 procedures to make her dream a reality.  As if her breast and hip enhancements weren’t enough, she’s planning on undergoing height enhancement. Pardon my French, but who the hell would undergo height enhancement? It may sound mildly appealing until you realize how it’s carried out.

Ever seen GATTACA? It was a movie in the late nineties starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman. Hawke’s character undergoes some pretty serious surgery to take the identity of a genetically superior man. This includes height enhancement. Watch the movie. It’ll make you cringe. That’s what I was reminded of when I read about today’s height enhancing procedures.

Your doctor will saw through your tibia and fibula beneath the knee and the bone begins to regenerate after one week. They then proceed to screw braces to the inner part of the leg. Then, for four months, the braces are expanded daily so that the legs stretch anywhere from 6 to 8 centimeters. They also claim this isn’t painful. How about you keep that saw away from my legs and go back to doing physicals?


Then there are the Bogdanoff twins, former French TV stars that were known for their roles in sci-fi television shows like Temps X. They got addicted to plastic surgery in the 1990s and it all went downhill.  It’s rumored that they’ve had multiple chin and cheek implants, along with fillers like Botox. Now, at age 60, they’re practically unrecognizable.


It’s a lot to take in. How do you think cosmetic surgery in Europe compares to the other places I’ve discussed?


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