Writer: Lanji Ouko
Published in the book ‘Her Roots’
Six years ago the Kenyan market was swamped with a range of ointment & cream companies with products ranging from “super hips & curves creams” to “busty breasts creams” and others promising women an unrealistic extent of beauty and body changes.
Considering the cost of cosmetic surgery, the creams were obviously an alluring body modifying choice for many women. Allegedly, the ingredients in these creams arouse estrogen hormones by using “naturally developing” herbs, and other chemicals.
The creams served their time, but after a series of side effects, they later paved way to what was believed to be “the true revolution in the world of body enhancement”, the emergence of enhancement pills! Just like their predecessor, they are useless products that prey on the gullibility and psychological distress of those who wish to seek a change in their physical appearance.
“These creams are sold to women at ridiculously high prices on the premise of being risk free. The vendors claim that the active ingredients are natural, despite the fact that they are expected to cause an adjustment to a woman’s hormones. The pills on the other hand, are no different. Anything that increases glandular development is potentially capable of inducing cancerous change,” a plastic surgeon quipped.
Both men and women consume these supplements to help the body ‘s processes enhance the size of different body parts. Research on the enhancement supplements show that despite some ingredients being effective, the combinations of ingredients once tested have approved to be dangerous and extremely powerful. The creams and pills are the cheaper though not necessarily the safer or the effective option, bringing us to buzz in town; plastic surgery!
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“It is quite hard to identify natural beauty on the streets of Nairobi. What criteria will we use to decipher an artificially structured nose from a real nose? These doctors are working perfectly on those nose jobs,” chuckles a businesswoman who did not want to be identified.
A few years ago, cosmetic surgery was viewed as a private matter and those who had undergone the surgery would only mention it amid whispers. Today, women speak about what needs to be done openly in the country clubs and restaurants and is considered to be a step to maintaining the ‘fountain of youth.’
A plastic surgeon says that over the past ten years a notable sense of self awareness cropped up in Kenya, both men and women began to slowly worry more about weight and their looks and it gradually began the “gym craze”. But the gym isn’t the answer to everyone’s prayer. The middle and upper middle classes found an easier option to tackle the issue of eye bugs, wrinkles or any other evidence of ageing. Yes, the knife.
Among the men, the most common has been the tummy tuck, which at first sounded odd. Who would have imagined Kenyan men keen on plastic surgery? For years men have been visiting hair transplant centers to work on their hair loss through bald spot removal, hair transplants per graft or any general hair loss treatment however, they now go under the knife to do away with the beer belly once the gym forsakes them!
Flaunted as Nairobi’s first purpose-built Clinic for Skin health, plastic surgery and Cosmetics is Valentis Clinic, located at the prestigious 14 Riverside Drive. The lush surrounding is a clear indication of the type of clientele the clinic attracts. Every single day at least five women walk into the prestigious offices for consultation. The clinic deals with cosmetic medicine, which includes botox, plastic surgery, map moling and their Jan Marini products.
A 46-year-old mother of three, who had her surgery done in a clinic in Nairobi, explains that plastic surgeons are not just your typical doctor. They have to embody extra qualities. “It’s not as simple as we make it sound. Psychologically, you need a doctor who assures you.”
On the flip side, the risks of plastic surgery can be from minor mishaps like infections, to fatal incidents such as bleeding to death. It is one’s choice if they want to enhance their physical appearance, a personal decision to have a facelift, liposuction, nose job, and breast enlargement. Whatever it is, each individual has the liberty to decide. One has however, to take time to ensure they are dealing with a professional who has adequate experience. A top hospital in the country has had a number of scandals based on failed breast implants and liposuction. So how do you know you’ve got the right plastic surgeon?
Anita, 29,who religiously goes for botox at an up market spot in Westlands advices that you should ensure your surgeon is board certified. Legally, any doctor can perform a surgery, however, if your surgeon is board certified you are assured he or she has completed three to five years of training in general surgery and a minimum of two to three years training in plastic surgery. It also means he or she would have taken written and oral exams based on the same, which are sat every ten years. Checking the surgeon’s records is actually the first step, Anita says.” It helps you do a background check and know whether he or she has had any malpractice judgments or any accusations filed with the board. Patients should ask about the surgeon’s experience with the particular procedure being considered. Asking a doctor for recommendations may be the smartest move, because the suggestion he or she may offer means it’s definitely a reliable reference.
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“Women are brought up to think their bodies are mutable. We’re told from an early age to change this, change that. We’re used to correction and for a generation of women brought up thinking the implanted body is normal, surgery is just part of that.” Virginia Blum, author of Flesh Wounds: The Culture Of Cosmetic Surgery.
Cosmetic surgery has always been normal in the Western World, someone cracked a joke saying “It’s almost as casual as buying a new set of earrings.” It is now being “normalized” in our Kenya. Kenya is known to be cosmetic surgery Mecca in Africa after South Africa.
Affluent Tanzanian, Ugandan and Rwandese women fly into Kenya for botox and face-lifts. The cost of botox ranges from Sh50, 000 upwards at some of the clinics. Facelift price starts from Sh500, 000 and breast augmentation starts from Sh250, 000 going up!
So where did this surgery craze crop from? It all boils down to self-image and the impact body image has on our lives, not only for women but men as well.
Is it wrong to do go under the knife?Of course not.But again,if it is not, why is it whispered about? Who gives these men and women the impression that they are not good enough to the extent that they run to go under the knife? Lastly,is the mainstream media the biggest culprit?
With shows such as Dr.90210 and Nip/Tuck and many other reality shows depicting beautiful women as the ones with perky bosoms and sharp nose and full lips, it is no wonder the pressure is slipping in to our society.