The desire to have a certain body - a trim frame and attractive smile - has never been more sought-after as social norms shift and women and men seek personal gratification.
Locally, the popularity of body shaping through surgery and cosmetic dentistry is growing, drawing specialists from Europe and the US to tap into blooming demand.
Dr Pushpa Sachdeva, a cosmetic dentist at Ace Dental Care clinic in Nairobi, says that currently, the ratio of men to women seeking cosmetic dentistry is balanced “because both men and women rate smiles and teeth as the second most important attractive feature after eyes.”
“This consciousness has pushed more men to seek dental surgeries to improve their smile by correcting gaps between teeth, discolouration and crooked teeth,” Dr Sachdeva says.
According to her, bleaching, composite veneers, ceramic veneers, crowns and invisible braces are the common cosmetic dental procedures sought by men. Others are depigmentation of gums, removing black spots or patches with laser treatment, and alignment of gums.
“Most of the men looking for cosmetic dentistry surgery are those holding occupations that involve many social interactions such as high-level socialites, media personalities, actors and generally people who care about their appearance and oral health,” she adds.
Not all cases are ideal for bleaching, Dr Sachdeva notes, adding that a patient’s dental status has to be assessed first to determine the appropriate procedure for them.
“Materials used for veneers [placed over the teeth] have become thinner and thinner, such that no tooth preparation is required in most cases. The shelf life of veneers is about 15 years when taken good care of,” she says.
According to Dr Tilman Stasch, a plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon at Valentis Clinic in Nairobi, body sculpting for cosmetic reasons in Kenya accounts for 70 per cent of all the procedures in this field. Only 30 per cent of his clients seek corrective and reconstructive surgery.
Whereas aesthetic surgery has largely been for women, Kenyan men are going under the scalpel, and parting with a fortune.
Dr Ashraf Emarah, a consultant plastic surgeon at SVG Healthcare that owns Apple + Sense clinic in Nairobi, agrees.
“The number of Kenyan men coming for different types of cosmetic surgeries is increasing and that’s quite normal. It is the trend worldwide,” Dr Emarah says.
Before going for a complete body lift in 2016, Robert*, 57, a city businessman, bore the millstone of ridicule from both family and business partners.
He says he reluctantly parted with Sh560,000 for a package that included belly fat removal, calf enhancement and neck lipo sculpture [which is shaping and removing unwanted fat from the neck].
“My sagging belly and irregular frame were embarrassing me. My two daughters would complain all the time. Working out and weight-loss pills were both ineffective. It was tough to pay such money for the procedure, especially because I didn’t have any health complications. But I feel confident now,” he said.
Another man, Ben*, who is a senior sales executive at a blue-chip company located in Nairobi’s Kilimani, says that his athletic frame was not acquired for a song.
In May 2017, he went for a pectoral (pec implant) enhancement procedure at a private clinic in Nairobi’s Parklands.
“I paid Sh490,000 for butt liposuction and pec implant. I was slightly backpedalled financially, but the procedure has completely transformed both my social and professional life. I would do it again and again,” he says.
Both men sought anonymity for fear of ridicule. Dr Stasch says his clinic sees more men coming in to reduce their breasts.
“The most popular procedures among Kenyan men is reducing enlarged breasts, removal of belly fat, post-bariatric surgery, a procedure that leads to weight loss, upper eyelid lift and scar revision,” he says.
Dr Emarah adds: “Surprisingly enough, more and more men are requesting for Botox injections for wrinkles. There is also an increase in the number of men asking for cosmetic surgeries after weight reducing surgeries [such as excess skin removal].’’
In most of Nairobi clinics, it is men who are highly educated, aged 30 to 60 years and holding or gunning for executive positions in their organisations, that pay for cosmetic surgery.
“A 75-year-old who wishes to look fresher and younger comes for face-lifts. The procedure might make him look only 10 years younger, but that is a big difference for him,” Dr Stasch notes.
The motivation to seek cosmetic surgery among Kenyan men, the doctors say, range from genuine need to fix body deformities, to sprucing up one’s physique.
“Some patients want to change their looks to solve a broken relationship. Others want to look like celebrities. Yet others ask for operations that are disproportionate,” he says. While the need for cosmetic surgery might not be obvious to a bystander, this is usually a deep-seated personal concern that affects the patient emotionally.
“A young man with gynaecomastia (man boobs) who might be too shy to take his shirt off or is even afraid of wearing a t-shirt will do anything to procure life-transforming plastic surgery, allowing him to lead a normal life again,” says Dr Stasch.
As a result of the increase in demand, there are numerous trends in non-surgical cosmetic procedures in the regional market, particularly fat grafting.
“Fat is used to rejuvenate the face, hands, add volume to cheeks or lips, as well as breast, buttocks, legs or any other body part. It is a safe procedure if performed correctly,” Dr Emarah says.
Dramatic weight loss and old age are considered the main causes of stubborn fat deposits and sagging skin among men, especially around the thighs, arms, buttocks, breast, hips and the abdomen.
Because of wound healing, Dr Stasch says, fat grafting is now widely used especially in patients with diabetes or those with chronic wounds.
The surgeon says the Kenyan (Brazilian) butt lift surgery is another popular surgical procedure in Kenya, where fat is transferred by liposuction to tone, tighten and add definition and curves to both men and women’s butts and hips.
READ: BIKO INTERVIEW - Dr Stasch will nip and tuck you to perfection
While still largely unknown, scalp micropigmentation or simply micro scalping, is a cosmetic procedure that is gaining currency among Kenyans, particularly young men with irregular hair loss problems, according to Dr Jared Babu, a University of Florida-trained hair transplant and trichology specialist.
“The delicate process involves application of natural pigments at the scalp to imitate the natural look of real hair follicles after partial or total hair loss,” Dr Babu explains.
He adds,“micro scalping is mainly done to hide scars from injuries or previous surgeries on the scalp, birthmarks and burns and to boost the visual effect of a hair transplant procedure. Young men of all age brackets enquire about this procedure.”
He uses a cartridge with three needles to inject an organic pigment into the scalp to give the impression of real hair on an otherwise bald head.
According to the specialist, for people with lighter pockets, micro scalping, which is cheaper, comes in handy. On average, it costs between Sh60,000 and Sh200,000, which is three times cheaper than a hair transplant.
“The client must have enough hair on their head especially the donor area (mostly the back of the head) to undergo the procedure. The process involves removing individual grafts of hair and transplanting them elsewhere, and is charged per graft of hair transplanted,” Dr Babu explains.
Dr Stasch attributes the increase in the rising number of Kenyans seeking aesthetic procedures to exposure to global trends.
“Kenyans are techno-savvy and well informed about worldwide trends. Their socioeconomic conditions have improved in the recent years, which has dramatically driven the demand for reconstructive and cosmetic surgery,” he says.
Prices for aesthetic surgeries in Kenya are more or less the same as those charged in other countries in Europe and South Africa.
Locally, a tummy tuck costs Sh600,000 out of pocket while liposuction or fat grafting goes for Sh550,000. Facial fat transfer and neck liposuction both cost Sh250,000.
According to Dr Emarah, the Kenya Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons allows its members to charge between Sh400,000 and Sh600,000 for a procedure.
Dr Stasch, however, emphasises that for one to qualify for body sculpting, one must have good overall health, good skin elasticity and thickness. They must also have reasonable expectations, he adds.
Yet misconceptions about aesthetic surgery abound.
Dr Emarah explains, ‘‘Most people confuse Botox with fillers. While Botox is used to eliminate wrinkles and to elevate the eyebrows, for instance, fillers replace volume loss and depressions on the body surface.”
Body contouring helps to revamp aesthetics, but the procedure has its downsides, including the risk of infection and body scars.
“Silicone implants on calves and biceps, for instance, can easily be displaced from the area due to constant muscular movements, causing asymmetrical shapes in the body,” Dr Stasch warns.
“It’s imperative to check your doctor’s credentials and to ensure that he has qualifications of a plastic surgeon to avoid costly surgical blunders,” he says.