THE KNIFE COACHES
As the UAE becomes one of the top cosmetic surgery destinations in the world, more and more people are turning to the woman who advises who they should go to for the best nip and tuck in town. Christine Fieldhouse reports
Sangita* sits at the round table, sipping coffee, in the office on the 14th floor in Downtown Dubai. She’s clutching a magazine, which has actress Angelina Jolie on the cover. Sangita has brought this particular magazine along because she has created her personal wish list. Not only does she want Angelina’s nose, she also wants her chiselled jawline and cheeks.
Opposite Sangita sits Vasilica Baltateanu, who is Dubai’s first knife coach – an intermediary between cosmetic surgery patients and the plastic surgeons who carry out the operations and procedures every year. With cosmetic surgery on the rise in the city, Vasilica, who has been running her own coaching company Vasilica Aesthetics (www.vasilicaaesthetics.com) for the last year, is a busy woman, ensuring that her clients’ experiences under the knife are happy and healthy.
Vasilica nods sympathetically and makes notes on her laptop as Sangita chats about what nips and tucks she wants. Every day Vasilica hears similar stories from men and women who want a celebrity’s profile, or their nose or chin. Some just want facial rejuvenation to peel away a few years, while others believe their lives would be so much better if they had larger breasts, a smaller nose or slimmer, more sculpted thighs.
Shockingly, with obesity on the rise, more people are hoping liposuction, the removal of
excess body fat, is their quickfix answer, while boys as young as 15 are reportedly undergoing surgery to treat gynaecomastia, the enlargement of male breasts. Whatever their issue, Vasilica listens without judging, often accompanying her clients to see the consultants.
“I see my role as mostly guidance,” she says. “People often get the name of a cosmetic surgeon from the internet or celebrity magazines. They then go along with photos of women such as Cheryl Ann Fernandez-Versini [formerly Cole] and Angelina Jolie and say they want to look like them. But surgery should be about enhancing what you already have, not creating a completely new face or body.
“In Dubai, they can have the operation the next day if they want, so it’s easy to rush into these things, but it’s important that people do their research and have all the information on the risks involved. This is elective
The US has one cosmetic surgeon for every 50,000 people; the UAE has one for every 18,000
surgery, but it’s still surgery, and if you have a bad experience, it can be depressing and at worst, lifethreatening. I urge patients to see two or three doctors and get as much information as they can. I’ve met people who have had fillers in their faces and they don’t even know the name of the product that was used.
“Each plastic surgeon has his or her speciality. One man wanted liposuction with a well-known doctor but I pointed out that this consultant was an expert in rhinoplasty [nose reshaping], not liposuction. Even in the field of liposuction, there are different machines that are better suited to some skin types than others.”
Dubai is now a leading platform for cosmetic surgery, and the UAE has one of the highest concentration of plastic surgeons. In 2010 there were 25 plastic surgeons registered. Last year there were 145. While the US has one cosmetic surgeon for every 50,000 people, the UAE has one for every 18,000 inhabitants. Of the Emirates Plastic Surgery Society’s 150 members, 103 are in Dubai.
The city is not only attracting patients from the UAE, it’s also catering to those who are prepared to travel across continents in search of exclusive, private treatment – and a few days to recuperate in the sun or in a
‘Doctors may not have the time to discuss options in detail, which is why coaches are useful’
five-star hotel before they return home enhanced and rested. In March,
Friday reported the Ministry of Health is projecting that over a million medical tourists will be visiting Dubai every year by 2020.
Lisa Falconer, from Newcastle upon Tyne in northern England, has nothing but praise for the cosmetic surgery scene in Dubai. The 38-yearold civil servant had already had breast augmentation in the UK when she accompanied her sister-in-law to Dubai.
“My sister-in-law was getting Botox so I went with her and asked her consultant what I could do about my double chin,” says Lisa. “The surgeon had worked on a few people I knew in Dubai and they’d all been very happy with him If I was having anything done, I wanted to go to someone who came recommended.” Lisa initially asked the consultant about a mini-facelift, but he advised that Vaser liposuction would be a better treatment for her.
“I went ahead and had Vaser lipo on my neck under my chin,” she says. “The outcome was very good and I’m really happy with the results.”
It was the care before, during and after the procedure in Dubai that impressed Lisa. “Everything was fine when I had my breast enlargement surgery in the UK, but I do think there is a higher standard of care and cleanliness in the clinics in Dubai,” she says. “My clinic was very clean and relaxing. The staff was really helpful and polite. It is like a five-star property and I got five-star treatment from the doctor and the staff.
“I met my consultant before my surgery and he came to see me immediately afterwards. I was allowed to go home the same day but I returned several times over the following two weeks for massages on my neck. I also got more advice while I was there.
“My consultant kept in touch and the following year, when I returned to Dubai, he asked if I had time to call in and see him, which was nice as I felt he was still looking after me. He cared about the results, which I don’t think they do as much in the UK. The aftercare is of amuch higher standard in Dubai. If I were going to have other procedures, I would return to Dubai.”
Although Lisa got all the information she needed from her consultant, she says she would definitely use a knife coach like Vasilica.
“I would speak to a coach,” says Lisa. “I didn’t know they existed. I’m thinking of having Botox next so that’s something I might get advice about.”
Meanwhile, Vasilica stresses it’s not her job to steer clients straight to the operating table. “It’s not for me to tell them what to have done, but I do give them my honest opinion about whether they might benefit from a surgery,” she says. “I try to steer them towards non-invasive treatments first. I might suggest some changes to their diet and exercise regimes and urge them not to rush into anything. If they can’t afford a particular doctor, I suggest they put the operation on hold until they can afford the right one for them.
“With facial surgery, it’s important they look at the overall structure of the face and I encourage them to look at computerised images of what they will look like after the surgery.”
The three most popular procedures in Dubai are liposuction, facelifts and
‘Some operations are complicated, and patients need to know the surgeon will be present later on’
breast augmentation. “Liposuction is popular because of the lifestyle,” says Vasilica. “People don’t move a lot in Dubai and they see liposuction as a means of weight loss. But it isn’t a weight-loss procedure. It’s about reshaping the body. To get the best out of liposuction, they should start exercising and eating healthy foods.
“Many people like the result after having liposuction and they do their best to maintain their new figure, but there are people who put the weight back on and turn to surgery again. The first time liposuction takes place, the fat is soft, but it gets tougher and the consultant will have to avoid scar tissue.
“If a consultant were to push too hard on the second and third operations, they could touch organs and cause bleeding, which can be dangerous. It’s better to get it right the first time and then maintain it, than go back for repeat procedures.”
Prices in Dubai are on par with London, but more expensive than Eastern Europe. Breast augmentation costs between Dh20,000 and Dh45,000, while rhinoplasty can be anything up to Dh100,000. Facelifts start at about Dh35,000 but because they are usually accompanied by brow lifts, chin surgery or undereye work, the cost can escalate to Dh160,000.
Cosmetic surgeon Dr Maurizio Viel of the London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery Gulf (www.lcas. ae) stresses patients must do their research, whether they work with a Knife Coach or not. “Dubai has a good lifestyle and high standards in the medical profession,” says Dr Viel.
“Doctors might not have the time to spend discussing procedures and options in great detail, which is why coaches who give out information are useful. We consultants need to be professional and get good results. It’s vital that we collect a full medical history and carry out blood tests, which are then analysed. We don’t go into operations blindly.
“We want patients to be around for a long time and come back to us because they liked our work. Some operations are complicated and involve risks, and patients need to know the surgeon will be available after the procedure. Continuity of care after the operation is important.”
Even though Dubai is emerging as the cosmetic surgery capital, some UAE clients still prefer the tradition of Harley Street in London. Paul Tulley, consultant plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon at 152 Harley Street Clinic (www.152harleystreet.com), says the UAE patients who fly to his London clinic are younger than their UK counterparts, with most aged between 20 and mid-40s. Rhinoplasty is a favourite treatment – to make the nose slightly smaller.
“London, and especially Harley Street, has always had a strong link with the Middle East and for many, we’re the first choice for cosmetic surgery,” he says.
Knife coach Vasilica Baltateanu can give you an honest take on the risks involved
Angelina Jolie and Cheryl Cole are popular celebs people take inspiration from for cosmetic surgery
A Knife coach can make all the difference for a safe, happy procedure
Cosmetic surgery in Dubai can range from Dh20,000 to Dh160,000