NIP / TUCK TWINS
Changing the face of surgery in Dubai
Dubai, it seems, is at the centre of this NIP AND TUCK REVOLUTION – an estimated BILLION dirhams was spent on COSMETIC SURGERY in the UAE last year
We’re half an hour in when I ask the question that doctors Maurizio and Roberto Viel – twin brothers, cosmetic surgeons, reconstructors of the bodies and faces of the rich and famous – have probably faced a million times: who’s the most noteworthy person ever to come under their scalpel? And what did they have done? ‘Sports stars, film stars, musicians, royalty,’ lists Dr Maurizio. ‘But, of course, we cannot tell you any names. Client confidentiality. It doesn’t matter. All our patients are A-listers to us.’ It is an answer as smooth as their designer Italian suits. But, in fact, it perhaps also captures something of a 21st-century truism.
See, new figures show that while once cosmetic surgery was the preserve of the super-rich, treatment is today becoming more common for the rest of us. And Dubai, it seems, is at the centre of this nip and tuck revolution. An estimated billion dirhams was spent on cosmetic surgery in the UAE last year, according to the Emirates Plastic Surgery Society (EPSS). Some 21,000 major procedures were carried out in hospitals. If non-surgical treatments such as Botox and peels were to be taken into account that figure would probably rise to more than 100,000.
‘The UAE has become a global hub for cosmetic surgeons as the open visa policy means people can come here for treatment from all over the world,’ says Dr Jamal Jomah, general secretary of the EPSS. ‘Dubai has also become a hub for luxury goods, media and entertainment businesses, which are major sources of clients.’
Indeed, there are more plastic surgeons per head of population here – one for every 18,000 people – than any other country in the world.
All of which is why today I am
Think of them as the RONNIE and REGGIE KRAY of the cosmetic world. Hugely EXPERIENCED, and always happy to REARRANGE someone’s FACE if required – without the criminal record, of course
sitting in the Healthcare City clinic of the 55-year-old twins Maurizio and Roberto.
The pair perform up to 60 nonsurgical and 15 surgical operations each and every single week. Nips, tucks, fillers, chillers, suctions, reductions, lifts, shifts, implants and, of course, enlargements are all part of their repertoire. They’re famed in the industry for having been the first surgeons to offer ultrasound liposuction.
Think of them, if you will, like the Ronnie and Reggie Kray of the cosmetic world: hugely experienced, widely regarded as the best at what they do and always happy to rearrange someone’s face if required. But obviously without the criminal record.
Indeed, they’re so confident in their own ability that when Dr Maurizio decided he’d like a nose job and a touch of Botox, he asked his twin to do it. ‘I wanted a slight alteration and I know he’s the best,’ he shrugs. ‘Who else would I go to?’
Dr Maurizio’s wife Edwina has been on their table. As has their mother Giuseppina. They performed a breast lift on the retired opera singer when she was in her late 50s. Dr Roberto, himself, is yet to have anything.
‘But I will at some point,’ he says, ‘and it will be Maurizio who does it.’ The pair – who regularly perform operations together – set up the London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery (LCAS) in Harley Street in 1990 after completing medical degrees in Milan. Neither influenced the other, they say. It was just what they both wanted to do.
Certainly, they haven’t looked back since. They opened their Dubai clinic – a UAE complement to the UK practice – in 2008 as demand in the Middle East went the way of a facelift patient’s eyebrows: northwards.
Now Dr Maurizio is based here permanently while Dr Roberto splits his time between the two cities. Proving that reshaping bodies pays – they both perform the full spectrum of operations, neither has a favourite body part to work on – both have homes on the Palm Jumeirah.
‘Why is cosmetic surgery becoming more popular?’ ponders Maurizio at my question today. ‘It’s more affordable than ever for one thing. The development of safe and effective non-surgical techniques like Botox have driven costs down. Today, you can get a Botox procedure for just Dh1,400.
‘It’s become more accessible too. Some of these procedures can take less than 15 minutes, which means a patient can come in on their lunch and have something done without anyone ever realising. That wouldn’t have been possible when we started. There were only dramatic procedures back then.’
There’s also been something of a cultural shift. As more celebrities have admitted having work done, surgery has been normalised. ‘If there was an area of your life you weren’t happy with, you would change it,’ says Dr Maurizio, a father of four. ‘Well, if you’re not happy with your nose – as I wasn’t – why not have it altered? It’s just enhancing what’s already there to give you more confidence. I think more people subscribe to that view today.’
Men becoming increasingly interested in personal appearance has also added to the numbers. In the early years of the LCAS, males made up just 8 per cent of the patients. Today it’s 30 per cent.
‘One of the more common treatments for them is liposuction around the abdomen,’ says father-of-two Dr Roberto. ‘When you get to a certain age, it doesn’t matter how healthy you eat and how much exercise you do, some men will always have trouble shifting that last bit of paunch. They have worked hard all their life to stay in shape and now they need a bit of help, so they come to us. It’s a good thing.
‘It gives them more confidence at work to
compete with the younger guys and inspires them to keep staying in shape. They don’t have the liposuction so they can then go and get fat again.’ I ask if there’s too much vanity at play for both sexes.
‘A little bit of vanity is a good thing,’ says Dr Maurizio. ‘Wanting to look good means wanting to stay healthy.’
Here’s a strange thing, though: while the rise of cosmetic treatment is a global phenomenon, with the last international survey finding 15 million people worldwide had surgery in 2011, the popularity of different procedures varies from region to region. Lebanese women are famous for liking rhinoplasty (nose job) for example, while Americans want their trout pouts to be obvious as a kind of status symbol.
Even the operations the Viels perform in London and Dubai differ hugely. ‘Here, they like more – breast and buttock enlargements [officially called breast or buttock augmentation],’ says Dr Roberto. ‘In Europe people are more about reductions. They don’t like volume. It’s the same with lips and cheeks. A fuller face is considered more attractive in the Middle East. It’s a cultural thing.’ I ask which they think looks better. There’s a pause. ‘They all look wonderful after we’ve worked on them,’ twinkles Dr Maurizio.
Perhaps because of the UAE’s widely reported obesity epidemic there is more liposuction done here too. But, on the other hand, a younger population who knows how to look after the skin in the sun means there are fewer facelifts. Here, the pair is also pioneering stem cell treatment. They extract stem cells produced in a patient’s naturally fatty areas – such as the abdomen or thighs – and then inject this into the face.
These cells then, so the theory goes, increase the skin’s ability to heal itself by producing more new cells in their new location. This means fewer visible wrinkles and lines, and more rejuvenated skin.
There is of course one binding similarity between patients here and in London: they want to look good. Perhaps more interestingly, in both cities the brothers will occasionally refuse to work on people. Virtually everyone under 18 will be told to wait until maturity. Anyone who demands something that the pair deem would look unnatural won’t be treated – ‘when a woman wants breasts that are too big, we tell her it would be a mistake, we offer alternatives’ – and anyone who they feel has issues with
The pair regularly perform operations together, and go to each other if they need any work done themselves
The twins’ London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery in Harley Street has been reshaping bodies and lives since 1990