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

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