Plastic fantastic

The Oxford Times: Jodie Marsh Jodie Marsh

It doesn't seem that long ago that wanting bigger boobs meant rushing out to buy a push-up bra or stuffing a pair of socks down your cleavage. And having a makeover meant booking in for a trendy haircut or splashing out on a new outfit.

These days, a growing number of women are opting to go under the surgeon's knife to reshape the bits of their body they don't like.

Once the preserve of the fabulously rich and famous, cosmetic surgery has become affordable and available to pretty much all of us.

More than 30,000 procedures were carried out by members of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) in 2007 - that's a whopping 12 per cent up on the previous year.

According to BAAPS, the most popular operation is breast enlargement - and there are plenty of celebrities who are willing to admit to having their boobs made bigger.

One of the most high profile is glamour model Jodie Marsh who decided to trade in her natural 32DD breasts for 32G implants earlier this year.

Once the preserve of the fabulously rich and famous, cosmetic surgery has become affordable and available to pretty much all of us.

At the grand old age of 29, she told her fans: "Gravity has taken its toll and it got to the stage where I wanted to keep my push up bra on in the bedroom."

She added: ""There are so many images of women with amazing fake boobs I didn't feel like mine were good enough. I think society has forgotten what real boobs look like."

Other celebrities who have gone on record as having breast implants include Patsy Kensit, Dannii Minogue, Jordan aka Katie Price, Rebecca Loos, Abi Titmuss, Danielle Lloyd and Gemma Atkinson.

Some observers blame it on TV programmes such as Ten Years Younger and Extreme Makeover citing that there is more pressure on women to look good.

But wanting to look more beautiful is hardly a recent development. Cleopatra reputedly bathed in asses' milk while Noel Coward was singing Keep Young and Beautiful if You Want to be Loved back in the 1930s.

One thing everyone does agree on is that the number of facelifts carried out has also been rocketing, even if at around £4,000 they are a little bit more expensive than a new lipstick or a more flattering hairstyle.

Consultant plastic surgeon and BAAPS member Adrian Richards, of Thame-based plastic surgery company Aurora, said his clinics saw a 30 per cent increase in the number of facelifts during 2007.

"This demonstrates just how much anti-ageing means to people," he explained.

"More people are opting to go under the knife to restore a youthful appearance and ,with the advanced techniques in facelifting,, there is no need to succumb to the wind-tunnel' effect any more.

"Natural results which leave a patient looking eight to ten years younger are achievable. This type of surgery now requires minimal downtime and scarring.

"Patients can be back at work within two weeks looking well rested, as if they've been on a relaxing holiday, which is the subtle effect most people are aiming for," he added.

Another popular operation is the tummy tuck, which has become so prevalent among women who have had children that it has been nicknamed the mummy tuck'.

Weight gain, slackening breasts, loose stomach skin and stretch marks can be the unwanted legacy of a couple of pregnancies and these can't always be remedied by diet and exercise.

Pictures of famous mums such as Victoria Beckham and Madonna snapping back to their pre-pregnancy size within weeks are enough to make the rest of us feel inadequate, so it's hardly surprising that mothers are the fastest growing group seeking surgery.

Some opt for a three-in-one package which is a breast lift and/or augmentation, tummy tuck and liposuction all at the same time which, although it saves on operating theatre fees, will still set you back around £8,000.

But for those who remain terrified of going under the knife but still want to stem the sagging and bagging, there are plenty of less scary and cheaper alternatives.

Wrinkles and even deep lines can be softened through the use of injectibles and dermal fillers, the best known of which are Botox and Restylane.

"There is definitely a trend for people to have non-surgical treatments," Adrian Richards explained.

"People are saying I am not prepared to go into surgery, I would like something a bit more gentle'.

"So the number of people looking for skin and wrinkle treatments has risen in Oxfordshire," he said.

For those who want bigger breasts but aren't prepared to go the whole hog and have surgery, there is a procedure that uses injections to boost the bust by between a half- to one cup size.

The filler gel, Macrolane, is thicker than that used for facial lines and the whole procedure can be done in two hours under a local anaesthetic.

But does the credit crunch mean that women are less likely to spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on cosmetic procedures?

One of the UK's cosmetic surgery chains Transform doesn't think so. Already turning over £4m a year, it has just finished building its third clinic in the UK.

Chief operating officer Pat Dunion pointed out: "There's so much doom and gloom. People want to look and feel good and are prepared to invest in that."

BAAPS top ten tips if you are considering cosmetic surgery: 1 Make sure you get unbiased information regarding what might be technically possible and any associated risks and benefits.

2 Remember, no surgeon or procedure is 100% risk free.

3 Make sure you feel comfortable with the organisation, surgeon and clinic you have chosen.

4 Many practitioners purport to be experts but are not even surgeons. Organisations associated with and preferably based in the Royal College of Surgeons will demonstrate acceptable standards of practice.

5 Avoid surgery if you have recently experienced major life events such as moving house, changing job or losing a loved one.

6 Beware of free' consultations, booking fees or non-refundable deposits (a typical feature of many commercial clinics).

7 Do not travel a long distance or overseas for surgery unless you are comfortable with the arrangements to follow up any complications that might arise.

8 Talk to your GP. Many are happy to advise patients.

9 Hopefully, everything will be totally to your satisfaction but remember you have the option to cancel right up until the time you go to sleep for surgery.

10 Take your time. Remember that undergoing surgery is a serious commitment.

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