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Wed 16 May 2007 01:08 PM

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Nip, tuck, OK - but not the carbs

You can blame the media for the rise of plastic surgery - but it could be worse, says Safura Rahimi.

A recent survey by Dove revealed a whopping

37% interest in cosmetic surgery from teenage Arab girls

- that's more than one in three 15-17 year old girls.

This may seem staggering - but it shouldn't be surprising.

The Middle East region in recent years has developed quite a ‘lively' plastic surgery market as the demand for cosmetic procedures has escalated.

Consequently, it was only a matter of time before younger girls - going through their self-doubting teenage years - caught sight of the trend, perhaps in their quest to emulate the media-friendly celebrities they admire. Apparently, the most popular request by those seeking plastic surgery is to look a little more like Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram.

In Lebanon, there is still a big boom in ‘beautification' surgeries despite the political and economic tensions in the country following war with Israel. Local media say demand is increasing by up to 20% since 2006, with rhinoplasty - nose jobs - ranking most popular on the list of procedures.

And last month, in a somewhat contentious move to cash in on the growing phenomenon, Lebanon's First National Bank even announced offers of ‘plastic surgery loans' between $1,000 and $5,000 to help finance cosmetic procedures.

Moving farther east, Iran has become one of the world's leading centres for cosmetic surgery since the 1979 Revolution that ousted the Shah's monarchy for an Islamic regime.

There are no specific testimonies in the Koran directly forbidding or approving plastic surgery but Islam does denounce beautifying oneself to the extent of 'changing Allah's creation'. Despite this, daughters of senior Islamic clerics in Iran are known to have undergone cosmetic procedures. Iran's late leader Ayatollah Khomeini even officially sanctioned plastic surgery.

Given the obvious interest and desire in cosmetically altering appearances, Dove's campaign - aimed at changing current perceptions of beauty to a ‘healthier' view - is optimistic at best.

While results show that 46% of young Arab girls wish they would see more women in the media who looked like them, it seems many are more concerned with permanently changing their own looks to mirror what they see.

It's always easy to blame the media for this preoccupation with perfection, and images of thin and beautiful women might rightly be to blame for encouraging the need to cosmetically enhance oneself.

But the case of 21-year old Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston - who last November died from anorexia, weighing just 88 pounds - is a perfect example of far worse evils bred by the portrayal of these unrealistic women.

So if expensive cosmetic surgeries are going to help make ordinary women feel better about themselves, more power to them. Just don't forget your proteins and carbs.

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