By Sarah de Sainte Croix, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil has the dubious honor of being the only country in the world to have a cosmetic surgery procedure named after it. The ‘Brazilian Butt Lift’ involves lifting and reshaping the buttocks, often by sucking out fat from around the abdomen, flank and back areas and injecting it back into the buttocks to create firmer, more voluminous cheeks known as a “bubble butt.”
Plastic surgery is a multi-billion dollar industry here in Brazil, and Rio’s obsession with the body beautiful makes it a mecca for those in pursuit of perfection.
Medical tourism is the term coined by the media and travel industry to describe the act of crossing international borders to obtain medical care. The concept is not a new one; spa towns, sanatoriums and even some types of pilgrimage can be thought of as early forms of medical tourism.
But while the pursuit of optimum treatment was once the primary motivation for voyaging to find healthcare, today’s cosmetic tourism is more often chiefly motivated by financial incentives, with tourists traveling to the developing world to take advantage of favorable exchange rates.
Figures suggest that cosmetic surgery tourists in Brazil can make savings of between thirty and fifty percent off prices in the U.S. for the same procedures. One woman said, “I could never afford all the procedures I want done back home in the States, but seeing the prices here gives me hope.”
However, price is not the only motivator she continues, “What makes Brazil stand out from the crowd is its reputation… when I first came here I was worried about whether or not to bring sterile needles! But even though it’s a developing country, they have great facilities and some amazing surgeons.”
In fact, Brazil is second only to the U.S. in terms of the proliferation of registered plastic surgeons and the country has produced a number of world authorities in the field, among them octogenarian Professor Ivo Pitanguy. The godfather of Brazilian plastic surgery and a household name in Brazil, his client list includes Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida.
Statistics indicate that around 50,000 foreigners come to Brazil each year for medical tourism, many in search of a new face or body. An increasing number of outfitters are offering foreigners the chance to combine going under the knife with a break away from home, emphasizing the lower prices, tropical climate, and the lure of post-op anonymity.
Cosmetic Vacations and MedNetBrazil are organizations which aim to take the worry out of going under the knife abroad. Both companies offer packages which include multilingual staff, in-country support, luxurious lodgings and hand-picked surgeons.
However, for those of us whom travel plans stop short of going under the knife, Pello Menos offers a smorgasbord of waxing options at eight different salons in the Zona Sul where you can experience something of the pain and transformation of a medical vacation without the permanency and frightening side-effects. Prices range from R$13 to R$37 for the infamous Brazilian bikini wax.