Groundbreaking research released last month by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery has found that the United States is the world’s top spot for plastic surgery. The study, the first of its kind, discovered that Brazil is the second most-augmented nation, with China third and India fourth. The only GCC country on the list was Saudi Arabia, down in 25th place.
The results are surprising: a mere drive down Jumeirah Beach Road would make you think Dubai is a surgery hotspot where people are constantly snipping, cutting and sucking away at their figures. However, it seems the most popular beauty fixes here are treatments that fit somewhere between facials and facelifts – the UAE’s ‘med spas’, with their lasers, injections, peels and polishes, are incredibly popular.
Yet it’s not just bog-standard facials that have beauty fans clamouring for more. It seems the latest trends are slightly more unusual – and we’ve tested them all to give you the inside track. Take the new vampire facial, which involves having your own blood injected into your skin. Then there’s carboxy therapy, which uses carbon dioxide (aka air) to firm up your wrinkly bits; microdermabrasion, which effectively shaves off the top layer of your face (it’s not as bad as it sounds); and derma mesotherapy, which uses needles to puncture your face and administer it with vitamins. Ah, the things we do in the name of beauty. Read on for the results.
The blood treatment
Facial rejuvenation using platelets
Tested by Helen Carter
Here it is, ladies (and gentlemen!) – a facial that works, gives visible lasting results, and is worth every dirham. The platelet rejuvenation treatment is also known as the ‘Dracula treatment’ thanks to the process involved: two vials of my blood are taken, spun in a centrifuge for 20 minutes (separating it into its different components, as well as concentrating the platelets) and then administered via injection across my face, targeting problem areas using mesotherapy. For the uninitiated, this means an awful lot of repeated needle stabbing, and more blood.
The treatment itself is slightly uncomfortable, but I persevere, remembering the benefits that await me: platelets are said to activate the natural stem cells and help to rejuvenate skin and regenerate facial tissue. I have bruising for two days afterwards, but the results start showing two weeks later. My annoying deep wrinkles and nasty creases are gone, as are my sunken cheeks, and my skin tone is now smoother and more even.
While the Dracula treatment isn’t for the faint of heart or those who can’t tolerate a bit of discomfort (Dr Maurizio Viel now offers patients the chance to undergo anaesthetic for the procedure), it’s the only facial I’ve had where results are visible for up to six months – I haven’t worn a scrap of foundation since the day of the treatment, and yes, I’d go through it all again.
Facial rejuvenation using platelets costs Dhs5,500 and takes up to an hour. London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery, Dubai Healthcare City (04 375 2393)
The air treatment
Tested by Claire Carruthers
Carbon dioxide is known as the Brazilian miracle gas because of its popularity there, and carboxy therapy claims to banish stretch marks, cellulite and scars, as well as plump the skin and melt away fat. Suddenly those taut bottoms on Rio’s beaches make sense.
Although carboxy therapy can also be used to treat lines and wrinkles, eye bags and excess fat on the face, I decide to opt for the anti-cellulite treatment on the backs of my thighs. Eternel MedSpa’s medical director, Dr Inaam Faiq, explains that those who suffer most from cellulite will notice a significant difference post-treatment, even after only one session. She goes on to explain that because my thighs only suffer from a slight dimpling (‘grade one cellulite’), I may not see such significant results. But like every other woman on the planet, I’m paranoid enough to give it a bash, even after Dr Inaam explains that some patients have been known to ‘scream and shout’ during the treatment. I have a pain threshold similar to that of a small child with hypochondria, so I start to fear the worst.
Luckily, my fears prove unfounded – the procedure, which involves micro injections of carbon dioxide just beneath the surface of the skin, is relatively pain-free with the exception of one or two pricks, which feel like strong, sharp stings similar to that of electrolysis. The theory is that by injecting carbon dioxide, your body thinks there is an oxygen deficit and it responds by increasing blood flow to that particular area.
Six to 10 injections per thigh later (about 10 minutes) and I’m done. No swimming or exercising for the rest of the day, but other than that, my legs are fit for a bronzing on the beach. Slight bruising around the deeper injection sites fades fast and I definitely notice a difference in the firmness and overall tone of my thighs. Yes, carboxy therapy is more painful than other anti-cellulite treatments, but the results are stronger and last longer.
Dhs300 for up to an hour. Eternel MedSpa, Jumeirah (04 344 0008)
The sandpaper treatment
Tested by Daisy Carrington
In my 20s, I thought some of my wrinkles were cute, but I realise now that’s because they weren’t really wrinkles – at least not like the wrinkles I have now. Since hitting 30, I’ve acquired an unsettling groove across my forehead and a few compulsory fine lines under the eyes. In an ideal world, microdermabrasion would simply erase the lot, using tiny grains of aluminium sand crystals to scrape away the outer layer of the skin (some spas use a water jet, diamond dust or ultrasound to achieve the same effect).
Alas, when I visit Vilafortuny Laser Centre, the very thorough Dr Marwan Al Zarami tells me that for the big wrinkle in my forehead, I’d have to resort to Botox. Still, he explains, microdermabrasion is really very safe – it’s more like a mega-facial than some of today’s more extreme treatments such as acid peels, and is great for reducing acne scars, fine lines and spider veins. It’s also a vital first step if you plan to undertake anything more invasive (basically, it prepares the skin).
After sending me off to clean my face and cover my hair (the aluminium doesn’t wash out easily, I’m told), Dr Al Zarami prepares my face with an ultrasound (to kill any germs), then uses a pencil-like tool that both sandblasts and vacuums my skin. After my face is coated in the grain, he uses his hands to scrub it gently, applying pressure where he sees fit. He notices that my nose is severely dehydrated, that I have spider veins near my mouth, and that the sun has made my skin a bit blotchy. Even though I have a rather fair complexion, he supplies me with a whitening cream, which he suggests I use with a moisturiser at night to even out the tone of my skin.
While the results aren’t as radical as I’d hoped (the lines are still there), the spider veins have vanished and my complexion is delightfully smooth. Because it feels completely safe, I’d happily try microdermabrasion again, if just to combat those nasty veins.
Dhs650, including one session of light therapy. Vilafortuny Laser Centre, Villa 728B, Al Wasl Road (04 394 3618)
The porcupine treatment
Tested by Nyree Barrett
Facials aren’t for me – sitting in a spa while another woman rubs lotion over my face just feels plain inefficient. So when I hear about derma mesotherapy, which involves injecting potions under the skin, my interest is instantly piqued.
Thankfully, rather than big don’t-mess-with-me needles, the procedure uses a roller that has about 600 tiny needles all over it, injecting prescribed nutrients into your skin. This works on two levels: first, the creams and serums get all the way down to the middle layer of the skin; second, the act of creating many small wounds on the face helps to stimulate collagen production, meaning a younger, softer-looking complexion.
So what’s the procedure like? Jelena, my very helpful therapist, begins by numbing my face with a topical anaesthetic. I’m sure this is a good idea, as I’m told it curbs the pain of the injections, but I find it a little creepy. I’m getting hyaluronic acid injections to treat my dry skin – the acid has the molecules to create water (although surely I could just drink more Masafi?). The serum is applied and the extensive rolling starts, a process that feels like lots of ticklish thorn pricks.
Within 30 minutes, the thorough rolling is over (she truly covers every millimetre of my face and neck), leaving my skin looking alarmingly red and feeling almost sunburnt. That night I head straight home and wallow in the sensation, but by the next morning my face feels fine. Granted, when I go for a run the next night my skin stings, but I’d been told not to exercise for at least 24 hours – I broke the rule and went for a jog after just 22.
Two weeks later my skin is still soft and the frown crease that was running down the middle of my forehead has softened, but the result isn’t dramatic. The treatment is, however, supposed to be shockingly good for people with acne scars, open pores and wrinkles. It’s also prescribed as a hair stimulant. Would I do it again? Probably – I’ll just wait until I have a few more wrinkles.
The first session costs Dhs1,350, with every subsequent session priced at Dhs1,000. A course of 10 costs Dhs8,500. Biolite Skin Clinic, Dubai Healthcare City (04 375 2122)
IPL Photo Rejuvenation
This ‘intense pulse light’ is a laser treatment that sends light under the surface of the skin. It’s said to be highly effective at removing age spots, redness, birthmarks and much more. It also inhibits the sebacious glands, seriously slowing down pimple production – even after just one treatment, you’re unlikely to get spots for up to six months.
Dhs800 for one session. Simply Skin Dubai, Al Ghazal Mall (04 345 6080)
Non-surgical breast lifting
Clessidra Med Spa is a prescriptive venue that doesn’t sell any treatments unless you’ve had a free consultation first. Its interesting breast lifting treatment generally works, using targeted electro-stimulation to work the muscles, training them to stay firm. The therapists will also teach you a series of exercises that help the lifting process.
Dhs4,000 for 10 sessions of about 45 minutes to an hour. Clessidra Med Spa, Dubai Healthcare City (04 423 3663)