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Feature: Cosmetic surgery on rise in "beauty conscious" Nepal

By Bibbi Abruzzini

KATHMANDU, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- Countries not always associated with cosmetic surgery are emerging as major centers. In Nepal, beauty-seekers are increasingly going under the knife to enhance or revolutionize their appearance.

"Both Nepalese men and women are getting more beauty conscious. This is matched by a growing demand for cosmetic surgery," Dr Suyog Mainali, director at the Kathmandu Clinic of Cosmetic Surgery, told Xinhua.

Nepal has a population of more than 26 million people, made up of over 40 different ethnic groups for whom beauty ideals differ drastically. Yet no matter the background, more and more Nepalese aren't afraid to turn to cosmetic surgery to get the aesthetic look they want.

"Initially I was pretty reluctant to propose aesthetic procedures in the country as I was not sure how the Nepalese society would react," said Dr. Mainali.

Nepal's middle class is growing by leaps and bounds. With rising purchasing power, many choose cosmetic procedures to resemble Bollywoods' "heroes and heroines".

"Many come here with their favorite actors' photos in hand. The most common cosmetic procedures amongst Nepalese women are eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) and nose surgery (rhinoplasty). Men prefer hair transplantation," said the China-educated doctor.

"Facelifts and botox treatments are also popular. Breast augmentation is not very common in Nepal although women are starting to inquire," said Dr. Mainali.Nepal is gradually becoming a popular destination for those seeking hyper-affordable surgery.

Traveling for medical care is nothing new, but if in the past, people were more likely to travel abroad to obtain higher-quality care in wealthier countries. Today, foreign patients are traveling to the developing Himalayan nation to access cheap cosmetic procedures.

"Nepalese people living abroad as well as foreigners come to Kathmandu for cosmetic surgery because it is a lot cheaper," Dr Barsha Thapa who has recently switched from the emergency departments of Nepal's public hospitals to a cosmetic surgery clinic told Xinhua.

Prices for cosmetic surgery in Nepal are typically much lower than abroad. Even after the costs of airfare are factored in, having an operation in Nepal can be much less expensive. For example, a breast augmentation procedure that would cost 6,000 U.S. dollars in western countries can be done for a third of the price in Nepal.

Nepalese cosmetic surgery clinics use the power of the Internet to tap the "nip & tuck"market.

"Most patients instead of calling prefer to contact us through social media," said Dr Thapa.

Cosmetic surgery is particularly popular among Nepal's youth. Bigen Tamang has worked in Dubai until 2011 but came back to Nepal to explore the country's emerging beauty industry.

"Young Nepalese care a lot more about their image nowadays. Those who get the opportunity to travel bring back home a bit of the outside world. At the same time, many foreigners are now traveling to Nepal affecting our country's fashion and lifestyle," said Tamang, owner of the House of Haute Coiffure in Kathmandu.

According to Tamang, "media bombardment" and the movie industry will contribute to making Nepalese more beauty conscious with younger generations increasingly exposed to new looks and styles.

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