Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cheerio, Old Chap! How About A Spot Of Tea With Your Botox?

With the American housing market in the gutter, insane inflation caused by the Fed's meddling with interest rates, outrageous oil prices and a looming worldwide credit bubble ready to pop, Americans are cutting back on plastic surgery. Fears of a financial meltdown may be to blame, as many folks are still flocking in for consultations, but they aren't as keen to take the plunge and docs across the nation that once had impossibly long waiting lists for consultation and surgery are seeing those wait times almost disappear.

Although the American cosmetic surgery market is still growing, it's doing so at a much more stunted pace than during the Extreme Makeover days. The increased access to superior information and incredible results caused by the plastic reality show boom and the increase in market share with less expensive, less invasive procedures during the early part of this new century sent many Americans rush to their doctors - not all of them plastic surgeons, as many dermatologists, facial surgeons and eye surgeons began performing cosmetic procedures and a large part of the market that once belonged exclusively to plastic surgeons veered toward other medical professionals. But while Americans are cutting back, the British are rushing forward.

According to the Harley Medical Group (the largest cosmetic surgery group in the UK), the British cosmetic surgery market is growing at approximately 35% per year. Demand for abdomnoplasty (tummy tuck) procedures has increased a whopping 59% in some parts of the UK. The British demand for non-surgical alternatives, such as Botox and dermal fillers has seen a rise that parallels the popularity of these procedures here, across the pond.

Despite ever-growing oil costs and a possible credit bubble burst, the British economy has a few less concerns than the American market. Firstly, the British housing market is stable and they don't have the headache of massive inflation. The British pound trumps the dollar two to one, so basically the US, as it stands, is one big half-off sale to lucky British - and other European tourists.

Brits are no stranger to medical tourism, as many Brits have set-off into mainland Europe for dental procedures as well as cosmetic surgery for decades. Not long ago, they began joining Americans in droves for treks to South America for cheap face lifts, liposuction, tummy tucks and other procedures. While the rising cost of both necessary health care and health insurances seizes the American public in terror that they might require surgery for which money is unavailable, Brits have less health woes and more discretionary income to purchase cosmetic surgery with the support of their national health care system.

Other parts of Europe are seeing growing opportunities of cosmetic enhancement. The Daily Mirror in Ireland reports that the Irish cosmetic surgery market is worth and estimated 36 million euros. The French are also crossing international boarders seeking plastic surgery, taking advantage of a strong euro and the lack of medical worries provided their national health care system.

So, how long will it be before we start to see American plastic surgeons begin to actively court the British market? What's more, how can plastic surgeons win back their portion of the market that has left for less expensive, less experienced - often more risky - non-plastic surgeons who perform cosmetic procedures?

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