In War-Throttled Lebanon, Pop Stars Sway Young Women Into Plastic Surgery

Nicole Karlis on 14 Oct 2013 at 9:00am

Nancy Ajram Plastic Surgery Rhinoplasty LebanonFor Soumaya, a 22-year-old Lebanese woman, getting a nose job was more than just a cosmetic enhancement -- it was a genetic ritual.

Hailing from a half Muslim and half Maronite family in Kaslik, Lebanon, Soumaya (who asked us not to use her last name) joined 17 blood-related women who have had cosmetic surgery -- including her grandma, who never goes without her headscarf.

"Most of my family [aunts and cousins] have had their nose, lips, fillers, breast implants and lipo. It's very popular in Lebanon that women do surgeries," she says. "In Lebanon, rhinoplasty is the most [popular] surgery done among girls between 16 and 26 years old. Most of my friends have done their nose. Some women with scarves do fix themselves to look better. Some people accept it; others don't, again it's a personal opinion."

Soumaya, who has also been getting Juvederm lip injections since 2009, says the local (and familial) plastic surgery trend is heavily influenced by the country's pop stars, many of whom have had nose jobs.

Names like Nancy Ajram (pictured above), Haifa Wehbe (pictured below-- who are both Muslim -- and Elissa come to mind. Haifa Wehbe plastic surgery

"When all of those singers started popping up and they all had surgeries done, it was obvious people started accepting the idea. Everyone wanted to fix something about themselves that they didn't like," says Soumaya.

To amplify the country's completely astigmatized view of plastic surgery, banks in Lebanon offer "Plastic Surgery Loans" as readily as home or other lending. For instance, if a woman is under the age of 64 and employed, she is eligible for a $5,000 plastic surgery loan from First National Bank, according to the bank's website. 

But some Lebanese women in their late 20s are raising eyebrows at their younger counterparts.

"We have a joke here when you see a girl, if she's pretty, we say you should thank her doctor," says 27-year-old Michelle Bouchebel, "Girls here in Lebanon are overdoing it. You see 20-year-old women with their boobs and lips done, and most of them don't need it, they're beautiful as they are. Our society encourages it, with all the facilities they offer (i.e. bank loans). And even the artists, they're all re-done, so a lot of the women follow their lead."

Xriss Jor, 27, who is a professional singer in Lebanon, agrees. Despite her profession, she's never had a nose job -- and only has one friend who had the procedure.

"I have one close friend who has had a rhinoplasty. Her problem was because she had an ugly bump on her nose and she wanted it fixed. Other than her, I know girls who have had no problems whatsoever with their noses -- they just wanted it straighter, or more pointy, or retroussé (which means "turned up" in French). That, to me, is silly and a waste of money," she says.

While many are quick to point fingers at Lebanese pop stars, some say it also has to do with the opposite sex.

"Men also play a big role in this issue. They like those artists that have surgeries, they think it's sexy how their lips and boobs [look]. So, the women are encouraged to do the surgeries so that they can compete with the artists," Michelle says.

Dr. Sanjay Parashar, a plastic surgeon in Dubai, says young women and rhinoplasty isn't just a trend specific to Lebanon.

"Even ladies in scarves want to do procedures on their body and face [in Dubai], as they want to feel good about themselves. They feel they have a more competitive advantage over another woman, or in many cases, they do it to ensure that the husband remains loyal to them," he says.

Rhinoplasty is one of the most requested procedures in his office, along with liposuction, breast augmentations and hair transplants.

But back in Lebanon, young women continue to join the nose job party.

Scott Preston, an American who studied at the Lebanese American University, noticed the trend right away. In fact, for him, it's difficult to tell if a woman has had a nose job -- or if she's just pretending that she did.

Says Scott, "In the States the subject is somewhat taboo, but in Lebanon it is a fashionable sign of status. As one Lebanese college peer explained it [to me], many of the girls in Lebanon look the same because they all get plastic surgery and nose jobs. You know those bandages that go over the bridge of your nose during recovery? I've heard you can actually buy those in assorted colors to match your outfit when you wear them out on the town - even if you haven't had surgery."