Venezuelans borrow for plastic surgery in hard times

Tue Nov 24, 2009 12:04pm EST
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By Rebekah Kebede

CARACAS (Reuters) - Unfazed by a recession and rampant inflation, image-conscious Venezuelans show no signs of cutting back on the facelifts, liposuction, and breast augmentation that have become de rigueur beauty treatments.

"There is never a question of not doing it, but of how you can do it. We all want to get everything done," said Helen Patino, a 37-year-old former model who had her first breast augmentation when she was 21 and her third about three months ago.

Venezuela's inflation is the highest in Latin America, up more than 20 percent in the first 10 months of this year and the South American nation is in recession after a five year boom.

Hard times may even encourage cosmetic procedures as people look for ways to lift their spirits, with many dipping into savings or taking on debt to get operations, surgeons say.

"The financial crisis has spurred people to spend more on themselves ... to console themselves in this crisis. I have not seen demand diminishing," said Peter Romer, a plastic surgeon in Caracas.

For Iris Delgado, a 57-year-old dental technician, a lack of funds was not an obstacle to getting a recent eyelid tuck.

"With the economy, one has to make sacrifices, because you don't have the money. So, you get it from credit cards, from family and you pay for it," said Delgado, who borrowed 7,000 bolivares -- about $3,250 -- for the procedure, a move she saw as a hedge against inflation in plastic surgery prices.

Like Delgado, many go into debt to finance cosmetic surgery, according to those in the industry.   Continued...

<p>A patient named Marian recovers from facelift surgery at a clinic in Caracas, October 28, 2009. REUTERS/Jorge Silva</p>