A vibrant economy, high standard of living, disposable incomes and the presence of many qualified and experienced cosmetic and plastic surgeons are all factors driving demand for cosmetic surgery and non-surgical treatments in Western Australia. Perth, after all, is home to four of the top five most advantaged suburbs in the country. What can spell affluence and privilege better than that? 

Western Australia is growing, in many ways and at a faster rate than the rest of the nation. According to the State of the States Report from CommSec issued in April 2013, Western Australia has the country’s best-performing economy. It leads the way in retail trade, population growth and equipment investment. It is the second strongest state in terms of economic growth, construction work and housing finance. Is it a wonder people are flocking to Perth and its growing suburbs? According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), which ranks suburbs in terms of relative advantage and disadvantage, Peppermint Grove, or Perth’s well-known Millionaire’s Row in the western suburbs, took the top spot in all of Australia. While Ku-ring-gai on Sydney’s North Shore made second place, three other western suburbs of Perth—Nedlands, Cottesloe and the city of Cambridge—bagged the rest of the top spots.

Economic prosperity brings improved quality of life and disposable income. With prosperity comes a greater capacity for discretionary spending on things like private schools, cosmetic surgery, luxury goods and meals at good restaurants.

How much of a demand is there for cosmetic surgery in Western Australia?

In the absence of hard statistics on cosmetic surgery and non-surgical treatments—these are not readily available for Australia overall—we compared how many practicing plastic and reconstructive surgeons there are in each state. Western Australia is not doing too shabbily when it comes to the numbers of plastic surgeons it houses. Going by the website of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), there were 37 plastic surgeons listed for WA compared to NSW, Victoria and Queensland which had 99, 108 and 58 listed surgeons respectively.

If you take those numbers and look at the population of each state, here’s how it pans out: NSW had approximately one plastic surgeon per 75,000 people while Victoria had one for around 53,000. In Queensland, there was one surgeon per 80,000 people. For Western Australia, the corresponding figure was 68,000. Of course, not all plastic surgeons are members of the ASPS, nor are plastic surgeons the only ones performing cosmetic surgical procedures in Australia. Cosmetic physicians, dermatologists and others with a medical background also perform cosmetic surgery. And many more practitioners without a medical background are providing non-surgical cosmetic treatments.

What do the surgeons say?

This trend is not new. Back in November 2010, a WAToday.com.au article called “WA’s Boom Reaches the Bust,” covered the Western Australian boom in cosmetic surgery and its impact on bustlines in the state. The article included interviews with four well-known Perth surgeons and a cosmetic nurse who all agreed “cosmetic surgery was more popular in the state than ever before.” The most popular procedures among West Australians were breast augmentation, liposuction and blepharolasty or eyelid-lifts.

The interviewees attributed the increased demand for cosmetic surgery to relative wealth and the influx of makeover shows on television. Subiaco surgeon Dr Jayson Oates told WAToday that such shows “made people aware what sort of extreme changes can be made.” Nedlands surgeon Dr Glenn Murray agreed that the shows debunked a lot of myths people have about cosmetic surgery.

The most interesting part of the article was the revelation by surgeons that breast implant sizes varied by state. Western Australians wanted more natural looks. Subiaco plastic surgeon Dr Patrick Briggs stated, “Breast augmentations on the Gold Coast tend to be bigger than in WA, but in WA our average size tends to be bigger than in Victoria.”

Fast-forward three years. Dr Anh Nguyen, a plastic surgeon from Nedlands, says that the cosmetic procedures in demand in Western Australia and Perth are no different today from those in demand in Sydney and other parts of Australia. Surgical cosmetic procedures like breast augmentation, facelifts, tummy tucks, eyebrow lifts and body sculpting through liposuction are popular everywhere. Non-surgical cosmetic treatments, such as anti-ageing injections and dermal filler treatments are in fact overtaking the surgical treatments in sheer numbers.

Whether in Perth or elsewhere, it all comes down to what motivates a person to make the decision, arrange their finances, make that call and get an appointment. According the Dr Nguyen, the real reasons people undergo cosmetic surgery are to feel better, look younger and feel fresher. “This not only has an impact on their personal life, but also on their social and professional lives,” she says. “For a lot of people it’s not about trying to look 20, but to look less angry and less tired; to look more fresh and vibrant.

“Particularly people in sales want to look their best in order to generate more sales, more clients, to be more successful. A lot of people, men and women, want that pick me up, not to look younger, but to look their best. Cosmetic surgery can help them do this.”

Reasons for having cosmetic treatments are changing…

There is a shift in the reasons people want cosmetic surgery and non-surgical cosmetic treatments. Dr Nguyen says she’s seeing a lot more men, particularly middle-aged executives, coming for procedures such as wrinkle reduction. They do so largely because they need an edge, a bit of a boost.

“It takes a lot of courage to make the phone call and come in for cosmetic procedures,” says Dr Nguyen. “Go ahead and make that call. It is not as scary as you think. If it makes you feel better, think of it as having your hair dyed or done, instead of thinking of it as cosmetic surgery.”

Perth keeps up with trends

It’s not just Perth-ites who are increasingly opting for cosmetic surgery. According to IBIS World market research, in the five years leading to 2013, the Australian cosmetic surgery sector saw an average annual growth rate of 5.3 percent, reaching a projected revenue of 789 million dollars (AUD) in 2013. The key factors driving this growth were an ageing population seeking to reverse the visual effects of ageing and the need to deal with issues arising from growing obesity rates. Increasing health consciousness, rising health expenditures and growing waistlines are also key influences driving this trend.

It is interesting to note that the growth in demand for such cosmetic surgical procedures as breast augmentation and body sculpting through liposuction does not seem to have suffered significantly in the global recession.

Compared to cosmetic surgery, non-surgical cosmetic treatments have seen phenomenal growth.  Anti-ageing injections, dermal filler treatments and other easy, convenient and not-so-costly options are causing consumers to open their purses more often. It is a well-recognised phenomenon that in tough times people spend money on things that make them feel better. And anti-ageing treatments and injections that make them look younger and more refreshed certainly fit the bill. Some people are even willing to have a “staycation” instead of an exotic holiday, electing to have cosmetic treatments instead. They are also willing to stretch their finances a little to feel better about their appearance. A survey on injectables conducted in 2012 showed that some Aussie women were foregoing new clothes or shoes to pay for injectable treatments. Some were even willing to get an extra job to be able to continue treatments.

Baby boomers play their role

Baby boomers are coming to an age when cosmetic procedures offer an irresistible temptation to look, and more importantly, feel better. Since many women of the boomer generation are in the workforce, and quite a few hold senior professional and management positions, they have a significant disposable income to invest in elective surgery.

There is also the desire to look how you feel, not old, tired or angry. Looking older than you feel can have a significant impact on your professional life. You don’t even have to be in a job where looks really matter. In any job, in any workplace, it is necessary to put some effort into not looking old, haggard or tired. This is true even to stay in the same job, to maintain the same level of success. This is why anti ageing treatments and other injectables are the most popular non-surgical cosmetic treatments.

There’s no denying that Western Australia is enjoying good times and spending money on feel-good stuff. These should be cheery thoughts for those who are moving into the state for its family-friendly lifestyle and high quality of life. When age catches up with you and you need a boost, you won’t have to worry about a lack of world-class practitioners.

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