TOO MUCH STIGMA

Romania-based Kenyan doctor to bring plastic surgery home

She says cosmetic procedures may have a reputation as being about vanity, and many Kenyans believe in “natural” beauty.

In Summary

• Dr Othieno says at first she was discouraged, but is now ready to bite the bullet.

• Dr Othieno notes that when many people think of plastic surgery they mostly think of breast augmentation or butt lift.

It probably will not surprise you to learn that plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures in Kenya are on the rise.

But the stigma surrounding them continues to grow.

Last week, after Dr Maria Othieno Bayerl, a Kenyan plastic surgeon based in Bucharest, Romania, announced her intention to set up practice in Nairobi, the attacks came swiftly.

“There's a big stigma. Trust me, I'm feeling it right now on the internet and social media. I'm being attacked left, right and centre, but it's fine,” she says. “They've said quite a number of nasty stuff, but it's okay.”

Dr Othieno, who was a student of State House Girls, studied medicine in Romania under a scholarship. She says at first she was discouraged but is now ready to bite the bullet.

She says cosmetic procedures may have a reputation as being about vanity, and many Kenyans believe in “natural” beauty.

There’s also the idea that African skin does not age or wrinkle quickly.

“Most of the people who have been doing it currently in Kenya could be the Caucasian group or the Indian group. So here comes a Kenyan who's telling you, you can do ABCD and you're like, Oh, do you want me to be like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie?” She says.

“No, I want you as an African to also know it's good and it's okay. And it's safe to take care of yourself and take care of your skin and take care of your face.”

Dr Othieno says that when many people think of plastic surgery they mostly think of breast augmentation or butt lift.

However, the procedures she intends to introduce in Nairobi are non-surgical and non-invasive, which means you can do them over lunch hour and return to work.

“We have various procedures. But we want to introduce the non-invasive therapy in Kenya. You have a small container and mix a cocktail of different substances in this container. It is transdermal, you apply superficially on your face. And this promotes tightening of your skin, promotes healthiness of your skin, and makes your skin look rejuvenated,” she explains.

The chemical peels induce injury with subsequent re-epithelisation (promoting growth of new healthy cells) that ultimately improves the skin appearance by improving texture, pigmentation and tone.

The price ranges from Sh32,000 (250 euros) to Sh38,000 (300 euros) with the results lasting up to 12 months.

She believes with more knowledge and exposure, Kenyans will embrace cosmetic procedures more and more.

“Studies suggest that physical appearance influences nearly every aspect of life, not only our quality of life, self-esteem and body image but also interpersonal relationships, employment opportunities and financial compensation,” she explains.

“With this in mind the growth in cosmetic medical treatment is not particularly surprising.  Widespread media coverage of surgical and minimally invasive treatments has helped raise public awareness and increased acceptance.”

After she completed medical school at Carol Davilla Medical School in Bucharest between 2008-2014, Othieno specialised as an ear, nose and throat doctor under tutelage of renown Prof Dr Dorin Hociota between 2014-2019.

She now works as an otorhinolaryngologist (ENT doctor) at Cronos Med in Bucharest, where she lives with her husband and one child.

According to the Kenya Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, the country has a growing force of more than 20 plastic surgeons.

Costs locally are low compared to developed countries but expensive for many Kenyans.

For instance, face lift surgery, where lines and wrinkles are surgically removed for a youthful appearance, costs approximately Sh350,000.

A tummy tuck, where loose flabby skin is excised and the abdominal muscles are strengthened costs about Sh450,000, according to the society.

A breast lift, done to reduce the saggy appearance of breasts, costs about Sh350,000.

Edited by A.N