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Brazilian butt lift: behind the world’s most dangerous cosmetic surgery

Beatrice Lessi

I have been a long time reader of The Guardian, and its recent feature about the Brazilian Butt Lift,  that is also available in The Audio Long Read version, (perfect to listen to while you’re doing something else), really intrigued me. Even though I have decided a long time ago not to undergo any cosmetic surgery procedure (or fillers or anything like that), I am still asking myself how can a person go through such an invasive, expensive and painful procedure to change her butt, which – I personally think – not so many people notice (sure not as many as we think). But this is only my personal opinion, of course, and I respect other ideas. Anyway, this was my motivation to listen to the interviews conducted by Sophie Elmhirst, the author of the article, and I found them striking.

“If you’ve had a BBL, it’s like you’ve already edited your body in real life,” one of the patients, called Melissa, says “so you don’t have to edit your pictures.”

The Brazilian Butt Lift is the fastest-growing cosmetic surgery in the world. Since 2015, the number of butt lifts performed globally has grown by 77.6%, according to a recent survey by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. It began in Brazil, birthplace of aesthetic surgery and the myth of the naturally “sticky-outy” bottom, the kind seen in countless tourist board images of bikini-clad women on Copacabana beach.

Elmhirst spent  some time with a surgeon, Dr. Lucy Glancey, to research about her article. Here’s an excerpt:

In a series of videos Glancey sent me of her performing the procedure, the sheer vigour required was striking. She pumped the cannula forwards and backwards repeatedly, like a particularly involved handheld vacuum cleaning session. An operation can last anywhere between three to six hours, and the thrusting motion is necessary for fat removal and insertion. By the end, Glancey is often exhausted. The patient’s body, meanwhile, like any anaesthetised body undergoing a serious operation, resembled a lifeless slab of flesh, which Glancey handled with that odd surgical balance of delicacy and force.

A patient has to wait weeks before they know what their bottom will ultimately look like. The fat takes time to settle, and Glancey has to remind her patients that at best, only about 50% of the fat “takes”. The rest is absorbed by the body and ejected through the lymphatic system. ….

In Turkey, the most popular destination for cosmetic surgery patients travelling abroad in Europe – and the third most popular in the world, after Thailand and Mexico – the limits are less conservative. Some surgeons openly advertise on social media that they will insert more than 1,000cc into a patient’s buttocks. Glancey says that she regularly sees patients who have returned from Turkey unhappy with the results, often because a significant quantity of fat has died and left them lopsided or misshapen.

The risk involved in performing a BBL is not only about the quantity of fat, but how it is inserted….

If you want to listen to the whole article, click here. To read it, click here.