With the ever-rising influence of social media and the constant evolution of beauty standards, more and more people are willing to invest time and money to perform cosmetic surgery or procedures.

This trend should drive the cosmetic surgery market to new heights over the next decade. According to a grandviewresearch.com report published last February, the market was valued at USD 63.4 billion worldwide and should show an average growth of nearly 10% from 2022 to 2030, following a decline in 2020 due to the pandemic. The same dynamic should apply in the MENA region that in no way lags behind in terms of know-how and market appetite.

The interest in cosmetic surgery and procedures in this part of the world is not news. In its first ever survey on cosmetic and plastic surgery in the Middle East, Tajmeeli – a website that provides educational information about cosmetic procedures across the Middle East –  revealed that 5.6 million “Arabic speakers”, men and women, showed interest in it and that “many of the most interested users submitted inquires about having a cosmetic procedure”. Hair transplants, rhinoplasty (plastic surgery performed on the nose), and liposuction were the top three most requested procedures. Up until today, demand is mainly driven by residents of Saudi, Egypt and the UAE. In some countries, like Lebanon and Syria, domestic and foreign demand for this kind of procedure remains consistent despite internal crises.

Between USD 2.500 and 4.500

“Cosmetic surgery and procedures include both surgical and non-surgical interventions that enhance and reshape structures of the body”, explains a well-known plastic, aesthetic and reconstructive surgeon based in Lebanon, who wants to remain anonymous. He outlines the major differences between surgical interventions, like breast augmentation or rhinoplasties, which are more invasive (patients need more time to recover), and lighter, non-invasive procedures like Botox injections or the use of dermal fillers (no down time makes them more popular). “Surgical interventions need to be performed by a certified surgeon in a hospital or a clinic”, he says.

In Lebanon, the cost of an intervention performed in the appropriate conditions and environment is, on average, between USD 2.500 and 4.500, including material and operating room costs and the surgeon’s fees. The average cost can reach three times this amount in the Gulf. The prices can vary depending on the hospital or clinic’s standing and the surgeon’s fees (the material costs are stable as they have to respect mandatory safety and sanitary standards).

Non-surgical procedures don’t need to be performed by a surgeon – any certified medical practitioner, such as a dentist or dermatologist, would be capable of performing them in a suitable environment. Some money can be saved by using decent quality products at a lower price range (without resorting to counterfeits). Overall, the typical average package for these procedures could cost between USD 250 and 800 (and two or three times higher in the Gulf).

The Lebanese sector

The practitioner’s skills remain one of the main concerns in the MENA region, where 9 of 10 patients are women. In the GCC, Lebanese surgeons and clinics are considered as the pioneers of the industry and are still sought after. “Before the GCC started to seriously severe its diplomatic ties with Beirut in the middle of the 2010s, many Gulf residents used to travel to Lebanon to perform cosmetic surgery. The trend has been reversed since then and a lot of Lebanese practitioners have moved to the GCC or are traveling there every now and then to perform interventions, just like I do”, explains the contacted surgeon.

Regretfully for Lebanon, the phenomenon was also accentuated since the economic crisis started in 2019”, he adds. The launch of the Golden Visa in the UAE also convinced many Lebanese practitioners to work there. The new system for long-term residence visas that enables foreigners to live, work and study in the country without the need for a national sponsor and to keep 100% ownership of their business was also launched in 2019, according to the government website. Yet the Lebanese market is far from deserted, according to several practitioners we contacted.

If they’re considered as a pioneer in the cosmetic surgery industry, a Lebanese practitioner will also probably face strong competition from their highly-skilled Israeli colleagues, given the recent shift in diplomatic relations between Israel and some of the GCC countries. Saudi and Bahraini patients are not allowed to travel to Lebanon, but Kuwaiti, Qatari, Egyptian and Iraqi patients are still loyal to Lebanese specialists.

Finally, and according to several sources, Turkey has become over the last few years the Promised Land for hair transplants. And in North Africa, Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian patients can count on the skills of many of their countrymen who have been certified in France or other European countries. As a result, they don’t need to travel abroad to perform most of the cosmetic procedures they seek.