Athleisure clothing behind the rise in liposuction, say plastic surgeons 

Topshop promoting Beyonce's line of athleisure wear, Ivy Park
Topshop promoting Beyonce's line of athleisure wear, Ivy Park Credit: Rex/Shutterstock

The rise in wearing gym gear as everyday clothing is behind a 12 per cent spike in women receiving liposuction treatment, experts have said.

In recent years, many brands have embraced the trend of 'athleisure' with leggings and bra tops now as acceptable at the bar, as at the barre.

Yet rather than hitting the gym to gain the physique needed to pull off such tight and skimpy outfits, woman are instead visiting the clinic, according to The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS).

The number of liposuction operations, in which fat is removed from the thighs and buttocks, rose by 12 per cent to 2,286 for women, to make it the fastest growing area of plastic surgery. 

Recent figures showed 'athleisure' is now a £3bn market in the UK, fuelled by the rise of the Instagam-led trends of healthy living and clean eating. Brands which never produced sportswear now have ranges, including H&M, Boohoo, Primark, New Look, Ted Baker, Topshop and Whistles.

The original phrase was first used in 1976 in an advert for trainers but it officially enter the dictionary in April 2016, defined as “casual clothing to be worn for exercising and for general use.” 

Other areas of cosmetic surgery on the rise included nose jobs, up three per cent to 2,831, and face and neck lifts which saw a jump of seven per cent to 2,134 procedures, driven by celebrities, such as Jane Fonda, who recently admitted to decades of work.

Former BAAPS President Rajiv Grover, who compiles the audit on an annual basis, said: “The rise (of liposuction) comes at a time where the popularity of TV shows such as Love Island has driven the desire for a toned torso, as did the fashion for women’s athleisure clothing.

"The danger of cosmetic surgery becoming too closely linked to reality TV or celebrity endorsement is that it can make surgery seem like a commodity, which should never be the case. An operation is not something that can simply be returned to the shop if you have second thoughts.

“The trend is also driven by the openness of celebrities like Jane Fonda who recently admitted to having surgery over several decades to enhance her looks and prolong her career."

According to the new figures, over 28,000 procedures took place in 2018, a small increase of 0.1 per cent on 2017 and nine in 10 treatments were carried out on women.

As in 2017, the three most popular procedures for women were breast augmentation, breast reduction and blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery). 

Overall, male cosmetic surgery dropped by 4.7 per cent in 2018 as non-surgical treatments gained popularity, particularly with the launch of high street botox, which said brow lifts drop four per cent for men and 15 per cent for women.

However BAAPS said there was concern that high street shops carrying out procedures were not operating to the same level as qualified plastic surgeons.

BAAPS President and consultant plastic surgeon Paul Harris has called for further regulation of non-healthcare professionals conducting cosmetic surgery.

He said: “The rise in high-street and DIY non-surgical cosmetic procedures is hugely concerning for a number of reasons, not least the potential for profit to be placed before patient care.

"Other issues are that it makes it easier for underage individuals to access, that unrealistic expectations may not be addressed, and that any emergency complications would need to be dealt with outside of a medical environment.

"Further regulation of products, practitioners, procedures and premises is urgently required to ensure patients’ physical and psychological well-being .”

From last August, high street cosmetics company Superdrug said would offer Botox and dermal fillers to customers over the age of 25. Customers must book by phone and have a consultation with a qualified nurse and in January the retailer agreed to bring in more stringent mental health tests before the procedures took place following criticism from the NHS.

Mr Grover added: “The non-surgical sector is rife with lax regulation and unethical promotions and the public must remain vigilant as ‘non-surgical’ does not mean the same as ‘non-medical’.

"These treatments have risks as well as benefits and patients must choose their practitioner very carefully.”