Plastic fantastic: Is our relentless quest for vanity more Frankenstein than fabulous?
Advances in cosmetic surgery mean you can now pick and mix to get the perfect body - from a chiselled six-pack to buns of steel. But is our relentless quest for vanity more Frankenstein than fabulous
A perfectly honed six-pack without ever sweating over a sit-up might sound like a dream come true, but Darren Lyons' bizarre chest proves that there might be something in the 'no pain, no gain' mantra.
The paparazzi boss recently shed his shirt on Channel 5's 'Celebrity Big Brother' to reveal an impressive set of abs -- on top of several pounds of flab.
"I had contouring done to my body," he told his co-star Paddy Doherty from 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding', who looked surprisingly impressed. "It's the male version of a boob job," Lyons added.
It will remain to be seen if other men watching the programme rush out to try the look, but they just might because nothing catalyses a surgery trend like a famous face.
A survey carried out by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) revealed that celebrities influence a whole range of procedures, with A-List couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie cited most often and for most body parts than men and women want to emulate.
The survey showed that breasts and lips, followed by bum, abs and nose, were women's most popular procedures, but increasingly in today's image-obsessed world, surgeons are getting to cash in on people's insecurities all over the body.
Last year's strange surgery obsession was with dimples. In the wake of Cheryl Cole's weekly appearances on 'The X Factor', surgeons across the UK reported a surge in the amount of women eager to pay homage to the Geordie lass's cheeky grin.
For around €1,000, dimple plasty involves making a tiny cut to the skin to create a small depression, then using a stitch to tack the underside of the skin to a deeper layer. It's a relatively simple procedure, but the long-term effects are yet to be discovered.
Cankles are proving to be the muffin top of 2011. For the uninitiated, this new 'problem area' is when the calves go straight to the feet without pausing for a shapely ankle in between.
Actresses Helen Mirren and Misha Barton may be separated by more than 40 years, but they are united in having cankles. Cheryl is another contender, and her cankles, like her dimples, sparked a wave of surgery, though this time from women hoping not to look like her.
Following her short-lived publicity tour in the States for American 'X Factor', one US clinic reported a rise of 60pc in calls from people interested in €5,000 liposuction to remove fat from their ankles, with Cheryl cited as a motivating factor.
Knee lifts gained popularity after Demi Moore reportedly had a €6,500 procedure to counter her ageing, saggy knees. Even as far back as 2001, women were queuing up for bum implants to emulate the bootylicious curves of Jennifer Lopez.
But even without celebrity influences, we're becoming more adventurous in our surgery choices thanks to the wealth of weird and wonderful options out there.
Grin lifts are all the rage for those unhappy with their downturned mouths. Small triangles of skin can be removed from above the corners of the mouth, turning a frown upside down, with the only downside being that patients risk looking like The Joker while the scars heal.
A bra-line lift will remove rolls of fat from the back -- surgery is there for even the areas you can't see -- and lift the skin, leaving a scar under the bra line, hence the procedure's name.
If you're cursed with an outie belly button (God forbid), the affliction can be addressed with an umbilicoplasty, where an incision is made on the upper surface of the belly button to magically give the appearance of a concave naval.
Chubby cheeks that leave one feeling like a chipmunk storing nuts for winter can be hollowed by the removal of chunks of fat and the jawline reduced by an op that sees the muscle used for chewing injected with Botox.
Fashion-conscious ladies desperate to fit into tiny designer shoes can opt for a little-toe tuck, a painful procedure that cuts the littlest piggy to make the foot slimmer. While those who have had it concede the op is brutally sore, avoiding the long-term pain of wearing high heels is reportedly worth it.
At the most wacky end of the scale -- along with those who have had their tongue sliced to look like a snake, ears resculpted to look like a 'Lord of the Rings' character and Lady Gaga fans who've had horns inserted into their face -- is the tongue patch.
Designed as a weight-loss aid, the reversible procedure is only done by a handful of surgeons in the States and involves numbing the tongue before stitching a postage-stamp-sized bit of plastic on to it, making it so uncomfortable to eat solid food that the wearer is forced to survive on liquids for up to 30 days.
It's not just the physical appearance that can be tweaked. Doctors have created a surgery that can keep the voice sounding youthfully high pitched. Developing a Dot Cotton gravely growl is a sure sign of ageing, but by inserting vocal-cord implants or injecting the cords with collagen, a voice lift will create a vocal timbre of someone years younger.
Liz Dale, director of the Harley Medical group, says it's becoming more common for people to ask for help with different areas. She says: "People are more aware of the things they can do and they're not embarrassed to come forward and talk about wanting work done.
"Even in the current economy, we have a huge volume of people coming in asking for procedures because, while they've decided they can do without a holiday this year, they feel they can't live without a cosmetic procedure. It's all tied in with confidence and how image focused society has become."
While breasts still top the charts, an increasing number of less well-known procedures are gaining popularity in Ireland, including the cankle reduction, knee ops, thigh lifts and the removal of bingo wings.
"Crash dieting means a lot of people are being left with loose skin, such as saggy thighs or bingo wings, that they want rid of," explains Dale. "Another huge growth area is cosmetic gynaecology. There's been a lot of publicity about procedures, and now that people know they can have labia reductions, they're coming in and asking for them."
She adds: "But I don't think we're as extreme in Ireland as in the USA. We don't offer bottom implants in Dublin because there just isn't the demand for them -- the fashion for big bottoms hasn't reached Ireland.
"There's also a trend in the States where they like to do a lot of procedures at once -- that doesn't happen here either. Usually people have one area that they've thought long and hard about before they decide to come in and get something done."
'The Hills' star Heidi Montag underwent 10 procedures -- including nose, cheekbone and chin jobs, an eyebrow lift, breast enlargement and fat injections -- in one day back in 2009. The reality star described herself as "obsessed" with surgery, but later admitted that if she could do it again, she wouldn't.
"Obviously I wish I didn't do it," she told 'The Daily Beast' earlier this year. "I would go back and not have any surgery. It doesn't help. I got too caught up in Hollywood, being so into myself and my image."
Unlike Montag, Dale reports that clients coming though the doors of the Dublin clinic always exit happy. "Genuinely, no one has ever said they're disappointed with what they've had done; if anything they say they wish they'd had it done sooner."
But, of course, with any surgery there are risks attached. Earlier this year, hip-hop hopeful Claudia Aderotini from London travelled to the US to get silicone illegally injected into her bottom, to look like the singers whose success she hoped to emulate. She died, aged 20, after the silicon leaked into her blood stream.
A bottom-enhancement treatment also claimed the life of former Miss Argentina, Solange Magnano (38) last year.
And there are still areas that can't be tampered with. "We get people coming wanting to be taller or smaller, or there are always guys who want certain parts of them made bigger and it's just not possible," says Dale.
Nor is she convinced Lyons' look on 'Big Brother' will catch on. She laughs: "If he was going to sculpt his chest, I don't know why he didn't sculpt the tummy as well. The procedure isn't that unusual or expensive -- I say it would have cost him about €3,000.
"But leaving it the way he has is bizarre. He might have compared it to a boob job, but the way he's done it, it's like having one breast enlarged and leaving the other."