Game for a Granny Makeover

A growing number of Indian women in their 50s and 60s are exploring cosmetic options to look younger.


55-year-old Kanta Sharma, a resident of Delhi, spent about five months last year in the United States. Sharma was visiting her daughter and son-in-law who had a new baby. While the new parents were away at work, the grandmother spent most days cuddling the baby while watching re-runs of the famous reality series Keeping Up With The Kardashians in her daughter’s Maryland home.

Kanta Sharma recalls: “While I was always conscious about my sagging body and wrinkles, I thought that nothing could be done at this age. But when I saw the matriarch in the reality series Kris Jenner, who at 60 could look like as if she was all of 40, I was impressed.”

Not only did Kris Jenner became an idol for Sharma, she also began finding great similarities with her: “Just like Jenner, I too was quite the momager at home, managing my children’s lives and careers, but post-50 I took a break and shied away from attending to my vanity needs. However there was one episode in the series that spoke to me — where Kris Jenner at 60 goes for a repeat breast implants. That was a moment that fell like a thud in my heart. Here was I, too shy to even go for a brow lift, and this strong woman was giving two hoots to what the world thinks and living like a queen at 60. Needless to say, she inspired me to take better care of myself despite the age!”

Sharma is not alone. According to cosmetologists in Indian metros, a growing number of women in their late 40s, 50s and few even 60s are exploring cosmetic options to look younger and better groomed.

Dr Anup Dhir, plastic and cosmetic surgeon, Apollo Hospitals, Delhi says: “We are seeing a surge in demand for cosmetic procedures amongst women in the age bracket of 50 and above. I would say that there are a few factors that are common in all women who are exploring these options — most are from urban metros and are well traveled. They move in social circles that command good grooming and they are well-off enough to spend money on themselves.”

Dr Prabhu Mishra: “Earlier it was only film stars and celebrities who obsessed about their looks. Today each one of us is a celebrity in our own right.”

So, does it show that vanity is no longer an age bound? Dr Dhir says: “More than the desire to look young, it is this urge to look well put-together and groomed. Sometimes women do come to us saying that they want to look younger, but we explain to them that trying to look 20 when they are 40 is not only impossible, but won’t even be a logical thing to aim for. And interestingly more often than not, they agree and share they want to look well maintained instead. I would say since this is still a developing trend, sometimes women also do not know how to express what they want. Not to forget, the societal stigma in India associated with women of certain age going for cosmetic procedures also restricts many who may be willing to look better put-together.”

The number of women in India undergoing cosmetic surgeries is lot lower than the United States where Americans spend billions to go under the knife.

According to an American Society of Plastic Surgeons report, Americans spent $16 billion on 17 million cosmetic procedures in 2016. With the rise of 60+ celebrity icons, such as Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Jane Seymour, and many others, more women believe that they can look attractive never mind the age.

96-year-old American interior designer and fashion icon Iris Apfel inspired a line of MAC cosmetics last year. Six kids and 61-year-old Kris Jenner does not shy from showing off her toned body in a bikini. At the recently concluded Fall 2017 New York Fashion Week, the number of models above the age of 50 was four times that in Spring 2016, according to the FashionSpot’s diversity report.


In India too age-inclusivity is “in,” with glossies regularly putting older celebrities, such as Sridevi, Dimple Kapadia and Amrita Singh, on their cover pages. But the attempt to make people more comfortable in their skin by celebrating idols beyond a certain age — too-perfect-to-be-true celebs — sometimes puts a reverse pressure to look good, some women say.

According to a global survey by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (AISAPS), India ranked 7th in the world with 878,180 cosmetic procedures carried out last year. The United States topped the list with 19% of all procedures in the world, followed by Brazil with 11% and South Korea with 5%. India accounted for 4% of the procedures recorded globally. Although the survey did not categorize the procedures based on age, experts say that the median age exploring these options is growing.

Some clinics in India are now running “granny packages” and “granny makeover” sessions in response to the rising interest. At StemGenn Therapeutics, a cosmetic clinic in Delhi, a granny package offers services, such as cell rejuvenation therapy, Botox and fillers to remove frowns, crow’s feet, smile lines, tummy tuck, face-lift, brow-lift and neck-lift as well as breast reduction and surgery to remove excess fat from thighs and arms. The cost of the procedures, at most urban locations in India, ranges anywhere between Rs 1 to 5 lakhs ($1500-$7,500).

Dr Prabhu Mishra, CEO, StemGenn Therapeutics says: “Earlier it was only film stars and celebrities who obsessed about their looks. Today each one of us is a celebrity in our own right. In these times of selfies, we all want to look our best, — age no bar! So whether it is a mom of two or a granny of 12, looks are uppermost on the mind and they are willing to go to great lengths to stay young and glamorous.”

As new minimally invasive procedures emerge, even a neighborhood aunty on her kitty lunch session thinks of undergoing a quick tuck. Dr Mishra says: “Technology is serving as a boon. Every day, innovative beauty solutions are coming up bringing hope for looks-conscious people. In 12 years of practice I have never been so busy. Business is booming. But what is more striking is number of new moms and grannies lining up at the clinic for cosmetic, aesthetic and reconstructive surgeries. This was always common abroad, but in India it’s a new trend. The good news is that we have lot to offer them.”

The women who have gone for a cosmetic procedure admit that peer pressure plays a role, but if they can afford it they are willing to try it out.

Nandini Vaish, a Pune resident, travels to Dubai frequently, where her children are now settled. Since she spends a few months every year in Dubai, she has built a small social circle there too. She says: “In Dubai the women I meet are all in their 50s and they regularly organize spa meet-ups or pedicure parties. The talk of Botox and nip and tucks always remains one of our more engaging conversations and a few of us have tried Botox too. I admit that the results are temporary and it’s a vicious cycle, because once you go for it you want to make it a habit.”

Shahnaz Husain: “Being well groomed is not about belying your age, but looking charming even with grey hair and a wrinkly smile.”

Others are trying it as a personal body goal. Rajumoni Dutta, a 55-year-old, homemaker from Delhi, says: “My husband and I had dreamed of a European beach holiday after his retirement. But when the time drew near, I looked at myself in the mirror and shuddered to think how I would look in a bikini. I almost dropped the idea. I didn’t want to go and have my husband ogle at other shapely women on the beach. I shared my dilemma with a friend. She suggested I go in for body rejuvenation.

“I didn’t think it would help, but on her insistence, I signed up half-heartedly. But the results were satisfactory as my ungainly figure looked much more shapely. Needless to say, I had the most memorable holiday in Corsica. I hope that I would be able to now maintain my body weight with diet and exercise as I do not want to go for an invasive procedure repeatedly.”

While business may be booming for cosmetic clinics, many natural practitioners balk at the idea of resorting to needles and anesthesia in a bid to look good.

Shahnaz Husain, one of the pioneers of Ayurvedic treatments in India, who also has a serious following of her herbal products in Middle East and the United Kingdom is not amused with the trend and terms it unhealthy and dangerous: “New innovations in the field of age-control, in skin treatments, keep grabbing headlines, whether it is Botox, cosmetic surgery, or placenta facials. Although Botox is not as invasive as cosmetic surgery procedures, it can still be called a minimally invasive procedure, because it temporarily blocks the signals from nerves to muscles. Yes, the effects are temporary and last for three to four months. This means that you need to repeat the Botox procedure every three to four months. An extremely unnecessary ritual, I would say.”

A few women who underwent these procedures also cautioned that unless the clinic one chooses is reputed, there is always a chance of emerging with a crooked smile or an overarched brow after the surgery. Nivedita Singh, got a brow lift about a year ago for her daughter’s wedding. She says: “I looked as if something had hit me on the brow, it was too overarched and artificial. I am happy the effect went away. All I would say is — never again.”

Husain warns of other “fancy” procedures too: “Among the latest treatments one also hears is sheep placenta facials, which are said to preserve the youthful properties of the skin. This may not be for the faint-hearted, but many celebrities are said to have gone for placenta facials. In some high-end salons in the West, the placenta extract is mixed with 24 karat gold flakes, to purify the skin and give it an immediate glow. Many treatments are given, include skin polishing, after which the skin is exposed to LED light.”

Husain cautions that these extreme procedures propagate a flawed idea of age-inclusive beauty. Being well groomed is not about belying your age, but looking charming even with grey hair and a wrinkly smile. And that’s the message that the models aged 50+ on New York Fashion Week runway seemed to convey!


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