Boob jobs and tummy tucks rose by a third last year, as British plastic surgeons counted the revenue from unprecedented demand for their cosmetic transformations.
Breast augmentations, abdominoplasty and "designer vaginas" were three areas of cosmetic surgery which saw a sharp increase in the number of procedures undertaken over the past 12 months.
According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), which represents around a third of cosmetic surgeons in the UK, 34,187 surgical procedures were carried out by their affiliates last year, a 5 per cent increase on the previous year, and more than treble the number of operations carried out in 2003. Breast enlargement remained the most popular procedure, up 30 per cent at 8,439 operations.
The second most popular procedure for women was eyelid surgery at 4,520, down from 5,148 in 2007. This was followed by face and neck lifts at 4,355, up three per cent, tummy tucks at 3,526, up 31 per cent, and then breast reductions with 3,522 operations, up 11 per cent. Women had 91 per cent of all cosmetic procedures in 2008.
"Public interest in aesthetic surgery remained strong last year, especially in regards to specific procedures," said Nigel Mercer, consultant plastic surgeon and president of the BAAPS.
"Wide media coverage has helped to educate the public about the latest advances and choices available, and we are encouraged by the fact that more people are doing their research carefully and choosing reputable providers.
"In the current climate, it is even more important patients seeking cosmetic surgical procedures do not make decisions based solely on price."
Figures released by the Harley Medical Group, one of the country's largest cosmetic surgery providers which is not a member of BAAPS, also revealed a marked increase in gynaecological surgery, which was up by 55 per cent on the previous year.
Liz Dale, director of The Harley Group, said "hundreds" of women had last year chosen to undergo some sort of gynaecological surgery. "We don't release specific details for competitive reasons but I can say it was in the high hundreds last year," she said, adding: "The procedures we perform are a real mixture. Some women come for vaginal tightening after birth, others want to restore their hymen. But the vast majority of operations are aesthetic, primarily remodelling a woman's labia to make her vagina look more attractive."
Despite Britain's continuing love affair with going under the knife, there are nevertheless early signs the economic situation affected uptake in the final months of 2008 – specifically the lack of City bonuses.