Researchers set out to profile the nip, tuck, travel phenomenon

In summary: 
  • Two UTS researchers are part of ground-breaking international study of the phenomenon of cosmetic surgery tourism
  • An estimated 50 Australians a month are travelling to Malaysia for cosmetic surgery and researchers would like to know more about them, along with others travelling from the UK and Australia to Thailand, Korea, Spain and Poland

An estimated 50 Australians a month are travelling to Malaysia for cosmetic surgery and researchers would like to know more about them as part of ground-breaking international study of the phenomenon of cosmetic surgery tourism.

The Sun, Sea, Sand and Silicone project involves academics from the University of Technology, Sydney, the University of Sydney and the Universities of Leeds and Leicester in the UK. It is examining two sites of origin – the UK and Australia – and five popular cosmetic surgery tourism destinations: Thailand, Korea and Malaysia, Spain and Poland.

Lead UTS researcher Dr Meredith Jones said cosmetic surgery tourism was fast growing, but not yet well understood.

"Our project is aiming to bring understanding to the cosmetic surgery tourism industry by looking at the experiences of people involved: patients, surgeons, the agents who organise travel and appointments, and other workers such as nurses and translators," Dr Jones said.

"We are asking why Australians are choosing to have cosmetic surgery, why they're choosing to have it in these places, how they know about the option to have surgery overseas, how they organise their trip, what they do while on their trip (besides surgery), who they go with, and what their perceptions are of the experience."

Emily Hunter and Meredith Jones. Picture by Terry ClintonEmily Hunter and Meredith Jones. Picture by Terry Clinton

The Sydney team of Dr Jones, Professor Elspeth Probyn from the University of Sydney and Emily Hunter from UTS, has already gathered data from people travelling to Thailand and now is looking at Malaysia.

Dr Jones said interviews with the surgery tourists to Thailand had shown that many now travel in groups. Most of the groups are put together by cosmetic surgery tourism agents.

"We have also noted an increase in younger people, especially women in their twenties, travelling in order to have cosmetic surgery," she said.

"Social media, mainly Facebook and YouTube, are playing larger and more important roles. Through them people gain information, access to services, and are able to join communities of other cosmetic surgery tourists."

Ms Hunter will spend five weeks doing fieldwork in Malaysia from 18 May and hopes make contact with Australians travelling there for surgery before they set off.

"The demographic seems to be different from those going to Thailand," Ms Hunter said "These people are not in the same age group, or as active on web forums and social media, and there aren't as many of them.

"Our ideal is for people to keep a video or photo diary of the whole experience for us and that requires some interaction beforehand."

Ms Hunter said the study, due to be completed late next year, was fully confidential with ethics approval from the universities involved.

The result can be very intriguing but the affordability can be the prime suspect for the increasing number of travelers for cosmetic surgery tourism. We may have different meaning of quality since each country is different, but in my own opinion, results can be the same for all countries. It will only change if a surgery is performed by an unlicensed surgeon. Lots of questions may be raised before traveling, and in most cases, these questions are answered by the surgeons abroad which make the opportunity of having surgery abroad easier and look safer or at least same with what we have in our countries.

Anyway, I would love to know the result of this study!

Thanks for your comment Jane.
We would be happy to share our results with you. Please email me directly ( with your contact details so that we can keep you informed.

This sounds like a fascinating study. Many people from the US are also seeking cosmetic surgery abroad. I would love to see the results of your study.
Dr. Branman

Hi Dr Branman. Thanks for your interest. If you email me with your contact details I can add you to our contact list and keep you informed about our publications when they come out.

Hi there,

I noticed this thread whilst trawling google. Having been in the cosmetic industry for over 10 years now, I'm well aware of the growing trend of people flocking to overseas destinations to have cosmetic surgery procedures done in attempt to save money.

With this in mind, I embarked upon a journey 3 years ago to deliver a product to the Australia people that would allow them access to safe, yet affordable cosmetic surgery. I teamed up with a collegue and long time friend - Dr Eddy Dona (plastic surgeon) to help me construct this model.

Our clinic opened for trade on Monday the 13th of July and we are already becoming quickly booked out.

Our Surgeons are highly trained and experienced, our clinic is subject to an ISO9001 accreditaiton.

We anticipate having a huge impact on the overseas tourism trade in Australia and hope to start a trend of local surgeons offering fair and reasonable prices.

If you could like further information, please feel free to check out our website.


Hi David,
Thanks for your email. Its interesting to hear about a different approach being used within the industry. We would be really interested to hear about it in more detail. Could you email me directly at ? Thanks.

Hi Emily,

I have sent an email to the above email address.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind Regards,

David Segal.