I frequently travel to the Dominican Republic. Growing up in one of the lesser developed islands in the Caribbean, it was not strange for me to travel there for health motives. My routine trips consisted of dental cleaning and physical check-ups. Like most tourists, I also visited for the purpose of leisure. Known for its pristine beaches, lush mountains, savoury food and rhythmic music, the Dominican Republic is one of the top tourist destinations of the Caribbean and Central America. Not only is the country highly rated for its ecotourism, but now its popularity is growing immensely among the medical tourists seeking cosmetic surgery. Walking down the busy streets in Santo Domingo or flipping on the television, it is no secret that enlarged breasts, Brazilian buttocks and waist the size of a teenager is the look that is in. These Mega Divas are the new talk of the town.

The rise of self-portraits on social media sites has increased insecurities among the younger population. Self-obsession and a desire to enhance one’s beauty to get perfect images has fuelled the market for medical tourism around the globe. While India, Thailand and Korea are plastic surgery hubs in Asia, the cost friendliness and high quality of procedures in the Dominican Republic have made it the epicentre of the West. Going under the knife to increase one’s self-esteem and self-confidence is no longer seen as an extreme measure. With modern day celebrities’ success stories constantly broadcasted in the media, cosmetic surgery has become an accepted procedure that people consider as somewhat attainable when seeking for the perfect body.

Long are the days when my Dominican friends would call me prior to a visit to ask if I could bring unhealthy, ‘magical’ diet pills they saw advertised on the television. No longer do these women look towards diet and exercise as options to attain most of these bodily transformations, but rather prefer surgical methods that have been tested and proven.

The Mega Divas, such as the Jennifer Lopez and the Beyoncé aspirants, prefer to have curvy, hour-glass physiques as opposed to overall slimness. Although breast enhancement is still the top contender of all of the cosmetic surgeries, lipoabdominoplasty and butt augmentation are on the rise as the prototype of sexiness has shifted towards a guitar shaped figure.

What attracts medical tourists to the Dominican Republic is the package deals many of the hospitals offer. Procedures in the Dominican Republic can cost up to half of the price of cosmetic surgery in North America and Europe; including the cost of airfare in the overall total. Many hospitals offer luxury hotels as post-operation stay, airport transportation, multi-linguist assistance and experienced internationally certified doctors to lure their visitors. Advertising invasive plastic surgeries in the Dominican Republic as a form of vacation has proven itself an effective marketing technique; evident as the number of procedures taking place in this hub has seen steady increase over the past years.

There are no firm scientific data on the amount of complications that have occurred from tourists travelling to the Dominican Republic for surgeries. As in any country, invasive surgery does come with risks, and in the case of cosmetic procedures this involves complications such as bleeding, scarring, blood clotting, infection, or leakage of implants. There are a few stories that have made headlines in the USA where patients have died or suffered complications after having cosmetic surgeries in the Dominican Republic.

Invasive surgeries such as lipoabdominoplasty, mastopexy and augmentation of the breasts or gluteus maximus require sufficient time for the body to heal and recuperate. Vacation related activities should not be a priority when travelling overseas to go under the scalpel in order to reduce the risk of post operation complications. With information on plastic surgery being so easily accessible, finding an experienced doctor with proper credentials in the Dominican Republic has greatly reduce fears that medical tourists previously had of ending up with botched procedures. Many of these complications that have made headlines may have been avoided if careful research and investigations were done on the doctors and hospitals prior to travelling such distant journeys to permanently change bodily features.

More than half of the patients that have cosmetic surgeries done in the Dominican Republic are foreigners. Thinking back to some years ago, when the trend was reversed – people from poorer nations travelling to wealthier ones for higher-quality care - it is a pleasure to see the economic and medical technology advancements of these wealthier countries spreading around the globe. This boom in business from plastic surgery tourism in the Dominican Republic will certainly continue to rise as long as cosmetic surgeries continue to receive coverage by most insurance companies in the world, and as long as the desires of patients wanting privacy to recuperate remains strong.

I recently went back to the Dominican Republic, and not surprisingly I encountered more of my friends who had lately had some enhancements done. Some showed me pictures of their mothers that had recently had surgeries done as well. It dawned on me at that moment that insecurities are no longer issues of the youth. It was amazing the transformations these mothers had made, with theirs waist and breasts of a developed teenager and Brazilian gluteus. I guess the quest to find Ponce de León’s fountain of youth has officially ended - farewell to the failed mythical quick fix gimmicks and welcome to the era of the attainable Mega Diva aesthetic; now that affordable, high quality procedures are continuously successful in making women into the ageless beauty they have long desired.