Kudos to the Brazilians for equal opportunity embellishment! How I wish such opportunity
existed in the United States!
RIO DE JANEIRO — A machine purrs as it delivers electrical pulses deep into the saggy skin on Barbara Penha's jawline, a high-tech treatment used first to tighten her jowls and then to sculpt her tummy.
The technique is all the rage at the chic dermatology clinics that cater to legions of wealthy women here who invest serious time and big bucks into looking their bikini best.
But Penha isn't a socialite, nor did she fork out the $450 that a single radio-frequency session typically runs in Rio de Janeiro. The struggling housewife got the treatment free of charge at a clinic that provides the poor access to the kinds of pricey cosmetic treatments that have become almost de rigueur among Brazil's moneyed elite.
Free Botox and laser hair removal, free chemical peels and anti-cellulite treatments may at first seem shockingly frivolous in a country like Brazil – which, despite phenomenal economic growth in recent years that has lifted millions out of extreme poverty, still battles with diseases like tuberculosis and dengue.
But the philosophy behind the more than 220 clinics across Brazil that treat people like Penha and thousands of maids, receptionists, waitresses and others is simple: Beauty is a right, and the poor deserve to be ravishing, too.
The Brazilian Society of Aesthetic Medicine's Rio clinic has performed free procedures on more than 14,000 patients since its founding in 1997, said Dr. Nelson Rosas, who heads the Rio branch.
Good looks, doctors argue, are more than skin deep, and by treating what patients view as physical flaws doctors are often also healing their psyches.
"What's a wrinkle? Something minor, right? Something with precious little importance," Rosas said. "But when we treat the wrinkle, that unimportant little thing, we're actually treating something very important: The patient's self esteem."