Doctor Semih Yildiz is strikingly handsome, with thick black hair and a neatly trimmed beard. I stand before him while he inspects my body. He prods my stomach, looks at my bottom and my waist. He tells me to lean forward and back. I feel painfully nervous. I had met this man only minutes earlier. After about a minute, he happily concludes that yes, I am eligible for a ‘butt lift’.
Welcome to Istanbul, a place where getting plastic surgery is almost as easy as booking a manicure. And one procedure that is getting increasingly popular among young women especially is the butt lift, which promises a fuller bottom and smaller waist, a look popularised by Instagram stars like the Kardashians.
Kim and Khloe Kardashian, on the other hand, have always denied having cosmetic surgery on their bums – although there has been much speculation, including recent rumours they have had their implants removed.
Dr Yildiz works at Vanity Cosmetic Surgery Hospital (its motto promises ‘A Better You’) in the lively district of Uskudar, on the Asian side of the city.
The reception area is clean and sleek. There are glossy magazines on the table, and a television screen shows slick films of recent patients gushing about their surgeries.
TRAGIC: Melissa Kerr, 31, who died after fat blocked her pulmonary artery
COLLAPSED: Young mother Demi Agoglia, 26, died after surgery in Turkey
A man, probably in his 30s, sits in the waiting area with a female companion. He is wearing the tell-tale black headband given to patients after a hair transplant to reduce any swelling.
Vanity offers the buttock enlargement surgery, sometimes referred to as a ‘Brazilian butt lift’ or BBL, as part of a package at a third of the price that it would be in the UK, with taxis to and from the airport, and a minimum of five nights in a hotel.
As part of the procedure, Dr Yildiz shows me how he can inject fat into my hips as well as my bottom to give me an overall rounder shape. And if I’m still not satisfied with the size of my posterior, an implant can be added at a later date.
My companion – a Mail on Sunday photographer – protests that I have a great body already. ‘Yes, it’s good – but she can be even better!’ he replies. ‘It makes sense. She’s an ideal candidate.’
So much for my personal training sessions and careful diet…
In reception, an employee informs me that the soonest I can get surgery is in a fortnight. She quotes me £4,600 (which includes airport transfers and hotel accommodation), but if I pay a deposit now, she can reduce it to £3,750 – a discount of nearly £900. At this point, I tell her I will need to think about it before leaving the clinic.
I never planned on going through with the operation. I’m here to investigate the booming butt lift industry, as increasing numbers of young British women flock to Turkey to get the look for a competitive price.
Last year, the country was set to overtake France as the second most popular European holiday destination for Brits, thanks to a huge surge in ‘cosmetic tourism’.
This prompted the UK Government to update its travel advice, warning that it was aware of more than 25 British nationals who had died following visits to Turkey for medical procedures since January 2019.
Iram Ramzan: I never planned on going through with the operation. I’m here to investigate the booming butt lift industry, as increasing numbers of young British women flock to Turkey to get the look for a competitive price
Earlier this month a British mother-of-three died after undergoing a butt lift op in Turkey.
Demi Agoglia, just 26, became ill hours before she was due to return home to Salford following her procedure, which doctors had declared a success. Her family said that she collapsed while visiting the clinic for a check-up.
Ms Agoglia, who had given birth to her son just seven months earlier, was rushed into intensive care, but doctors were unable to save her.
Her heartbroken brother Carl, 37, has now warned anyone thinking of going to Turkey for surgery not to contemplate it. ‘Don’t do it!’ he wrote online. ‘It is tragic what happened. We are just in shock.’
A butt lift operation involves using liposuction to remove unwanted fat from areas of the body, such as the waist, stomach, back and thighs.
Once collected, the fat is purified and injected to create a fuller-looking bottom using your own tissues rather than implants.
Implants can also be used for patients who don’t have enough fat to achieve this – or who want an even bigger behind. The fat has a better chance of staying in the intended spot if it is injected into muscle – but this is where the fatal risk lies.
If injected incorrectly into the muscle, serious problems can arise. Patients run the risk of suffering a fat embolism, when some of the fat enters the bloodstream and blocks a blood vessel. If the blockage occurs in the lungs, oxygen is prevented from entering the bloodstream. If it happens in the brain, it can cause a stroke.
Butt lift operations have the highest risk of death out of all cosmetic surgeries. The procedure – which costs £10,000 in the UK – has a death rate of more than one per 6,000 surgeries.
Melissa Kerr, 31, from Gorleston in Norfolk, travelled to the Medicana Haznedar Hospital in Istanbul for a butt lift in 2019. She died at the hospital on the day of the surgery, after injected fat entered a vein and blocked her pulmonary artery
Melissa Kerr. Butt lift operations have the highest risk of death out of all cosmetic surgeries. The procedure – which costs £10,000 in the UK – has a death rate of more than one per 6,000 surgeries
Demi Agoglia. Ms Agoglia, just 26, became ill hours before she was due to return home to Salford following her procedure, which doctors had declared a success. Her family said that she collapsed while visiting the clinic for a check-up
Melissa Kerr, 31, from Gorleston in Norfolk, travelled to the Medicana Haznedar Hospital in Istanbul for a butt lift in 2019.
She died at the hospital on the day of the surgery, after injected fat entered a vein and blocked her pulmonary artery.
Then there are other complications. Women can be left with scarring, deformities and serious skin infections.
The NHS advises people to have two consultations with the surgeon treating you before any surgery, as this will give you a cooling-off period, which is normally two weeks in the UK.
According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), the number of those requiring hospital treatments in the UK after cosmetic surgery abroad has shot up 94 per cent in three years – from 57 in 2020 to 111 in 2022. Procedures in Turkey accounted for more than three quarters of these.
Dr Paul Banwell, a Harley Street plastic surgeon, says: ‘While there are many good surgeons abroad, there are some only interested in the volume of patients and people will only meet their consultant for the surgery itself. In the UK, there will be before and after appointments and a lot of follow-ups.
‘I know that a lot of people are tempted to go abroad for plastic surgery because it may be cheaper. However, I would urge anyone who is considering this to please exercise caution.’ Yet some women think it’s worth the risk. Klaudia, a 29-year-old admin worker from Essex, has had no fewer than four butt lifts.
On Instagram, she proudly shows off the body she has paid for, with wide hips, a large bum and an impossibly small waist. Her main influence was – who else? – Kim Kardashian.
‘She’s almost the perfect woman,’ she tells the MoS. ‘That’s what I wanted to look like.’
Klaudia’s figure certainly attracts attention. She has caught people in public taking pictures of her bottom, even making fun of her. But she insists she doesn’t care.
‘I just ignore it. Do what makes you happy in life. Don’t do it for other people.’
Instagram seems to play a significant role in the butt lift trend, in more ways than one. Turkish clinics – there are too many to count – advertise to potential clients on social media.
I contacted at least a dozen clinics, and within an hour had received a message from all of them via messaging service WhatsApp.
Typically, you are asked to send photographs of the body part in question, and are asked cursory details about your medical history.
One clinic, Medaway, quoted me £2,030 for a butt lift, which was a 30 per cent discount – but only if I paid that amount within 15 days. The package included the usual airport transfers and accommodation, as well as a personal translator, follow-up tests, medications, pre- and post-surgical nutritionists and a post-op check-up.
On Medaway’s website it says: ‘All packages come with a FREE consultation at our London clinic or via video call if you prefer.’ I wasn’t offered one, though. I had to ask for a consultation myself, which came at a price of £100 in Istanbul.
If you go ahead with the operation, it lasts about three hours and requires a general anaesthetic. For six weeks afterwards, patients must wear a compression garment and avoid lying or sitting on their bottom as much as possible.
Most surgeons consider an injection of 300ml of fat to be a safe amount. However, many surgeons inject more, aware that not all of the fat will stay where it should and that some will disintegrate.
Dr Yildiz at Vanity tells me he can inject about 500-600ml into my bottom. He insists I won’t be left with scars, or they will be so tiny they will fade in a few months.
He did not respond when I later called to question the treatment.
Dr Aamer Khan from the Harley Street Skin Clinic in London, however, says that scarring can take anywhere from six months to two years to fade.
Across town, I head to a clinic in the Levent neighbourhood, one of the most expensive districts in the European side of the city. ‘This area is the Harley Street of Istanbul,’ cosmetic surgeon Dr Resat Altug Aktas tells me, when I see him for a consultation. I ask how many butt lifts he’s done. ‘After 13 years I stopped counting.’
Bald and bespectacled, he initially comes across as warm and approachable. And after a quick examination of my body, he agrees that I am suitable for a butt lift.
Kim and Khloe Kardashian, on the other hand, have always denied having cosmetic surgery on their bums – although there has been much speculation, including recent rumours they have had their implants removed (File Photo)
He can give me a flatter stomach and make my hips rounder. When I ask if I can get a really big bottom, he replies: ‘In my opinion, a very big butt is not as attractive. I don’t do big butts. I have colleagues who do that. But not me.’
He quotes £3,400, with £600 extra for hotel accommodation, as well as printing out a consent form so I can read about the possible side effects. I ask him if I can think about it and he says there is no pressure. But I can get surgery as early as February.
Husband and wife Gizem and Orhan Ayan, who run a plastic surgery brokerage firm in Antalya, deal with French clients coming to Turkey for surgery.
When I tell them I can book a procedure after one consultation they sound shocked. They recommend having three to four consultations beforehand. ‘It’s a very critical subject. It involves your health at the end of the day,’ says Gizem. ‘It’s not a holiday.’
Orhan adds: ‘For us, it’s not about making lots of money. Of course, there’s no such thing as zero risk in anything. But we want to reduce it as much as possible.’
I go back to Dr Aktas and ask him if it’s normal to have just one consultation.
The tone of his email in response is less friendly than he initially appeared. He says that he only told me I was ‘suitable for surgery’ because of my current medical history and general health.
He adds: ‘However, if there is a problem in your blood tests or other tests to be performed in the hospital, it is not possible to have this surgery.’
But some doctors, as in Klaudia’s case, don’t offer a consultation at all. Before she had her first operation five years ago, she only sent pictures of her body and they booked her in for surgery – costing £9,000. Though she was happy with the result, the surgeon offered her a free operation in a year’s time if she promoted his clinic on social media. The second operation was something she ultimately regretted. ‘I was completely deformed. My bum was droopy and I was left with scars.’
Fat is first harvested from the hips, lower back, abdomen, thighs and other areas via liposuction. Special equipment is used to prepare it for transfer before it is injected directly into the glutes at specific points, giving the buttocks a bigger, curvier appearance
Her surgeon initially insisted that it was just post-procedure swelling and would fix itself. But when it didn’t, and she complained again, he became aggressive. ‘This is your bum, this is what you look like!’ Klaudia recalls him saying.
Left feeling depressed, Klaudia had to wait nearly two years to pay for it to be fixed. This time, she went to a surgeon recommended by a friend who had had a butt lift operation in Turkey.
She was much happier with this surgeon, who mostly did corrective work, but also removed more fat from her stomach and the side of her waist. She decided to have a fourth operation after gaining weight and feeling unsatisfied with the way she looked. So she went back to the same surgeon in Turkey who gave her ‘more hips and more fat at the top [of my bum]’. Now, she’s thrilled with her new body.
Eileen, a 29-year-old events coordinator from London, has also had two butt lift operations in Turkey – the first in 2019 and another in 2021 to get a ‘more snatched waist’.
Initially, the procedure gave her a boost of confidence. However, it has affected her relationships with men. ‘They just look at your body, not at how good a person you are,’ she told the MoS. ‘They look at you like they want to unwrap you.’
As Klaudia and Eileen’s cases show, surgery can often be addictive, with patients rarely stopping at one operation.
‘People lose perspective of what they look like or should look like,’ says Harley Street’s Dr Khan. ‘If anybody coming to us requests a butt lift we will get them psychologically tested first and get them some counselling.’
After seeing those surgeons, I catch myself examining my body more than before, to see what I can improve. I try to snap out of it. With the right exercises and diet, I can improve my health naturally and safely. But it’s not as easy for vulnerable young women who have mental health issues and body dysmorphia.
And some, like poor Demi Agoglia and Melissa Kerr, have paid for their insecurities with their lives.