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School of Geography

Cities & Social Justice Projects

Sun, Sea, Sand and Silicone: Aesthetic Surgery Tourism in the UK and Australia

PI: Ruth Holliday (University of Leeds)

Co-I: Meredith Jones (University of Technology, Sydney), David Bell (University of Leeds), Elspeth Probyn (University of Sydney), Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor (University of Leicester)

Overview: This interdisciplinary project looks at Britons, Australians and Chinese who participate in cosmetic surgery tourism, and at the countries and people that provide this service. It uses in-depth interviews, video and photo diaries and key on-site observations in order to explore the peculiarly contemporary phenomenon of cosmetic surgery tourism and its connections to global flows of people and capital.

Cosmetic surgery tourism is a new and developing industry that incorporates novel forms of labour and organisational structures which straddle national boundaries. For instance, it is possible for a cosmetic surgery travel agent to arrange a car to collect a consumer from their doorstep in the UK or Australia, deliver them to a hospital in Spain or Thailand, and allocate a nurse / guide / interpreter to be constantly at their side during surgery, recovery and tourist 'experiences', before returning them to their doorstep.

Monitoring the movements of bodies in search of cosmetic surgery will most likely predict health tourisms in the future. As public healthcare systems are increasingly squeezed patients are more likely to become consumers in search of cut price body enhancements made possible by favourable currency exchange rates and lower labour costs outside the richest countries in the world.

This research aims to broaden our understanding of the surgical tourist experience, the organisations involved, and the implications for globalised healthcare organised around consumption.

This study is the first multi-site, empirical and systematic analysis of cosmetic surgery tourism.

For more information see

Start Date: 01 March 2011

End Date: 31 August 2013

Funder: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Grant Reference: RES-062-23-2796

Details: ESRC Research Catalogue or contact r.holliday(at)