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Nose Jobs, Tummy Tucks and Breast Enhancements Take Off in Iran

It's clear that people from many walks of life in Iran have dabbled in some form of cosmetic surgery.
Arezoo Abassi walks along a street in Tehran
Arezoo Abassi walks along a street in Tehran in 2007, three weeks after undergoing nose surgery.Caren Firouz / Reuters file

TEHRAN — Plastic surgery is big business in Iran.

Whether in a shopping mall, bazaar, on the crowded streets of Tehran or perusing Instagram posts, the parade of bandages temporarily hiding new-and-improved body parts make clear people from many walks of life have dabbled in some form of cosmetic surgery.

Dr. Seyed Javad Amirizad, one of country's top plastic surgeons, said the Islamic republic's strict dress codes are helping fuel the industry. Since women are required to cover their bodies almost entirely, he said their exposed faces take on greater importance.

Nose jobs are particularly popular — and can be seen as a status symbol.

"After a nose job they look much more beautiful,” he said.

Dr. Seyed Javad Amirizad in a private clinic in northern Tehran.Ali Arouzi / NBC News

Around 60 percent of Amirizad's work is focused on nose jobs, but he says he's also seen a huge rise in demand for breast implants, tummy tucks and liposuction.

Women aren’t the only ones looking to alter their looks. There has been a spike in men going under the knife for the sake of vanity, according to Amirizad.

He said that around a quarter-century ago, just 5 percent of his clients were men. Today that number has jumped to 35 percent.

But beauty — or handsomeness — doesn’t come cheap.

While nose jobs start at around $2,000 — considerably less than the $3,000 to $15,000 they tend to cost in the U.S. — they are still expensive considering an average salary in Iran is about $350 per month.

Mana Mahdavi, a dual Iranian American citizen who works at an insurance company in Tehran, told NBC News she always wanted a smaller nose but her parents refused to pay for a procedure.

“I looked into getting my nose done in America but it was so much more expensive there. The best plastic surgeons were charging upward of $15,000," she said.

"At least six out of 10 of my friends have had a nose job"

So while she makes a decent salary by Iranian standards, Mahdavi still had to save for two years before going under the knife last year. She's very happy with the result.

"I had my nose fixed by one of the best surgeons here and it cost me $5,000," she said.

According to Amirizad, the devastating Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s plays a role in the standard of plastic surgery available in the Islamic republic.

Not only did the eight-year conflict leave at least 500,000 dead, it is thought to have maimed close to a million.

The carnage had an impact on his field with many doctors obtaining deep experience in reconstructive and plastic surgery. However, the industry faces a shortage of resources including medical equipment, up-to-date technology and the newest drugs.

“We have some of the best plastic surgeons in the world, unfortunately over the years equipment and supplies have been hard to obtain," Amirizad added. "It has also been hard to attract foreign patients because of restrictions."

Anis Roshan shows off her new nose at her home in Tehran.Courtesy Anis Roshan

Amirizad said he hopes that will all change now that sanctions on Iran have been eased.

"Iran could become a hub in the Middle East for medical tourism," he said, referring to last year's deal between Iran and world powers that paved the way for the removal of the harsh restrictions on trade in return for Tehran curtailing its nuclear program.

Regardless of what comes next, Iranians still are flocking to get a nip-and-tuck.

“At least six out of ten of my friends have had a nose job," Anis Roshan, a 26-year-old actress and singer told NBC News just before she was to undergo rhinoplasty, or nose job, in Amirizad's clinic.

"People regard [the operation] as classy, sometimes they like their nose job to have imperfections so people will know they have had it done," she said. "Or they will leave the bandages on for longer than necessary so everyone can see they have had surgery."