Real vs Media Beauty
As aesthetic medicine has gained popularity, more patients are open to exploring their aesthetic concerns but majority of patients are still hesitant and worried about looking unnatural. This article aims to address some of the most common misconceptions about aesthetic treatments.
Vanity or Necessity?
Evolutionary biologists have found that changes to physical appearance has a role to play in reproductive attractiveness and therefore, more broadly, survival. Studies in social psychology have demonstrated that conventionally attractive individuals are more likely to be confident and have better social skills. This means they are more likely to be sought after as romantic partners, have more satisfying relationships and tend to have better job opportunities. This does not go on to say that all individuals should be modified to look alike.
The increasing presence and influence of social media globally has altered societies perceptions of what is attractive and desirable and given women and men unrealistic and unattainable goals. The perception of what is attractive according to the media is not the same as what we aim to achieve in aesthetic medicine. And here lies the misconception that aesthetics will result in an unnatural look, leaving patients with duck lips and frozen foreheads. Social stigma is still a major deterrent for patients wanting aesthetic procedures and individuals are concerned that if the change is too obvious or unnatural they will be judged or ridiculed. This puts pressure on aesthetic practitioners and patients at a time that should be positive and transformational. Fortunately, the majority of aesthetic doctors use scientifically validated approaches. The notion of ‘attractiveness’ in aesthetics is founded upon the concept of divine proportions- a theory utilised by aesthetic physicians to enhance your own natural features in relation to these proportions making everyone uniquely beautiful.
Our knowledge of the aging process and understanding of the facial anatomy is evolving and ongoing advancements in aesthetic technologies has significantly boosted our ability to achieve these desired natural results. Previously, fillers would be used to treat lines and folds directly. Now however, we are better equipped to treat the cause of facial aging leading to these unwanted lines which is volume loss, descending of fat, bone reabsorption etc. Identifying and addressing the underlying cause of an aesthetic concern rather than just treating the physical feature is the way in which we are able to obtain natural results. For this reason, it’s important to do a full facial assessment even for those patients with isolated concerns to ensure an optimal end result. Experienced aesthetic practitioners are trained to identify the areas that contribute to the patients’ overarching concern.
Furthermore, physical attractiveness has a strong connection to health and disease and influences not only the way others feel about us, but more importantly how we feel about ourselves and in ourselves. Integrative medicine research has found that facial attractiveness can decrease in younger patients previously considered ‘attractive’ under the influence of certain hormones. For example, in patients who develop Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome with high levels of testosterone and in individuals whose intake of xenoestrogens is high leading to disruptions in endocrine functions. Patients often notice this change in themselves and it can impact their self-esteem and other areas of their life as well. Helping such vulnerable patients to re-establish their ‘attractiveness’ with aesthetic procedures while treating the hormone imbalance can improve wellbeing overall and further influence illness behaviour.
Different perception and Openness to aesthetic procedures in SA
People’s attitudes and perceptions of aesthetic medicine are influenced by various demographics including, culture, gender, age and economic class and these vary between countries. Although people are becoming increasingly open to aesthetics, in my experience there are several important considerations for South African women when deciding whether to have a procedure. In addition to wanting a natural look the most common are:
- The “Husband” factor
- The “Confidentiality” Factor
- The “Safety” Factor
- The Husband Factor: Men fear the “filler lip” and as a result women are often discouraged from seeking help for their aesthetic concerns. In fact, many women come for the first time whilst their husbands are away on a business trip as a spur of the moment decision or as a calculated choice knowing that the results won’t be as dramatic as on the first day post procedure when there is swelling or inflammation. But either way, it remains a topic of contention amongst partners. For this reason it is equally important to educate men and clear up any misplaced preconceptions as it is women receiving the treatments. Encouraging discussion amongst partners and involving them in consultations if they have concerns can facilitate a more positive experience for the individual and over time breed a positive culture surrounding aesthetic medicine.
- Leading on from the above point, I have noticed how women are more likely to be open about undergoing breast augmentation than aesthetic procedures. Fillers and Botox have been a ‘hush-hush’ topic for years. Although generally speaking any intervention to change ones appearance is usually contested. There needs to be a shift in perception. People have fixated on aesthetics as being “unnatural” but it is no more unnatural than any other choices people make every day to make themselves feel good. If you were to be your most natural, authentic self, you would leave the house naked with unbrushed hair and teeth and no deodorant. Now I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that not many readers are doing this. Aesthetics is no more extreme than all the little decisions you make collectively every day to improve how you feel. We need to build a culture of supporting each other in what makes us all feel uniquely beautiful.
- The Safety Factor: Patients are becoming more conscientious of what they take into their bodies and they come with questions about what is injected and where it comes from (kosher, halal, tested on animals etc.) Aesthetic practitioners should familiarise themselves with these details and be prepared to be open and honest with patients.
In summary, aesthetics is more than just plump lips or no frown lines. It has power to influence how we feel about ourselves and as an extension our health, relationships, jobs and success. Aesthetics is about what we can do to make you the best version of yourself.