Friday, 18 October 2013

The Beauty Myth of Anti-Ageing

Pick up any women's magazine or newspaper supplement these days and chances are you'll stumble on a feature about cosmetic surgery or 'aesthetic procedures'. Entire magazines are dedicated to the subject of anti ageing, their pages revealing a vast and complex world of potions, treatments and procedures that claim to hold back the onset of time. For anyone who watched the recent Channel 4 series 'How Not to Get Old' there are some truly bizarre treatments being peddled out on a high street near you, procedures that make lofty promises about keeping us looking younger for longer. The programme was interesting for several reasons. Firstly most of the procedures tested were not what you'd call 'accessible' in terms of prices with many treatments running into the thousands of pounds. It's no wonder, therefore, that the value of the cosmetic surgery industry is expected to reach £3.15 billion by 2015.

Furthermore, most of the treatments trialled didn't seem to make any long-lasting, discernible difference. Is one day of slightly plumper lips or fresher skin worth plundering your savings for, and having to hide away at home while you wait for your face to 'settle down'? Experiencing disappointing results and a bit of temporary bruising is actually a best case scenario when compared to what can happen when procedures are carried out by less experienced hands. And despite well-documented warnings about an unregulated industry where clumsily handled procedures are leaving some poor people scarred for life, the fixation with youth - an obsession that seems to pervade the female-oriented media - seems to have skewed all sense of reality when it comes to beauty. 

There's a certain madness in promoting anti-ageing creams that cost hundreds of pounds when thousands of people in the UK are struggling to feed their children, or littering a beauty article with references to botox, fillers and laser treatments, procedures that can be hugely expensive and which, despite the growing perception that they are risk-free, can cause long-term damage. For those that can afford to shell out on the latest ground-breaking treatment there's the danger of starting a process that seems to breed further dissatisfaction: improving those crows feet around your eyes suddenly makes the wrinkles on your forehead stand out even more, and so on.

A few years back I had an operation to remove a tumour on my salivary gland. Though my tumour was thankfully benign, the surgery to remove the lump was delicate. My operation involved making the very same incision that is used for standard face lifts in this country. What I hadn't considered until facing my surgery was just how many nerve branches are involved in the facial area - nerves that control movement to the eyes and mouth and which allow the face to show expression. While standard face lift surgery shouldn't compromise these nerve muscles, there is always a margin of error. My particular surgery was frightening in that it directly involved a facial nerve; a slip of the surgeon's hand and a nick of that nerve could have resulted in permanent nerve paralysis. As I came round from my operation, bruised and sore, and with a face clipped together like Frankenstein, I wondered how anyone would willingly put themselves through such an ordeal in the name of beauty. Furthermore, I experienced some temporary nerve paralysis where I couldn't blink one eye and had a slight drooping on one side of my mouth. That anyone would risk permanent damage of this nature to look younger is pure madness to me.

Like anyone else the discovery of another grey hair or a more pronounced wrinkle doesn't exactly fill me with joy, but I do worry that the promotion of aesthetic procedures is clouding our judgement when it comes to expectations around beauty. I fear for the generation of young girls growing up who already have such unrealistic imagery foisted upon them, and will continue to do so as they become women. Wouldn't it be great if ageing wasn't perceived as such a bad thing and the concept of growing old gracefully was more widely advertised? 

From my own personal experience I would never go near a surgeon's knife voluntarily, and with so many new procedures springing up on the market the long-term effects of such treatments can't, in my mind, be fully understood yet. A jar of £200 face cream isn't going to stop the inevitable creep of the years and playing around with needles and muscle relaxants might iron out a few lines but at what cost? I'll take the wrinkles, thanks...

No comments

Post a Comment

© Bristol Bargainista. All rights reserved.
Blogger Templates by pipdig