So that’s when it happened: Last year, Canadian singer The Weeknd uploaded a selfie on Instagram in which he apparently had several rounds of dermal fillers injected. We see him with full lips, youthful skin, raised eyebrows, sharper cheekbones and a more defined jawline. So that’s what was hiding under all those bandages: His new Instagram face! But it was a fake. Because he wears only prostheses for his music video “Save Your Tears”.
A similar trick was used by makeup artist Inge Grognard for the Balenciaga SS20 show, where models were made to look as if they had been given fillers, with distorted, puffy lips and accentuated cheekbones. Although the circumstances are different, both comment on our global obsession with “beautification.”
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According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery’s Global Survey, 13.6 million non-surgical treatments were performed worldwide in 2019 – 4.3 million of which involved hyaluronic acid dermal fillers, a 15.7 percent increase from the previous year and a 50.6 percent increase since 2015. That’s a lot of injections!
Compared to plastic surgery, fillers are non-invasive, reversible, relatively inexpensive, have minimal downtime and are endorsed by celebrities. They’re even referred to as a “lunch break nip,” and just happened on a quick lunch break. This has led to fillers becoming commonplace as part of our beauty routine.
The ‘tweakment’ culture is something we’ve been talking about for some time. It was born out of the desire to look good on social media and our lifestyle of constantly being in front of the camera. People have become accustomed to the perfection that filters offer them, and expect real life to offer them solutions that can mimic that. And as we’ve spent the past 2 years staring at ourselves on Zoom, teams, etc., this will only intensify. So where are we in this normalization?
Culturally, the public tends to view fillers and other non-cosmetic procedures as vanity. But in reality, they can be vital to a person’s self-esteem. We all want to look better. But I would argue that self-confidence is the main reason people seek treatment with dermal fillers.
Many people seek help for medical issues that affect appearance, such as visible scars or asymmetries in the face. For transgender patients, it may be a matter of changing the masculinity or femininity of their appearance so that they feel accepted by society.
Artist Hatti Rees has been having fillers injected into her lips for years to cope with her feelings of gender dysphoria. For Rees, getting injections isn’t about looking better. It’s about staying true to herself. She lives as a non-binary person. She also rejects the idea that changing one’s appearance comes with low self-esteem.
It actually requires self-confidence to change your body. It is brave and bold to be the way you want to be.Dr. Kelly Vasileiadou
And yet, there is a stigma attached to treatment with fillers, to the point that many of my patients only talk about their treatment with very close friends or family – if at all. People can be very judgmental. How many times have we seen friends or acquaintances comment in a derogatory way about what procedures celebrities and socialites have had? There are also pages and pages of articles and vlogs about it.
Psychologists attribute this stigmatization to society’s double standard, in which women are expected to look a certain way, while at the same time being scorned for the way they achieve it. As long as the way we judge women and shame those who try to optimize their appearance (or not), this stigma will continue to exist.
The term “optimizing” is a difficult one. Why is filling with fillers considered tweaking and a potential scam, while applying makeup or following a 10-step skin care routine is considered socially acceptable, even though we know there is a lot of work behind it? Normalizing fillers means people no longer have to feel ashamed, but are empowered in their decision to change everything about their appearance in search of self-esteem. It also opens up a dialogue about why people choose filler treatments in the first place.
In the past, aesthetic treatments have been demonized – in some cases, justifiably so, in fact, because they were an unregulated industry, inexperienced doctors or unapproved products. The public was and still is exposed to risk.
The more we learn about injectables, the more we are aware of the dangers involved. Open dialogue can only improve efficacy, safety and patient satisfaction.
But, of course, the matter is more complicated than that. As fillers become more normalized, so does their demand, especially among impressionable young people. And the more accessible they are, the higher the likelihood of feelings of dysmorphia, dissatisfaction and even addiction in susceptible individuals. Again, behavioral psychology has an explanatory approach. Potential psychological problems are most likely to occur in those who try things like lip fillers, or fillers in general, to feel better about themselves and boost their low self-esteem.
But here, too, an open dialogue could be helpful. With more awareness, the understanding of these potential psychological risks also grows. Those who turn to trustworthy doctors are certainly shown limits. It is true that patients are allowed to make their demands. But it is part of a doctor’s job to educate his patients.
Perhaps the real problem with normalizing fillers is that it creates a new, narrowly defined ideal of beauty to strive for. Or maybe it just provides a new opportunity to achieve existing ideals? Social media and reality TV is full of people with cosmetically altered faces and bodies presenting themselves as normal people.
Why do people have fillers injected? To minimize the signs of aging, to “correct” perceived imperfections, to boost self-confidence, and to feel more comfortable in their skin. The call to do this comes from a society that demands we look a certain way – whether by conforming to certain ideals or by subverting them.
Whether we normalize fillers or not; until we stop placing a value on qualities like youthful appearance and idealized notions of beauty, people will always want to change their appearance. And demonizing people for the way they do so will not help.
Would you like to find out how dermal fillers can be used to emphasize the individual beauty of a face or to counteract the aging process of the face? Let us advise you. Together we will find out whether dermal fillers are too extreme or the new normal for you. I look forward to getting to know you in a personal consultation.