A recent study by BAAPS (the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons) saw an increase in cosmetic surgeries. The number of procedures were 51,140 in 2015, up from 45,406 from 2014. This follows a decline in procedures in the past years which has been blamed on the recession. Interestingly, the majority (9/10) of procedures were for women although a rise in the number of procedures was seen in both genders.
Consultant plastic surgeon and BAAPs council member Ash Mosahebi mentioned the rise in social media as a factor for the increase in cosmetic surgeries: “people are sending pictures of themselves frequently and want to look good”. I am inclined to agree, the focus on how we look, both male and female, has increased in recent years. With the widespread reach and immediacy of social media we are constantly bombarded with picture-perfect images of those around us. It is too easy to feel inadequate about your rushed appearance at work the day you woke up late when someone is tweeting themselves looking their best; regardless of the fact the picture is highly-stylized and is the best of many takes.
What we’re seeing, as many people nowadays will remind us, is each other’s highlight reel. The same way we snatch away a photo in which we feel we look awful or grimace when a bad photo of us is put onto social media, we only put the best of ourselves out there into the ether. They are few and far between the people who tweet or Instagram the imperfect photo they took on the fly – this does not mean the artfully posed bed selfie that many take in the hopes of fooling us into believing they simply woke up that way.
Vanity seems to be a real problem in this generation. A recent magazine article I read heralded the arrival of male models in the spotlight. No longer are male models to be overshadowed by their female counterparts, they are no longer the prop to the female main event. I’m all for gender equality and happy to see men getting their fair share of attention on the catwalks, but do we really need more societal pressure to look good?! Increasingly the men’s aisle in pharmacy and beauty superstores is growing to match that of the female. If men want this array of products I’m all for it, but why do we feel the need to hide who we are? what we really look like?
Based on the bombardment of selfies, ‘thinspiration’ images and artfully posed yoga shots of silhouettes (against a sunset holding a near impossible position), not forgetting the adverts we see on a daily basis, is it any wonder we are living in a culture where we grow up feeling ashamed of our natural looks. Recent studies into the media exposure (click here) shows that the typical adult sees up to 360 adverts a day. Most of these will try and convince us that their product will make us as beautiful as the model in the picture. A great game to play at the cinema, one of the only places we see full length adverts, is to try and guess the product being sold based on the advert. Too often the perfectly dressed woman draped over a car or drawing in a well-dressed gentleman is selling something as generic as toothpaste, or bottled water.
These adverts are all part of the deception to prey on our vanity. It is highly unlikely if we purchase the product in question that we will look like the model. It is also fairly unlikely, due to advances in Photoshop etc., that the model him/herself look like they do in the advert. As Jean Kilbourne mentions in one of her brilliant Killing Me Softly videos, available here on YouTube, models we see in campaigns project an in-achievable image of perfection, you physically cannot achieve the perfect skin of a model in an advert, when they have had their pores removed by Photoshop. With this in-achievable image of perfection being touted everywhere we look is it any wonder that we are seeing a rise in cosmetic surgery? I will leave you to ponder this question, until next time.