Have cosmetic procedures become more popular over the years?
“Non-invasive procedures 1, such as fillers and botox, have indeed become more popular, with young people as well as older ones. For instance, lip fillers are popular nowadays. Advertisements cleverly capitalise on the popularity of non-invasive procedures and make people want to get them. Meanwhile, hair transplants have become more popular among men.”
Why it is that non-invasive procedures are becoming more popular?
“On the one hand, some people are saying that non-invasive procedures have replaced the more invasive procedures, or that the fact that people are undergoing non-invasive procedures has resulted in their deferring invasive procedures. On the other hand, things such as botox and fillers have genuinely become ‘more normal’. By now, many people know a lot more people who’ve got some work done, which has made it easier for them to have some work done themselves. The normalisation of undergoing procedures clearly plays a part in this. In the interviews I conducted as part of my study, several young adults indicated that they consider non-invasive procedures a part of their ‘beauty regimen’ – something that is comparable to getting your hair cut or getting a massage.”
You conducted a lot of your research in London. What are the differences between advertisements for cosmetic procedures in the Netherlands and England?
“There are definitely differences between the advertisements published by Dutch and British clinics. Cosmetic procedures have been normalised to an even greater extent in Great Britain than they have here. Dutch advertisements tend to focus more on the medical aspect. They show doctors in a medical setting, holding surgical instruments, and there are many before-and-after photos. In Great Britain I also came across adverts for ‘cosmetic holidays in Spain’. As if you’re going on a regular holiday, although you’re actually having a procedure performed.
“Moreover, there are also differences between the various individual clinics. For instance, the Velthuis Clinic’s adverts are completely different from Faceland’s.2 We could say the latter clinic is basically the ‘easyJet’ of aesthetic medicine clinics. Faceland targets completely different people, as well – people who want to have a quick and cheap procedure.”
Social media often present us with the perfect picture. Are Snapchat en Instagram filters making cosmetic procedures more popular?
“There are studies out there saying that people who use filters or apps to make photos of themselves look better are more likely to go and see a cosmetic doctor. Moreover, these people tend to have lower self-esteem. But at the same time, we should keep in mind that people who are insecure in the first place – and possibly already interested in undergoing a procedure – may be more likely to use filters. These studies aren’t exactly watertight.”
Does it worry you that cosmetic procedures are being normalised like this?
“I think we should definitely have some misgivings about the normalisation of cosmetic procedures. After all, they are still medical procedures. They can go wrong. Just think of 39-year-old Sharida who was on the news this week after she died from complications that arose after a cosmetic procedure gone wrong in Turkey. Making yourself more beautiful can have a pretty ugly outcome, and it’s absolutely essential that you find a good and experienced doctor.”
It is clear that cosmetic procedures sometimes have negative consequences. Are you against cosmetic procedures?
“No, I’m not against cosmetic procedures on principle, but I am critical of the way in which they are being promoted, by means of adverts and social media. I think our society must remain vigilant. What is our being so focused on our looks doing to us? What kind of consequences does that have? And how is the normalisation of cosmetic procedures affecting adolescents? What are their views on creating their own vision of themselves?”