In the UK, MPs on the House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee have warned about the dangers of a "conveyer belt" approach to cosmetic procedures such as Botox and fillers, and called for more to be done to tackle the "wide-reaching" impact on mental health caused by body image dissatisfaction.
"We heard of some distressing experiences – a conveyor belt approach with procedures carried out with no questions asked, procedures that have gone wrong, the use of filthy premises," said chairman of the committee Jeremy Hunt, as a new report calls for change.
The report also recommended minimum training standards for people providing non-surgical cosmetic procedures and a ‘cooling off’ period after consent, before the procedure is carried out.
Hunt added: "In some ways, access is too easy for people who are feeling depressed or anxious about their body image. They can go and get these procedures done on the spur of the moment, without proper consideration, and then they find out that it hasn’t actually solved the root problem."
If you’re thinking about getting Botox injections to reduce your wrinkles or fillers to enhance your lips or face, it’s important to carefully consider your options and not rush into the decision.
We asked a body image expert for the five questions to ask yourself, before getting a cosmetic procedure.
1. Why do you want to change your appearance?
The first thing to think about is the real reason underlying why you want to change your appearance, beyond ‘I want to look younger’ or ‘I want fuller lips’.
"It all boils down to wanting to feel better about ourselves," says Nicola Vanlint, psychotherapist and founder of NV Therapy, and while nothing’s wrong with that, it’s best to view cosmetic procedures as small enhancements, not life-changing alterations.
Vanlint continues: "We can’t have a mindset of enhancing what we’ve already got if we’re searching for something else to make us happy. We need to look at what we have."
2. Are you copying a celebrity?
If your desire for fillers or Botox is inspired by the pillowy lips and smooth foreheads of models and actors on Instagram, there’s a danger you’ve fallen into the ‘compare and despair’ trap.
"In the social media world, it’s all about everybody trying to show their best selves, but we’ve got to understand that comparing ourselves is only going to equal despair," Vanlint says.
With the popularity of filters and editing, you never know if you’re looking at an accurate depiction of a celeb’s face. Plus, famous people often have a lot more money to spend on aesthetic procedures, and access to the best surgeons in the world – meaning your end result could be very different to theirs.
Vanlint adds: "Aspiring is something different – aspiring to be your best self, not somebody else’s."
3. Are you expecting the surgery will give you instant confidence?
It’s easy to think ‘If only I could change X, Y or Z, I’d be happy,’ but in reality, that might not be true – and you could end up wanting more cosmetic procedures to mask a lack of confidence.
It may help to think about how you would respond to a friend who told you they wanted to get fillers or injections.
Vanlint says: "Rather than necessarily asking others – because then we’re seeking validation from others, which can be a tricky one – just ask yourself, ‘What would I say to a friend?’ Then you’re building on your positive internal dialogue."
4. Could you improve your confidence in another way?
Instead of resorting to cosmetic interventions, you might want to try building your self-esteem from the inside first.
Vanlint recalls a client who didn’t like anything about their body: "I asked them to find just one thing they liked, and they had a mole they liked. So, what we worked on for that person, was to look at that mole on a daily basis and say ‘I like this mole’ and really build on that positivity."
In the case of lip fillers, Vanlint suggests experimenting with make-up first, to see how you feel: "Get yourself a decent lip liner and try [different techniques] out. At the end of it, you might think ‘I actually don’t feel that bad about my lips anyway’."
5. How would you feel if it went wrong?
As referenced in the government report, even non-surgical cosmetic procedures can go wrong, which is why it’s vital to understand the risks.
And while a ‘cooling off’ period may not be a legal requirement yet, taking time after your initial consultation before booking a procedure could be a wise idea.
Vanlint says: "If we have the correct knowledge and we actually digest that knowledge, we’re able to make better decisions for ourselves."