Ethical high street botox?

Daniel Wren

Twitter and reality TV once again fuelled the fire for my topic this week. I sat down and watched the final of The Apprentice last Wednesday, to heckle along dead-faced medical graduate Leah Totton and bun-enthusiast Luisa Zissman, as they tottered their way through various tasks, attempting to create mock-ups of their business plans.

Leah’s plan was to create ‘ethical high street botox clinics’ while Luisa’s was to create a baking wholesaler. We eventually reached the boardroom. “NMO ALAN, HIRE LOOEZA” shouted I, through a face full of Cheetos, as Lord Sugar wagged his hiring finger towards Leah. “DOON’T DOO IT”. I didn’t think either candidate was particularly brilliant throughout the series, but I definitely backed Luisa. Why? Because Leah promoted and trivialised cosmetic surgery on national television, and I think that’s just a bit wrong.

Alright, so business-wise, Leah was probably the right choice, despite the irony of wrinkly-ballsack-faced Alan being joint owner of a cosmetic surgery company. Plastic surgery is a huge market with unbelievable potential profit – and unlike Luisa’s pink lady-focused baking wholesalers, it actually appeals to men as well as women. At this point the general bystander may think “Wait, MEN can’t have cosmetic surgery! That’s a GIRL’S thing!” Alas, they are wrong.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons or ‘BAAPS’ (no, really) has published data showing that between 2010 and 2011, the amount of cosmetic surgical procedures performed on men actually increased by 5.6%, and in 2011, 10% of all cosmetic procedures were on male patients. Female patients obviously still dominate with nine times as many consumers having the surgery. The entire market was worth £750m in 2005 – and it’s predicted this will snowball into £3.6bn by 2015. Roughly half of which, I imagine, will be funded by Amanda Holden’s seemingly insatiable Botox-ridden face.

While this business does seem booming, I have massive ethical issues with it. If we look at Botox, facial fillers and skin peels in particular – the three products that Leah planned to focus on – they all intend to make the skin look younger. Less wrinkled. ‘Better’. Since people are paying for these treatments, they are funding the idea that it’s bad to look old, or to look as one naturally would. My issues lie with this insistence that ageing is a negative.

Not only will middle aged/elderly people be faced with the impression that they look undesirable, but younger and younger people will begin to fear age itself. Almost 100,000 Botox injections were given to patients in their twenties last year. Their TWENTIES. I’m ten sad months away from beginning my twenties – am I supposed to be stretching out my skin, too? And considering plastic surgery in general, are we supposed to ignore the major medical risks just so we look ‘better’? Let’s not forget the 300,000 women who received PIP breast implants last year – implants that had double the rate of rupture.

Twitter trolls then took their toll when I tried to publicly defame Leah. I had one rather insistent respondent that defended plastic surgery to the death (I blocked them.) “Itz confidunce billding innit.” “Wimmen can do wot they want wiv there bodeez.” I agree that women (and men) can absolutely do what they want with their bodies. However, confidence can be found in other ways. There are options before having your tits bolstered with silicone, or your face tightened up with toxins – body confidence workshops, for example. Or watching loads of episodes of How To Look Good Naked.

I personally had massive issues with my body as a teenager – I ended up not eating for five days and losing a stone. Was I happy after drastically altering the way my body looked? No, because my issues were in my head and not in my form. I also have an issue with the effect that people altering their bodies has on other people. It insists upon others that they should be looking a certain way, which just isn’t the case at all.

We’ve all heard about the media creating an ‘ideal’ body for men and women, and the ideal is an impossibility – there’s always going to be a way to look which is insisted on as ‘better’. The way to create body confidence, I truly believe, is not by changing the body, but by changing the mind. Learning and realising that we’re all given different bodies, so there can’t possibly be an ‘ideal’, really. We all have different tastes, too, so somebody will always find somebody else pretty damn sexy. And that’s great.

My Twitter adversaire did, however, make one point of note – the use of plastic surgery on deformities, for body reconstruction or for medical purpose (septoplasty to correct breathing problems, for example). While my ideal world is one where we accept all bodies, deformity or no deformity, the real world is one where getting plastic surgery to remove or lessen a deformity is probably worth it to avoid the sheer amount of bullying and judgment one may receive. These grey areas are difficult, but I believe each situation should and could be considered individually to see whether plastic surgery is necessary or not. If it will genuinely improve a person’s quality of life, then it should be so.

But really, ladies and gents, if we look at it objectively, it’s a bit of a tits-up if you just want to get your tits up.

About Daniel Wren

Vada Magazine staff writer. Interested in travel, news, politics and dating.