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These treatments are more popular—and more efficient—than ever before, so why do we still look down on women who opt for them?
One of the perks of working in the beauty industry is that, Botox isn’t a bad word. Beauty editors speak to product specialists and dermatologists regularly and have access to learn about and try the latest and greatest procedures that aim to help you look your best. It makes sense then that many beauty editors I know are not only well-versed in the treatment, effects and side-effects of procedures like Botox, but also have tried it themselves.
Which isn’t a bad thing.
In fact, deciding to tweak and treat certain things about your appearance is an experience that many women find empowering. Female empowerment is trending about as hard as acceptance in the beauty world, so why—with all of our celebration—do we still keep quiet about our own beauty choices and think poorly of the women who do choose to share their own cosmetic experiences? Why is it still shameful in most social circles to admit you’ve had work done?
While I don’t have the answer, at a recent panel discussion event for a new lip filler product, I sat down with Dr. Shannon Humphrey, medical director of Carruthers and Humphrey Cosmetic Dermatology in Vancouver and an expert in cosmetic injectables, to learn more about her experience with women and “getting work done.” The truth is, it has less to do with vanity than you might think.
First, let’s talk about the shame
Whether or not you’ve decided on doing something to alter your appearance, and whether it’s temporary like fillers or more permanent like rhinoplasty, you’ve likely noticed that it’s hard to kick the stigma associated with people who care about how they look. We call it vanity or self-absorption. And it’s generally frowned upon. But, as Dr. Humphrey says, “there cannot be shame in getting information.” Meaning that if you’re interested in something, seeking out referrals, research or tips is something that should be lauded instead of shamed. Finding out what’s out there is an opportunity whether you decide to explore a treatment yourself or not. There are a whole host of treatments and procedures, some invasive some not, some pricey some not, that might be a fit for your beauty vision or lifestyle. But you need to be open to learning in order to find out. And it helps if the people around you are open too. In her experience, Dr. Humphrey finds that just talking about what is possible and what is desirable really helps to ease some of the misconceptions many people have about these treatments.
Perhaps the shame comes from admitting that there’s something about yourself that you don’t like? With our current obsession with what is “natural” and “authentic” it can be quite jarring to admit that—if you had your way—there are things you’d change. The beauty messages we get from all sides—from family and friends, from the media, from our own internal dialogue—are often at odds. So let’s bring it back to something simple, but also true. “You don’t need to change yourself, there is nothing wrong with you,” says Dr. Humphrey. “There is also nothing wrong with wanting to look like the best version of yourself.”
What about aging gracefully?
“The common themes that come up are aging gracefully, or positive aging,” says Dr. Humphrey when describing what a initial conversation looks like with a prospective patient. “Patients commonly describe how they look in relation to how they feel—they feel great, and beautiful and their appearance doesn’t always convey that.” While an older definition of aging gracefully may have been centered around letting nature—and gravity—do its thing, more recent definitions have come to include an idea of wellness. Now aging gracefully is about taking care of yourself, staying interested in skin care and beauty, and aiming to, not necessarily turn back time but to think more mindfully about what aging means to you. For some people, this is about letting go, but for an increasing number of women this means taking control. “Focusing on wellness as a whole, including the wellness of looking your best,” is something that Dr. Humphrey hears as a motivator for women who seek her out. The truth is, most patients aren’t keen on completely changing their entire look—in fact during the panel discussion the entire roster of women speaking (including three cosmetic dermatologists and one beauty blogger) stressed that the requests they get the most are that women want to look “like themselves,” just healthier and more rested.
Most women want to look like themselves, just healthier and more rested.
Dr. Humphrey can relate to this herself: “The truth is, I don’t want to look like a younger version of myself,” she says. “I just want to look great for my age because it’s going to make me feel confident and ready to go out and take on the world.” Most patients are interested in making small, conservative tweaks over time, to connect how they’re feeling with how they look. “Our physical appearance drives how we feel, and how we feel drives our appearance,” says Dr. Humphrey, “there is this complex interplay between the two,” and it would be dismissive to conclude otherwise.
Interested, but unsure?
If you’re even remotely interested in any treatment, your best bet is to head to a dermatologist armed with all of your concerns and questions. A good dermatologist will take the time to go through them with you and be honest about what you can expect. “The greatest predictor of a patient being unhappy or regretting a treatment is a patient who went into it not feeling confident or feeling unsure,” says Dr. Humphrey. “If you’re not sure, ask me as many questions as you have, take your time to do some reading about it, ask a bunch of people for input and come back when you’re ready.” You don’t need to rush anything—get a treatment at a time that is right for you and with a physician you feel comfortable with.
Also, the truth is you don’t actually have to tell anyone if you don’t want to. While having frank conversations is definitely part of de-stigmatizing cosmetic treatments, you’re under no obligation to share your journey with anyone. But, if you’re doing this for yourself, whether your motivation is vanity or beauty wellness, there is no need for any shame. The people who make you feel that way likely haven’t done the research, and it’s no one’s business how you decide to age.
“These are discretionary elective treatments that are designed to make you feel great about your appearance,” says Dr. Humphrey. “We’re not curing cancer, but we are talking about something important which is making patients feel great.” I think that’s something we can all get on board with.