Removing the stigma from facial aesthetics

Dr Injy Ghanem explores the subject of removing the stigma from facial aesthetics

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As an aesthetics doctor with over 17 years of experience, as a surgeon and psychiatrist, I have always been fascinated by how facial aesthetics changes not only the appearance, but also how we feel - and this is often even more significant for the patient.

As a nation, our attitudes to facial aesthetics has softened over the years, with an increasing number of people recognising that ‘tweakments’ can deliver subtle, natural looking enhancements.

Non-surgical facial aesthetic treatments are not operations, they pose minimal risk and require no general anaesthetic. The results they yield are can be tailored to what a client desires, with the vast majority preferring a subtle, natural looking enhancement to their features. It is also worth noting that results don’t last forever, unlike surgery, and treated areas will return to their pre-treatment appearance over time.

Many patients have a strong emotional reaction to the mere thought of embarking on a facial aesthetic journey. For a small proportion of women, the mere act of enquiring about facial aesthetic treatments that can invoke feelings of shame and concern. Feelings that they will be judged for daring to even enquire about treatments to address areas of concern about their appearance. This group of patients tend to have a reached a crossroad in their lives: a milestone birthday, the end of a relationship or the beginning of a new career.

Typical consultation appointments begin with the half-whispered phrase “I am not vain, it’s just….”

It still surprises me the level of stigma that some people still attach to anti-aging treatments - feeling that any form of facial tweakment is fundamentally wrong, and that those who seek it are looking to become someone else and no longer wish to look like themselves. While people often commend and compliment individuals who have chosen to alter their hairstyle, hair colour, have lost excess weight or embarked on a new exercise regime, it is still unusual for people to openly applaud those who have chosen to enhance their appearance through facial aesthetics.

There is a misconception that aesthetics treatments will make you be a different person. Aesthetics are not about changing you into a different person, or making you look like someone you are not. Enhancing your looks will mean you continue to look like you, but fresher. It may also improve how you feel - people frequently tell me they feel more confident after treatment. Many communicate they feel more outgoing and willing to try new life experiences, and this can impact other areas of their lives which they feel they would like to also improve such as work and relationships.

I regularly see how changes in appearance have an impact beyond the aesthetic. I recently had a review appointment with a highly successful, educated patient who works as a barrister. She reported that she felt her anti-aging treatment improved her work performance, intensifying her presence in the courtroom. She also shared she felt happier with her day to day life, had grown in confidence and felt more at ease to interact with her peers and friends. Her positive experience is far from unique and is repeated time and again with countless patients I see, doctors, teachers, bankers, TV personnel, businessmen and many mothers.

Those who have negative feelings towards facial aesthetics appear to lack understanding that treatment with highly qualified, trained clinicians, can deliver subtle, natural looking enhancements and tweakments which ensure people continue to look like themselves only fresher or more defined. Not only do people often leave the treatment room restored on the outside, the way they feel often changes too. Those who come to see me looking tired and run down often feel run down too, however, after treatment they leave looking refreshed and feeling full of life.

Changes in mood after injections with botulinum toxin have been scientifically studied; five studies conducted this decade alone have examined the effect toxin injections to the frown lines have had on depression. The findings have consistently indicated that toxin treatment can help lower feelings of depression. It is it believed the impact is based on a ‘facial feedback’ mechanism. Facial expressions send certain feedback to the brain. Emotions like fear, sadness, or anger can result in the contraction of muscles in the forehead that cause frown lines. In people who are depressed, activity of the muscles that cause these frowns is increased. Blocking these frowning muscles with toxin has been shown to improve mood levels.

Aesthetics treatments have shown me day in and day out that they increase confidence and promote a sense of empowerment, these are values that we all strive to achieve, women and men alike.

People endeavour to look better as they get older to feel that they are still able and still productive, many men and women turn to healthy eating and adopt exercise regimes in the 4th decade to age gracefully, I do believe that looking after your skin is as important as looking after your muscles and your general health and I trust facial aesthetics to play a big role in the “ageing gracefully notion”.

I strongly believe that non-surgical enhancements can deliver both positive aesthetic and emotional changes, as the toxin studies indicate. While studies are yet to be conducted into the effects on mood of other facial aesthetic treatments such as dermal fillers, I would suspect similar findings of the mood improving effects of such treatments would also be observed.

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