The End of Natural Beauty?

Are we taking our preoccupation with filtered perfection to a dangerously unnatural place?

 It’s a new world out there. Do you know if your favourite influencer is real? Many ‘models’ on Instagram and other social media platforms (even OnlyFans) are AI generated. And trying to chase after these unreal beauty standards? That’s not good for your self-esteem or health. Image by Freepik.


Preventative Botox, fillers, veneers, lip ‘blushing’, retinoids, lasers…


With all the beauty and cosmetic treatments out there (and more it seems every day) you’d be forgiven for feeling that natural beauty now requires an awful lot of… intervention. And more than ever, people are being transparent about what procedures they’re getting done. 


On one hand that’s fantastic


Gen Z especially have a great understanding that the beauty we see (and the ever-evolving standards) are often achieved through surgical means (regardless of whether celebrities admit it). That transparency, getting a glimpse into what procedures a favorite influencer has had performed, can really help people feel better in their own skin. Whether or not someone decides to pursue surgery, lifting the veil on what’s natural and what’s not, can really help people make confident decisions. After all, if you know something doesn’t occur in nature, does it fit into your beauty identity? For a lot of people, the answer is not. 


Even so, not everyone is transparent about the procedures they’ve had to achieve a certain look. Often, it can feel like the ‘natural beauty’ we’re shown isn’t all that… natural. 


Natural beauty? Not necessarily. We don’t want to villainize cosmetic interventions but be aware that those ‘naturally’ beautiful faces online might not be so… effortless.


The New Epidemic? Not necessarily.


A lot of folks deride the trend of ‘unnaturally natural’ aesthetics as a new epidemic, but altering our faces and bodies in the pursuit of beauty is really nothing new. Ancient Rome, Egypt, China – for most of our history in fact, a preoccupation with beauty has been a constant feature, deeply entwined in our cultural and artistic development you might say. In fact, the reasons are the same. Beautification and grooming (whether it’s adornment, make-up, or something more modern) makes us feel good, stand out in a crowd, and potentially attract a partner. The biggest difference isn’t the beauty seeking behaviour – that’s refreshingly predictable, but the addition of social media to the mix and the vast expanse of options (surgical and non-surgical) to help people look and feel their best. 


I think there’s also a misconception out there that plastic surgery is always obvious, which adds to the idea of it being an ‘epidemic’. That couldn’t be further from the case. Good (and great) plastic surgery strives to mimic nature and is often imperceptible. As I like to say it whispers. That’s not to say everyone wants a natural look – there are plenty of people out there who want an over the top, obvious look, sometimes for preference and frequently as a calculated business decision. 


Beauty Under Pressure 

Our instinct to pursue beauty is nothing new, but the advertising? That’s changed on a few levels. Our ancient ancestors likely saw a new trend in the local market, about town and tried to emulate it, but they were mostly cosmetic in nature – hairstyles, make-up, clothing, jewelry – and changed on a much smaller, local scale. Today we see trends on a global scale, at a much higher volume and at the tap of a finger. It’s a notable difference. If you had lived in an ancient city, town, or village, you would have only been exposed to a relatively small group of people over your life to compare yourself against, not everyone, everywhere, all at once as it often seems today. 


The options we have in our modern world to alter our appearance has also drastically shifted. They’re more invasive, like surgery, injectables, and high energy devices, which all come with different suites of risks (not to say our ancestors didn’t engage in dangerous trends – they did – like heavy metal preparations). 


Think the allure of injectables and other cosmetics procedures is a fluke? Think again. Advertisers spend a lot of money and effort to know how to make their products look alluring. And sometimes? The claims can be inflated (intentionally and unintentionally). Image by Freepik.


And then there are the claims. Aesthetics is big business – it always has been – but the promises are sometimes… unintentionally misleading or overstated. Filler is a great example of that. Hyaluronic fillers are naturally metabolized by the body and often advertised as ‘temporary’. That turned out to be a pretty big misnomer. Though many of the higher weight fillers last at least 12 months, that number gets thrown around because that’s what the companies who developed them were required to test duration wise – but that’s very different from determining how long they take to disappear completely. Recent data shows very clearly that filler would be better described as semi-permanent, as MRIs show filler lasts for up to (and past) a decade. That doesn’t mean pharmaceutical companies who make fillers are intentionally lying, simply that when fillers were first introduced, no one thought to look. We can see similar trends with Ultherapy (ultrasound) and radiofrequency, where early adopters of those skin tightening treatments are reporting ill-effects on facial fat. 

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That doesn’t make any of these treatments bad, but as our knowledge expands people need to educate themselves on what these treatments can and can’t do to avoid unnatural looking results. 


But Are We Taking Things Too Far?


Trends tend to go in waves. 


As a new technology, treatment or ‘look’ emerges, some people will always run to be first to the post. Are we headed for a correction where people shy away from plastic surgery and aesthetic modification? Possibly, but I don’t think that’s realistic. Remember that we all have different starting places, and though someone may be comfortable and confident with their natural appearance, that doesn’t mean someone else is or should be. It comes down to a personal preference. 


One thing that is refreshing, is that as more influencers and celebrities are open to talking about what they’ve had done (surgical or non-surgical) it’s demystifying and destigmatizing aesthetics work. Yes, people who were already interested in emulating that person (or look) might be more inclined to pursue surgery and treatments, but I like to think it has an opposite, cooling effect, overall. When we understand that something wasn’t achieved naturally, it alleviates the guilt and self-esteem issues that can arise from feeling that you are somehow not good enough. When you understand something wasn’t achieved naturally, all of a sudden you can have a more honest conversation with yourself, about whether you really want to look that way.


Refreshingly, the answer is often not. And when the door is opened to better self-esteem? Pursued surgically or not, that’s a beautiful thing. 


Remember, we all age

There’s only one final destination to this life, and aging is a beautiful gift that not everyone gets. Many young people are apprehensive of getting older, and the trends and emphasis on anti aging treatments demonstrates how strong the stigma still is.


Above all, remember that no one needs plastic surgery, but if you choose to pursue it, do it safely, wisely, and for the right reasons. 


Considering starting your own plastic surgery journey? Or maybe wondering whether it’s the right choice for improving your self-esteem? To inquire about consultations, visit us City Facial Plastics or check out our Beauty Experts Page of recommended surgeons to explore your options. 

Written by
Kristi Charish
Edited by
Dr. Gary Linkov
The content of this newsletter is for entertainment and educational purposes only. This content is not meant to provide any medical advice or treat any medical conditions. Patients must be evaluated by an appropriate healthcare provider on an individual basis and treatment must be tailored to meet that patient’s needs. Results and particular outcomes are not guaranteed.


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