Cosmetic Treatments Were Once Considered Taboo — Times Have Changed

MINI JOURNEY: Anchor: Cosmetic Treatments Were Once Considered Taboo — Times Have Changed
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Back in the day, people were considered brave if they admitted to getting work done. Apart from there being a stigma surrounding cosmetic procedures and in-office treatments, the technology wasn't as sophisticated as it is today. For a while, it seemed as if the only times we'd hear about people getting work done was either if it was overly exaggerated and obvious, or if they were being called vain. Thankfully, times have changed.

In fact, a 2022 Transformative Beauty study conducted by Dotdash Meredith surveyed 600 women between the ages of 25 to 74 and found that 51% tried a non-surgical beauty procedure for the first time within past year. Furthermore, 69% feel more positively about non-surgical beauty procedures compared to five years ago. And if that weren't enough, four in five of these women said they are considering at least one cosmetic surgery in the next five years.

"With the popularity of plastic surgery increasing dramatically, so has the awareness," explains Dr. William J. Koenig, a double board-certified plastic surgeon at Quatela Center for Plastic Surgery of this sociological shift. "The perception seems to be that not only is everyone doing something, but they are letting the world know through social media. The negative attitudes about having a cosmetic procedure are a thing of the past, and improving oneself is viewed positively."

According to the Allergan Aesthetics Future of Aesthetics Global Trends Report, people are increasingly becoming more open-minded as treatments are more mainstream now. People are all over social media showing off the work they've got done, with some even sharing their behind-the-scenes process. Not only does this normalize these types of treatments, but it also eases anxiety about what to expect.

This first-hand observation has been a huge reason why attitudes have changed. The Dotdash Meredith study found as women age, more have had personal experiences and see the benefits. "I used to judge women until I started seeing my own signs of aging/my peers begin to do these procedures too, and it sparked my curiosity," reported one of the women surveyed. "Now, I am a huge proponent." 

This has also helped people who were scared of "bad work" to see how results have changed to be more natural-looking, which is exactly what people of all ages are looking to achieve. The women surveyed in this study defined natural beauty results as something that doesn't look fake or too perfect. "It means that you do not look artificial. That you look youthful and relaxed and not forced or fake,” reported one 44 year old participant.  

Plus, it helps that advertisements for these types of treatments and procedures are more inclusive in their casting to highlight women of all sizes, races, and ages. Doing so allows potential users to see themselves in advertising and have it seem more attainable. Take Allergan's 2019 "Own Your Look" campaign (shown below) as an example: It targets millennials by showing them how expressive people can be with BOTOX injections. The celebrity factor helps as well. Celebrities such as Joe Jonas and Teyana Taylor have both partnered with XEOMIN and publicly talk about how they use them. Fashion designer Marc Jacobs famously publicized his face lift recovery. Eva Longoria gets tightening lasers and peels every so often.

That's not to say there aren't people who still keep their work hush-hush. "There are still a handful of celebrities that continue to deny obvious treatments that they have received," confirms Robert Finney, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Entière Dermatology. In fact, the Dotdash Meredith study found that nearly a third of users feel a stigma around non-surgical beauty procedures still exists. Women still feel judged by others, but a lot less so than before. "I feel that the stigma once associated with non-surgical procedures is now almost gone, and it's not ‘taboo’ to admit having them now compared to five years ago," said one 61 year old in the study.

And even though some people are still judging, many are increasingly interested in learning more. The Allergan Aesthetics research found that eight out of 10 consumers agree that non-surgical aesthetic treatments for the face and body are something they would like to learn more about, and 81% surveyed see these treatments as more acceptable than they were five years ago.

Gender is another factor in this conversation. There's an obvious increase in men  breaking the norms of what society has deemed as traditionally feminine by doing things such as wearing skirts and putting on nail polish. On top of that, they're also leaning into cosmetic treatments. A 2020 report from The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), showed that men made up 8% of aesthetic procedures, however in 2022 experts from Brazil, the UAE, and the UK reported that male patients make up 30% of their clientele.

Patients are getting younger, too. People aren't necessarily waiting to address their skin concerns once they arise, they're tackling before they appear. "This is probably due to the mass marketing by different companies and med spas about pre-juventation," hypothesizes Dr. Finney. "Patients who start to get ahead of the aging process earlier, often can have less intense treatments done at regular intervals to stave off signs of aging and potentially avoid the need for more invasive treatments or surgeries until much later in life."

If one thing is clear, it's that transparency and education are the leading reasons why people are increasingly curious about cosmetic treatments and why the taboo is disappearing. At the end of the day, if looking a certain way is going to help people feel like the best versions of themselves, then this evolution is an undeniably positive one.

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