Thursday, June 2, 2016

Why Botox is the latest must-have accessory of the Instagram generation

Chessie Keebaugh, the 22-year-old daughter of The Real Housewives of Melbourne's Chyka, has every reason to feel confident about the way she looks. She has signed with Giant Model Management as a curvy model, and when she posts Instagram photos of herself, some of her 15,000 followers will respond with comments like "so beautiful!" and "absolutely slaying!".

So it took her by surprise when she was getting a beauty treatment done, and the person doing it suggested that she try some preventative Botox. That said, when she takes a look at the other girls her age at clubs on the weekend, the trend is towards "the Kardashian look – contoured cheeks, big lips, big eyebrows, heavy makeup. More and more of my friends want to get lip fillers, and stuff like that. When I look at photos online from clubs like Ms Collins, I can't differentiate who's who, because they all look the same."

Welcome to beauty, 2016. Thin lips? Injectables can fix that. Patchy eyebrows? Brow tattoos are an option. Square jaw? Botox. No cheekbones? Get fillers. Wanna use your #iwokeuplikethis hashtag properly? Tattooed eyeliner will do the trick. All of these advancements in cosmetic technology are being pursued by a group who already have time on their side – they're mostly under 40, with muscle relaxants (Botox is one brand name) being de rigueur among some of the Melbourne mid-20s set.

Blame Kylie Jenner. Kim Kardashian's little sister rules social media, putting her pout-worthy lips (which went from thin to beyond plump before her 17th birthday) at the top of the Must Have list. At Facelove, a clinic that specialises in aesthetic treatments such as anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers, clinical director Mike Clague says that "at least once a day, girls are asking me to make their top lip bigger than their bottom lip." For the record, he won't do it. "The top lip should never look bigger. You can't say [to a patient], 'yes, I'll do your top lip,' because realistically, that's doing you harm. I'm leaving you in a position where people will be laughing at you in a cafe, and I don't want to feel the sting of that."

Plastic surgeon Graeme Southwick, chairman of Melbourne Institute of Plastic Surgery, has also noticed an influx of younger people coming to see him in recent years, and points to social media for a different reason – "What's changed the whole process of what we're doing now is selfies. They're slightly distortional and usually taken at a 45-degree angle. Before selfies, everyone was used to looking into the mirror and seeing themselves face on. Now, seeing their face at an angle is making them notice different things – for instance, a different view of their nose or it can highlight the opposite cheekbone and make it look flat, so that they want a filler. In the past, they wouldn't come in for that."

Patients are also more informed than ever before. Facelove's Clague says that some girls will come in "who are really bossy and have done their research on YouTube, and will fire a series of questions at me – do you use cannulas or needles? Which direction do you inject from? One girl brought in a sheet of paper where she'd already marked out which filler should go in, where it should go, and how many [millilitres] should be used. Some even try to take selfies of themselves getting procedures done, but I won't allow photography."

What's really changed the beauty landscape, though, is how commonplace some of these treatments have become – despite their relatively hefty pricetag, they're more accessible to the everyday person. Marina Go, general manager of magazines including Harper's Bazaar, Elle and Cosmopolitan, says "I hear young women discussing Botox the way that I used to talk about getting a facial when I was their age". Publicist Nancy McDonald is just 26, and the odd girl out in her friendship circle, where more girls do "preventative Botox" than not. She says that "everyone is striving for that fresh-faced look, and [preventative Botox] has just become the norm and accepted. I don't think there's a particular desire to look like Kim Kardashian but a lot of people are having a line here or there taken away in real life, as opposed to doing FaceTune (an app that allows users to smooth their wrinkles, whiten teeth and make cosmetic improvements on their images). Everyone wants to look like the girl next door, and I don't know if the girl next door doesn't have Botox any more."

But, buyer beware, or at least go slow. Plastic surgeon Chris Moss, who is also the medical director of Liberty Belle Skin Centre, says he doesn't believe preventative Botox makes sense if a person isn't starting to get the lines and wrinkles. "I think that's excessive and it's not value for money." And two women who will caution against overuse of such treatments – despite the public perception of them – are Real Housewives of Melbourne's Gamble Breaux and Janet Roach. Says Breaux, 45, "I've been getting Botox since I was around 27. But in my 30s, I'd had quite a lot of Botox and my face was quite pulled and people thought I was older. Now that I'm on TV, I've had much less, because if I can't move my face, I'm not going to have a gig. That's why Jackie [Gillies] is amazing on the show, she still has all her facial expressions."

Roach has had surgery to look younger, but says her expectations have recently changed about how she should look. "I accept the fact that I'm 57 and I'm comfortable with the fact that I'm going to have some lines and I don't have to be perfect all the time. I feel like young women are very, very pressured. They come up to me and ask about surgery, and I think, 'Gosh, you're so beautiful, can't you see it?' But they're focusing on things that are tiny. And, it can be addictive. I work with young women who will have their lips done a little bit and they want to enhance. [A year later], they look like a bloody fish. I think they're making themselves look distorted. I'm finding in my age group, there's a shift – let's exercise, let's look after our health – and with fillers and [treatments such as] dermabrasion, there's much less talk about surgery."

Some are talking. Laurina Fleure, 32, and Ebru Dallikavak, 31, each became well known after stints on reality TV (they were both contestants on The Bachelor, with Fleure going on to do I'm a Celebrity … Get Me out of Here!) and have been open about utilising beauty technologies to achieve their looks. Fleure says "We want the best cars, the best electronics and the best technology with everything in life – why would beauty technology be any different? People can decide for themselves if they would like to take advantage of the options available, and others shouldn't judge them on their personal preferences or appearances." Dallikavak, who gets occasional Botox and lip injections, as well as eyebrow tattoos, says, "I'm quite open about what I do."

Yet many others won't reveal as much – even to their significant others. Hillel New is a dentist who also administers muscle relaxants through his business Facelab, and says, "Women come in and say, 'Don't tell my husband, I'll pay in cash!'" One media executive says she remembers "a woman coming into my office for a meeting on a Friday afternoon. The mother of two small children with a busy job, she looked her age at 38. Then I saw her on Monday morning, glowing – literally. Her face was all dewy and plump, her frown lines and crow's feet [wrinkles] were gone, and she looked like she'd been at a health retreat for a month. It was obvious to everyone there that she had some 'work' done." But of course, no one said anything.

Mike Clague says the older his client, the less they're likely to admit these treatments. "From 40 onwards, there's a lot more secrecy, and from 50 onwards, [they would] absolutely not [tell anyone]." Men, especially, don't want to admit having procedures – despite Clague saying that 10 per cent of his clients are male. "One group would be husbands of the women who come in, and the other is those I call 'bankers' – they're corporate, straight men in their 40s. 'They say, I'm 40, there are 25 year olds nipping at my heels.' I feel like the motivation for women is completely internal. For men, it's almost a bit competitive: 'My mates look like this, I've got younger friends…'"

These days, it's hard to work out what the beauty ideal even is, when images on social media can be deceptive. Model Sophie Van Den Akker hasn't had anything done – "I'm all about ageing gracefully" – but says she feels for the young girls coming into the industry, seeing Instagram posts with no lines or wrinkles. "What everyone doesn't realise is that just about all photos are photoshopped. We seem to portray a very fake illusion about what's 'perfect.'"

But younger people are nevertheless doing more to obtain perfection, albeit with some less drastic methods, too. Chris Moss says "we're seeing a lot more people in their 20s and 30s than we were even give years ago".

"They might come in for Dermasweep facials, for blackhead extractions, or Clear + Brilliant Laser (the latter has made a fan of Rebecca Judd), where there's no downtime and it improves the skin tone and texture."

Plastic surgeon Graeme Southwick says common requests are for microdermabrasion, light lasering and skin needling, also adding that "the young want a quick fix. They don't mind if it's not permanent, but they need it now and want immediate results, no downtime, and they're usually cost conscious."

What else has become popular? Michelle Barclay, director of Prolash and Brow FX, has seen business boom of late, with eyebrow, eyeliner and lip tattooing all becoming increasingly popular. Many of the younger women – from around 20 – will seek out eyeliner tattoos and eyelash enhancement "which is a colouring in between the eyelashes, so you look like you've got a thick line there   … they want to look natural but still look made-up, if you know what I mean." Men are joining in on this one, too: "Some men will do their brows, if they've had scars in their eyebrows, which can happen with young men. And if they're going bald, we can recreate their hairline. If they shave their heads, we can tattoo hair dots onto their scalps to make them look like they're not bald."

But if you ask Mecca Brands' head of artistry, Tony Baumann, people don't realise there's sometimes a much less permanent option available. "You can pretty much achieve any cosmetic result with makeup." He, too, has seen the makeup industry change through the advent of social media. "The whole landscape has changed dramatically even in the past 18 months – with makeup, it's predominantly through YouTube. The younger generation now are exposed to products and techniques that you would normally only get if you were training as a makeup artist... we're in an era at the moment where cosmetics are really celebrated and young girls are wearing more makeup. We probably haven't seen this amount of makeup since the '80s."

Real Housewife of Melbourne's Janet Roach, for one, has seen the changes in beauty ideals first hand. "In the '80s and '90s, we all wanted large breasts. Now they're matronly, and the flat-chested woman is more fashionable. In five years' time, thin eyebrows might be in fashion, and what will [those with brow tattoos, which last up to three years], do then? Fashions change."

Rachelle Unreich

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