Selfie culture to blame for surge in lip fillers among 'image-obsessed' women
Doctors say 20-somethings under social-media pressure are opting for the needle in the quest for 'perfection', writes Claire Mc Cormack
Concerns are growing over the number of image-obsessed young women going under the needle to achieve "the perfect look".
Cosmetic surgeons say they are alarmed by the high number of women in their early 20s presenting with photos of their favourite celebrities and saying "I want to look like that".
The trend is emerging because impressionable young women are constantly bombarded with notions of flawless beauty across social media platforms, cosmetic specialists admit.
Others are suspicious that young people's obsession with appearance is causing body dysmorphic disorder.
The most popular non-surgical procedures among 20 to 30-year-olds are lip enhancements, fillers and botox.
Dr Mark Hamilton, a surgeon who has been working in the field of facial aesthetics for the last 12 years, said he is "definitely worried" about the emerging trend.
"In the past I've been quite dismissive of selfies and social media but in the last year I'm much more convinced of the impact it's having. I see a lot more attractive women in their early 20s coming in to talk to me about treatments," he said. "The responsible doctor is going to explain to them why it's not appropriate at an early stage to have things done and the risks associated with it," he said.
Although Dr Hamilton says the vast majority of his clients are pleased with their treatments, he admits not every patient immediately warms to the transformation.
"Young girls think by plumping their lips they're immediately going to be more attractive but they don't realise that by putting in a lot of filler, or even a little bit, it suddenly changes their appearance," he said.
"Self-image and self-worth is tied up very much in how you see yourself and those little transformations and tweaks can actually make a big difference," he said.
Dr Hamilton is also concerned that these young women may be struggling with a type of chronic neurosis.
"They may be suffering from a degree of body dysmorphia and it's something I'm more and more convinced about with selfies, social media, Facebook and Instagram. It's having a real impact on young patients coming into the clinic," he said.
Philip McGlade, managing director at Therapie Clinic, says current demand for non-surgical procedures has surpassed boom-time highs.
"Fillers are really growing especially in girls in their 20s and 30s - they want the plump lips that celebrities have," he said.
Last September, in an interview with the New York Times, reality television and social media star, Kylie Jenner (18) admitted to using lip fillers.
"I go to Dr Ourian in Beverly Hills. He's the best, and he's super natural about it. I was going to somebody before, and it was just looking crazy," she said.
Lip fillers must be topped up every four or five months to maintain the look.
Although botox and fillers are not permanent, Mr McGlade says younger people see the treatments as "preventative measures".
"They want to stop the fine lines and wrinkles before they appear," he said, adding that lips can look "slighted bruised" after being injected with collagen and other dermal fillers.
Experts say the growth is national and they anticipate the procedures will become more normalised over the next two years.
However, mental health experts are deeply worried about the reasons why young people are going to these extremes.
Trish Murphy, psychotherapist and member of the Irish Council of Psychotherapy, equates the trend with "increasing anxiety".
She says anxiety is presenting in many ways, including eating disorders and being very unhappy with your body.
"You have to be as smart as you can be, as beautiful as you can be, the best friend for your friends, the best lover of your boyfriend or girlfriend, the pressure now is huge and it's coming from within," she said.
"You turn to the body to make that perfect and of course you won't be happy with it, it will never be perfect. There'll always be the next thing and the next thing," she said, also pinpointing the role of social media.
"You have to have the perfect picture up so you get lots of 'likes' so that you're self-esteem stays up. So I can imagine lots of people are going to great lengths to get the perfect picture," she said.
"Instead of enjoying their youth they're modifying themselves in order to present something other than who they are," she said.
Meanwhile, Dr Peter Meagher, who practices at the Beacon Hospital, Blackrock Clinic and St Vincent's Private Hospital, says demand for surgical procedures, including breast augmentation and facelifts, is also rising among women aged 30 and upwards.