Sunday 21 January 2018

Comment: How vajacials and butt-fillers are on the rise in Ireland - and why we’re more honest about being vain

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Lorraine Courtney

RTÉ’s new ‘Body Shopping’ show looks at how common cosmetic procedures are becoming here. It’s no secret that plastic surgery rates are on the rise, a trend that’s been blamed on social media, selfies and porn.

Its impact on us has been overwhelming. Procedures that had previously been considered physically risky, socially embarrassing and a waste of good money have been rebranded as something aspirational.

We’re spending thousands on alterations, augmentations, erasures and fillings. It’s a new high or a new low for the feminist movement, depending on how you look at it.

We are living longer and more healthily than ever before. We are far more adventurous and ambitious, but suddenly we are not young and we feel invisible.

Along with the rapidly mushrooming number of anti-ageing techniques available, a kind of pick-n-mix attitude to surgery has arisen. The technology is there, so why not use it?

Women (and a few men) now use derma rollers to cause deliberate injury to their faces to kick-start a false healing phase.

Young women seek lip fillers for their 18th birthdays.

Naturally, new paradoxes have emerged. We’re more honest about being vain. We don’t mind looking scary to look great. We drop a week’s salary on a night cream and call it “self-care”. In our battle with time, we don’t just nourish our ageing skin with sweetly scented cream, we cut it, zap it, burn it, inject it.

We have vajacials, ab contouring and butt-fillers. We pay for lasers to burn our cheeks and get our colons washed out.

According to research by, eyebrow lifts were the fastest growing surgical procedure of 2015, with a massive 440pc increase in enquiries, despite a hefty price tag of €3,789, on average, in Ireland.

Number two on the top trends list was eyelid surgery, which involves the removal of skin around the eye and adding or removing fat from eyelids. Demand for this procedure increased by 188pc and costs €2,605, on average.

At number three on the list, mini facelift enquiries soared with a 167pc increase over the previous year and costs patients €3,083, on average.

Butt lifts came in at number four with a 150pc increase in enquiries, despite being the highest-priced trend, at a cost of €5,367. Are we sure? Try as I might to give this a feminist spin, I can’t pretend we’re covering ourselves in glory.

But it’s the societal pressure to look perfect along with the contradictory, sweeping criticism of people who’ve had work done that is truly toxic. Why do we teach women staying young and beautiful is the most important thing, and then shame them for attempting to do just that?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with adults choosing to make surgical modifications to their bodies. The problem is that we don’t live in a vacuum.

We live in a culture that teaches women that nobody is supposed to age past 35. So the sticking point is that a lot of women aren’t doing what they want to do with their bodies; they’re doing what our society wants them to do with their bodies. And that cruel, oppressive culture should absolutely be critiqued and dismantled.

Now, I don’t think that we are all hapless victims of misogyny, lured into surgery by knife-happy (mostly) male cosmetic surgeons in a desperate attempt to keep our husbands from running off with younger women. Most men, in my experience, are shocked by the extremes to which their wives are willing to go to alter their faces and bodies.

There’s a lot of work yet to be done to make women of different ethnicities, ages, and body types feel like they are hot stuff, too. We need more Lindy Wests and Helen Mirrens to show us what is what. Still, while doing this important work, we need to also make room for the fact that, when it’s all said and done, many women will still opt for a few cosmetic tweaks, and that’s alright too. We can expand what it means to be beautiful without condemning such choices altogether.

Image is important. It can be a way to perk up our lives, build our confidence, open doors, attract attention, avoid it, tell people who we are. That is a privilege we have earned the right to exert.

Our goal shouldn’t be to keep fighting off the urge to inject our faces, it should be to stop feeling guilty if that’s what we want to do. And we can all stop the shaming of other women that is really just bitchiness masquerading as the moral high ground.

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