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“All hail the big cosmetic surgery U-turn”: Lucy Mangan on a welcome change in the fashion and beauty industry


People always go too far with a new thing. You should have seen me when Cadbury Wispas first came out. So I am delighted for many reasons at the news that cosmetic surgery procedures fell by 40% last year.

There was a great boom in lunchtime cosmetic procedures about 10 years ago and I have felt very much since then that a world in which you could get yourself Botoxed, fillered, facelifted* – and even your boobs enlarged** – in the time previously allocated to buying and consuming an Itsu Korean BBQ Potsu is a world gone violently mad. Anything that suggests the beginning of a journey back towards sanity, safety and second thoughts that say, ‘Maybe an hour is only long enough for a facial, not a whole new face’, I welcome.

BAAPS, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (and winners of the Most Apt Acronym Award every year since 1986), reckons it’s a temporary setback caused by post-Brexit and Trump-induced economic uncertainty. But I’ve got bad news for them (and their bank accounts***). I reckon it might be permanent, a sign of some good finally coming from this slithery, tentacular, black-hearted monster we call the internet.

It’s the internet that has broken the complete stranglehold that the young/thin/pretty/white/blonde aesthetic had over the fashion and beauty industry, which colonised our adverts, our imaginations and our minds for too long. You simply can’t see as many images of as many different kinds of beauty and ways of being comfortable in your skin as we now see on a daily basis and expect things to continue unchanged. Even those who once traded very much in the surgical look are now having procedures reversed as a taste for authenticity and relatability replaces the one for Barbie-like ‘perfection’.

Breaking a stranglehold, of course, is not the same as achieving full diversity or anything like it. But it does let air in. It lets a culture’s lungs start to inflate and breathe on their own. Or, to change the metaphor, a journey of a thousand steps begins with 2016’s reinstatement of Isabella Rossellini, aged 64, as the face of Lancôme, the brand she was let go from at 43. It’s a start, and if we don’t embrace and nurture starts they never become what they should. I bet they laughed when someone first suggested aerating chocolate, after all. I look forward to BAAPS gently deflating for some time to come.

*This is true; it was a lunchtime procedure involving barbed threads pushed under the skin, hoicked backwards then tied somewhere unobtrusive round the back of your head. I would find out if this is still available, but I pass out every time I think of ‘barbed threads’.

**Yes, this too is true. Two boreholes in your chest, bags of silicone pushed in with – I can only presume – all the finesse of a cavity wall insulator, and back to the office in time for the next meeting. At least PowerPoint presentations become marginally more bearable under the influence of heavy pain meds.

***What? Yes, I am jealous. Do you know how differently my life would have turned out if I, too, had been able to turn cellulite into money? From the waist down I would be the richest woman in Christendom. Every Wispa could effectively have become a gold bar.


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