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The worrying trend of “Aesthetic Medicine”

19/11/2007

As a woman, I am often compelled by some sort of either genetic predisposition or years of societal programming, to stare critically at myself in the mirror.

My thighs: too fat. My Belly: too soft. My breasts: too small. My nose: too big. My hair: too blah. My skin: too oily. Why do I do this? I don’t know. Nor do I really care too much about these problems. Other than running three times a week, eating lots of healthy food and taking good care of my hair and skin, there’s nothing I can do about my body’s little imperfections. Or is there?

The medical community has long been able to correct certain flaws with surgery. Breast augmentation, liposuction, facial reconstruction and laser eye surgery are all quite common practices. However, as the recent death of Kanye West’s mother will testify, these procedures are still quite dangerous. It is surgery after all.

Another path offered by the medical community more recently is pharmaceuticals. Now I’m not talking about the so-called cosmeceuticals, I’ll rant about those later. I’m talking about products like Botox. According to wikipedia, botulinum toxin is one of the most poisonous naturally occurring substances in the world, and it is the most toxic protein. When injected in small doses into the muscles of the face, it causes them to become paralysed and this reduces the appearance of wrinkles. It also reduces one’s ability to make facial expressions. While this is great if you’re entering a poker tournament, it tends to be a bit creepy in everyday life. But hey, it’s your face and you can do what you want with it. But there are risks. Some people are allergic to the toxin and sometimes, the toxin is released into the wrong muscle causing really weird facial paralysis. Fortunately, the toxin only stays in the body for a few months.

A new product has been marketed by Allergan Inc. (the same guys that brought you Botox), one that claims to cause eyelash growth. Less surprising than the fact that it seems to work, is the fact that the risks are being downplayed by the company. Eyelash growth, for those women who wish to have long, sultry lashes, sounds like a miracle. I’ve even heard of women getting hair from their head implanted in their eyelids in order to achieve this effect (they then have to remember to keep them trimmed short, EEEWW!!!). But, while a non-surgical solution would seem to be the answer, again, it is not without side-effects. And this time, if they occur, they don’t wear off after a few months like Botox. Fortunately, the FDA seems to be stepping in to regulate this product with a vengeance.

This new wave of aesthetic medicine has me worried. Women (though men are not immune) who have had so many cosmetic products marketed to them under the guise of being drugs, are likely to fall prey to these drugs marketed as cosmetics. The line is being blurred. This brings me to the so-called cosmeceuticals (or some other wanky, pseudoscientific name). Ever since I was 12 and I read Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me by Paula Begoun I have been skeptical about the cosmetics industry. Many products sold as cosmetics contain ingredients that are in prescription drugs, such as Retin-A. However, in order not to be regulated by the FDA as a drug, they must be in small, ineffective amounts. So, basically, if you don’t need a prescription for it, the anti-wrinkle cream is probably no more effective than any other moisturiser. If it’s safe, it’s probably not effective and if it’s effective, there’s probably some risk. There is no free lunch in the world of beauty.

Me, I’m lucky I’m still young. I know I won’t be young forever. But I’m realistic. I know that there’s only so much I can do to prevent the wear and tear of aging. So I will continue to do what I can: I wear sunblock whenever I go outside, I wear as little makeup as possible, and every time I stare at my reflection, after going over my long list of imperfections, I smile at myself and say “Damn, you’re foxy!”

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One Comment
  1. Podblack permalink
    20/11/2007 12:33 am

    “Too overweight, too underweight,
    Too strong, too frail
    I’ve got lifeless hair
    And dirty fingernails,
    Too dry, too greasy
    And I’m looking middle aged:
    I’m a prisoner trapped in a body-cage!
    Flat chested, big busted, flat footed, fat face,
    Big bottom, short-legged and my nose is out of place,
    Too pretty, too ugly, too forward, too shy –
    I’ve got poor self-image… and I wonder why?”
    ‘Girl In The Mirror’ – by Jane Clifton.

    You might like to check out this site, by Skeptic of the Year Loretta Marron, too, http://www.healthinformation.com.au/, in regards to how women are usually the first target of health and beauty claims by less-than-ethical manufacturers.

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