Did Instagram make you do it?

10 Mins read

Lips numb. A one millilitre syringe of Juvederm goes in. Two hundred pounds comes out of the account in minutes.

Juicy and pouty lips are what’s in fashion at the moment. Whether they’re attained genetically (thanks to your parents), or by non-surgical cosmetic surgery, everyone wants them, or perhaps thinks they need them. And it’s grown to be our generation’s trademark.

We’ve had mainstream trends like the 90s’ over-plucked brows, the noughties’ double D-cup boob jobs paired with ridiculously low-waisted jeans. Now, making its mark in this decade is our generation being fixated with tweaking our facial features and adding a little Botox here and there, even if we don’t need it.

There’s been an increase in individuals demanding lip augmentations as it’s become the most favoured non-surgical form of cosmetic treatment, with an rise of 50% for 18-55-year-olds between 2000 and 2016. The number of Google searches for the treatment is 10 times higher than the figure from 2012 within the UK, according to

Before and after images of Bethan's lips up close showing how the lip-filler has defined and plumped her lips.

The progress of Bethan’s lip-filler journey [Bethan]

Nonetheless, the non-surgical treatment craze hasn’t halted with the obsession of enhancing one’s lips. The latest fashion that has emerged is getting dermal-filler even in the unconventional areas of your face; your tear-trough, your nose to depict a straighter side-profile without the hassle and expense of rhinoplasty surgery, your cheeks and even your jawline for a sharp-edged and defined appearance.

Non-surgical cosmetic treatments are dizzying and ever-growing and have become a standard beauty norm. Women are casually fitting their 15-minute cheek-filler treatment in-between their lash and nail appointments.

However, they are soaring in popularity among adolescent-20-somethings, who may not know any better.

The cosmetic industry in the UK is a lucrative business as it’s currently worth an estimated £3.6 billion, with beauty treatments such as Botox and dermal-fillers accounting for nine out of ten procedures, being worth around £2.7 billion. Certified practitioners can charge more than £200 per treatment, depending on the area of the desired treatment and the volume of filler being applied.

Data taken from 2016 revealed that the number of British people undergoing cosmetic surgery fell to the lowest number in a decade, whilst non-surgical cosmetic treatments continue to rise. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons released its annual figures showing a 40% drop in the number of cosmetic surgery procedures performed by its practitioners.

Non-surgical treatments have grown to be a saviour for those who don’t have £6,000 to spare for rhinoplasty surgery but have £300 in their savings for a 15-minute nose-filler treatment which is less risky and semi-permanent but which delivers instantaneous results.

The golden question is, why are millennials so infatuated with the perfect plumpy lips and why are they on a quest to gain a defined facial structure? And what is driving them to undertake those non-invasive treatments that were once known to target the older generations?

Surrounding us left, right and centre on social-media are your ideally modified and put together social influencers and A-list celebrities; perky breasts, curvy silhouettes, sculpted cheekbones and enviable lips. It’s a no-brainer that young women are manipulated into thinking that these are the desirable and on-trend features that would make them look attractive by the impact of Instagram’s unsolicited beauty standards.

It doesn’t help when the picture-perfect Kardashian clan, who are notorious for covertly tweaking their lumps and bumps behind the camera, dupe their young and naive fans into their claims of never having cosmetic surgery done. Although we know they have. But try telling that to an 18-year-old girl whose concealing behind Snapchat and Instagram filters in a bid to show off smoother skin and bigger lips, in an attempt to look remotely like a Kardashian.

[pullquote align=”right”]“They’re targeting young and naïve people with low self-esteem, and it’s up to us as practitioners to advice accordingly.”[/pullquote]According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), the main influences driving millennials to seek out non-surgical treatments include TV celebrities and social media.

The cosmetic industry has dubbed this the “The Kardashian effect.”

The Instagram ‘Explore’ page can also be a vulnerable place to scroll. Without even wanting too, you’re overcome with unsought images of flawless models and cosmetic aesthetic accounts. A photo pops up and you click on it because you’re intrigued by these ‘before’ and ‘after’ transformations. Bumpy noses instantly made straight from the magical syringe of dermal-filler. A non-existent top lip instantly plumped. At that moment you sit there bewildered and judge all of your facial features and think “Ugh, a little won’t hurt here.”

In a contemporary and typical millennial approach, practitioners these days are utilising Instagram as a means to promote their business to attract new customers. They’re deciding to stray away from old-fashioned business tools as in an inter-connected world, the social app is overtaking as an effective method to make businesses recognised.

Unfortunately for a generation so gripped in social-media and how we’re perceived online, it’s becoming the foremost reason why we’re questioning our appearance.

In this chart you are able to identify what age range were more happy with their appearance in percentages and the colour of the line demonstrates what level of happiness they were.

Recent figures show attitudes to self-image changes dramatically with age [Keough Report]

The Review Committee’s attitudinal report in 2012 suggested that younger people see cosmetic procedures as a ‘commodity’ and this could further be attributed in part to social media and the growth in celebrity culture. A shocking figure revealed 41% of girls aged seven to ten and 62% aged 11-16 felt some pressure to look the way celebrities do.

Casey, aged 23 and from London, never faulted her appearance; the concept never crossed her mind to refine anything in her early 20s. Until of course, she became tempted by the content she saw on Instagram; attractive social influencers who are candid about getting cosmetic work done which led her to obsess over cosmetic surgery accounts.

“I used to really like my lips, and my features but I began getting cosmetic treatments because everyone around me was getting it done. Like you’ll scroll through Instagram and all these women looking flawless because they’ve had work done. I really began to doubt myself,” Casey tells us.

Two years ago, Casey went through her first non-surgical procedure to gain the ‘Instagram look’ that a number of girls are currently enraptured over. She got her lips filled with 0.5ml of Juvederm but instantly regretted her impulsive decision when the swelling didn’t settle down and her lips consequently looked awkward. In the end, she got the filler removed and hasn’t touched her lips since.

[pullquote align=”right”]“I think it’s very ‘in’ right now to have larger lips and I think that itself can influence people.” [/pullquote]Having said that, her negative experience hasn’t stopped the 23-year-old experimenting with other areas of her face. “A few weeks ago I got my nose done for the second time. I’ve always wanted to change the look of my nose, so when I learnt about nose-fillers I thought it was a great alternative than a nose job. It’s much cheaper and there are instant results,” Casey said.

“Now, I want to do things that improve my features rather than trying to get a specific look. I try not to see what’s a popular trend but it’s hard. I think next will be my tear-trough. Once you change one minor thing, you just want to do more and more. I feel like it can get addictive and you can’t stop yourself,” Casey concludes.

Dr Dirk Kremer for Harley Street Aesthetics discussed how addiction can manifest itself in cosmetic surgery, relating it to Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and various social factors, in a blog post on the clinic’s website.

“Patients who display symptoms of BDD and compulsively undergo aesthetic surgery suffer from underlying mental and emotional issues which they believe can be resolved by plastic surgery. However, this is far from the truth, plastic surgery should never be the answer to psychological issues!”

Bethan, from Redcar, has pampered in eight lip-filler treatments over the course of two years, each treatment costing her an average of £150 each. For the university student, the root of her decision to get her lips augmented stemmed from her growing insecurities connected with having ‘thin undesirable lips’ and having to over-line them with lip pencil and always wear make-up outside the house.

Up-close images of Bethan taken by herself before her lip-filler and after with her lips done.

Bethan before and after [Bethan]

“I didn’t really know about lip-fillers until, shock, Kylie Jenner revealed having them. So I realised from there that there was a way for me to get them done relatively cheap, safely and quickly,” the 22-year-old tells us,

“I got them done when I was 20, and researched about them for up to five-years by watching YouTubers tell their cosmetic stories, like Jamie Genevieve who sort of outlined what they are and how they work with her nurse corroborating on film.”

Besides Instagram, Youtube has also become a social platform where bloggers or random individuals will vlog and give details about their recent cosmetic voyage with their followers. Whilst it’s beneficial that these women and men are being vocal about getting cosmetic treatments and not luring their young followers in the deceit of “I naturally look like this”, it can also be encouraging to misinformed youngsters.

Bethan concludes, “I think it’s very ‘in’ right now to have larger lips and I think that itself can influence people. For me it was a long time coming and pretty inevitable. I think social media’s making it more accessible for people to get non-surgical treatments and there’s less stigma of ‘going under the knife’ because it’s less permanent.”

The ‘Kylie Package’ is a cosmetic treatment bundle including lip, cheek and jawline fillers influenced by mogul and lip-filler devotee Kylie Jenner, which a mass number of cosmetic aesthetic accounts on Instagram promote.

The bundle rose to prominence when Megan Barton-Hanson from Love Island was revealed to have undergone £20,000 worth of cosmetic treatments, one involving the ‘Kylie Package’. Her practitioner used the discussions about Megan’s surgery in the media as an opportunity to endorse the treatments so fans can achieve the same look.

An aesthetic account on Instagram endorsing Megan being their client.

Megan’s Love Island appearance prompted Kiss Aesthetics to post that she was their client, and endorsed the ‘Kylie Package’ [Instagram: @kiss_aesthetics]

However, the ‘Kylie Package’ has been criticised by a number of practitioners for carelessly and irresponsibly marketing three treatments in one sitting to young women that don’t require it. “Very few patients need to have so many areas treated at once to appear ‘balanced’ and even so with patients in their twenties who still have beautiful fullness in their mid-face, plump dewy skin and no sign of a pre-jowl sulcus,” Dr Caoimhe Doherty wrote in a lengthy and critical Instagram post.

Talking to Artefact, the London-based practitioner has six years of training as a facial aesthetic practitioner, and was previously a junior doctor in a cosmetic surgery hospital dealing with more severe facial trauma consequences.

In the early years of her career, her demographic of patients began with women and men in their 50s, however, in recent years and since the emergence of Instagram, she has seen an upsurge of young women, as young as 18, asking for treatments they perhaps don’t need.

Ethically, Dr Doherty refuses to treat patients under the age of 22, although she acknowledged that this age is still fairly young to begin aesthetic treatments. In the last year, Dr Doherty’s most requested treatment was lip augmentations but this year she’s seen jaw-fillers and non-surgical rhinoplasty become the leading trend amongst a younger audience. The risks of undergoing such treatments are rarely publicised online, but Dr Doherty mentioned that nose-fillers (non-surgical rhinoplasty) entails the highest risk of blindness, and can occur during the treatment and is irreversible.

“Not enough practitioners make patients completely aware of how serious the consequence of nose-fillers can be,” Dr Doherty told us. “Every single time I inject I am conscious about how deep I am injecting, and whether I hit neighbouring vessels and the complications that could occur. So I don’t know how someone with such little training after going on a one-day course feels confident enough to go in the general public and start harming people in this way.”

Inexperienced practitioners and ill-advised procedures are a primary concern for experts like Dr Doherty as she’s had to amend and dissolve several previous botched jobs performed by others. It’s one of the central reasons, aside from social media, that young women are stuck in a ceaseless cycle of wanting to correct and modify every little detail on their face as they’re not being advised against it by a professional.

Dr Doherty made an Instagram post about how dangerous Kylie Packages are for young audiences as they don't require it.

Dr Doherty has accused some practitioners of taking advantage of naive young girls [Instagram: @drcaoimhe]

“It’s our duty of care that our patients don’t get carried away and that everything they do is kept minimum and natural, and only tried if necessary,” she says. “Unfortunately, some clinics are money-orientated and don’t care what the patients look like at the end of their treatments. They’re happy to continue pumping filler in them.”

There has been a causal issue of unregulated and illegal Botox and dermal-filler obtained from the black market being spread around, especially by individuals that don’t have the required licence to perform the treatment. Botox is a prescribed medication that only a doctor, dentist or nurse practitioner are authorised to use.

However the internet is able to give us anything we want at the click of a button, and people that don’t have professional qualifications are able to purchase Botox from countries like China and inject their patients causing deformities and complications, under false pretence.

On the controversial ‘Kylie Package’, Dr Doherty said endorsing a collection of treatments in one approach is against their ethics and the Keough Report; a report governed for aesthetic practitioners which firmly states that practitioners should not be encouraging patients to engage with treatments if there’s a deal or discount on to endeavour in more profit. She added that these ‘packages’ are irrespective on whether the patient truly needs it as it’s improbable that a young individual will require all three treatments.

“It’s disgusting behaviour and needs to be shut down. They’re targeting young and naïve people with low self-esteem, and it’s up to us as practitioners to advice accordingly, and say ‘you might think of yourself like this but you don’t need to have all these things done’.”

The arguments concerning cosmetic treatments, whether they’re surgical or non-surgical, do not deviate from the notion that it has the capability to help you with your biggest insecurities and can be positive in the long run, only if guided and performed properly.

But it does have damaging connotations when young girls, who are still growing into their facial features, are wittingly injecting themselves because of what they’re engaging with on Instagram.

Because of social media, we’ve lost sight in distinguishing between what’s reality and what’s been polished and photoshopped to be aesthetically pleasing. And with the growth of popular, yet inimical editing app FaceTune, you’re able to, in seconds from the comfort of your bed, smooth out your blemished skin, get rid of any displeasing fine lines, reduce your nose and enhance your jawline.

“Social media has played a huge part and is the reason why so many young girls are requesting aesthetic treatments because they see these people online,” Dr Doherty concludes. “These bloggers, social influencers and they look picture-perfect. Young girls and boys aren’t aware that these pictures may edited, and this is what the person wants you to think they look like.”





Featured Image by @shsadler via Instagram 

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