Valerie Loftus investigates Irish attitudes to cosmetic procedures in 2019.
We are currently experiencing what can only be described as filler-mania. Even if you don’t want to get fillers yourself, you’re probably talking about them: who has ‘good’ ones, who’s gone too far, who is definitely lying about not having them. Last summer, we were fascinated with Megan Barton-Hanson, the Love Island contestant who transformed herself into a preternaturally stunning Margot Robbie lookalike thanks to a rumoured £30,000 worth of cosmetic procedures.
Clinics reported up to 200% increases in demand for lip fillers during the series’ run – and if it was that easy (albeit expensive) to give yourself the face and body of dreams, why wouldn’t you at least look into it? O the back of this surge in interest, Superdrug launched a Botox and fillers service at their flagship London store, with prices starting at just £99 for Botox in your forehead or crow’s feet. An Irish clinic offered a ‘Love Island package’ which included three areas of Botox with 1ml of lip filler for €450 (with the option to add on a non-surgical nose job for €350).
It has never been easier or cheaper to try injectables, and we’re starting on them younger. Sarah Doyle, 23, first got her lips done in 2016 after months of emailing different nurses and clinics asking “every question you can imagine”. She says she was instantly hooked: “I make an appointment approximately every four months. I feel as though it’s balanced out my face, and it has made me feel confident.”
“I think if there’s something you’re unhappy with and it’s possible to change it, then why not,” says Audrey Greene, who has had a number of procedures over the last decade including a gastric band, breast uplift, fillers and Botox. “I just didn’t like what I saw in the mirror and hated the effect losing so much weight had on my body, so I decided to fix it.”
Jeannette Dunne, aesthetic nurse and co-owner of Renew Skin Clinic, has watched the demand for Botox and fillers grow over the last few years. “I would say there’s a huge celebrity influence – you only have to look at the Kardashians, who have built their careers off it. TOWIE, Made in Chelsea… they’re all promoting a certain look, and everybody wants a piece of it. The problem is, they have the money to go to the best of the best. They’re not trying to achieve this look with €100.”
You could probably find someone who will attempt to give you that look for €100, but Jeannette warns against getting these procedures done cheaply. You’re setting yourself up for not only disappointment, but potential issues if something goes wrong (with filler especially, the person injecting you needs to have a good knowledge of the blood vessels, nerves, and ligaments of the face).
If they’re not a doctor, a nurse, or a dentist, they shouldn’t be injecting you. Make sure that it’s a clinic that has a reputation, and has been there for a while. You wouldn’t go to somebody’s living room and have your teeth seen to, but people do this all the time with injections.
A good practitioner will not push you to get procedures that you don’t want or need, nor will they allow you to get ahead of yourself and overdo it – Sarah has experienced both sides of this. “It was around my third time getting my lips done when the nurse suggested Botox. I was 22 at the time with not a wrinkle to my name,” she tells me.
“She gave me an immediate complex, saying I had very harsh frown lines. This was something I never even noticed myself, but straight away I wanted those non-existent frown lines gone. Then when I attempted to get my lips done at Christmas last year, I went to a popular nurse who advised me that my lips were too big. I was shocked by this, but it did open my eyes to the fact that this was becoming an unhealthy addiction.”
Audrey was also talked down from going for the “big, fake-looking boobs” she wanted: “My surgeon refused, so we compromised. I’m glad we did, and that I listened to him!”
With (good) Botox and filler being quite a costly habit, you wouldn’t want to get too addicted. For Audrey, though, it’s worth every cent. “It has been expensive. I borrowed for the gastric band and boob job, but the Botox and fillers are affordable, once a year. In my opinion it’s money well spent.”
These days, more and more men are getting in on the act too. Kevin Shore has been getting Botox since turning 30 last year and realising he would “be in the Overs category on The X Factor” (we’ve all been there). “I could cope with being 20-anything, it still felt young, but turning 30 pushed me over the edge and I decided to take some extra measures to preserve what youth I had left,” he shares.
All of my friends were intrigued. As nothing is sacred anymore, I posted my first trip to the clinic on Instagram and so many people wanted to know more about it. I was always self-conscious about the area around my eyes when I smiled, but Botox has removed all signs of that. It’s like FaceTune, but real life.
Kevin has also contemplated getting a nose job, though he hasn’t yet been brave enough to go through with it: “Never say never, though.”
Dr Paul Reddy, Medical Director of Therapie Clinic, says that 30% of their clients are male, and they expect that in the next two years it will be split 50/50 between men and women. “The modern Irish man has become much more image-conscious, and we can see this easily through the spike in male customers at all of our clinics around the country.”
Perhaps, with how easy it is now to become the perfect version of ourselves, we’re not stopping to wonder what exactly is making us do it. We want to feel happier in our skin, yes, but what’s dictating that? Earlier this year, The Guardian reported that ‘selfie dysmorphia’, or the desire to look more like your FaceTuned or filtered selfies, was leading more young people to opt for cosmetic procedures. And in a 2017 survey of American plastic surgeons, 55% said that their patients’ motivation for surgery was to look better in selfies, up from just 13% in 2016.
Sarah says her decision to get filler was “100% influenced” by celebrities, whether she realised it or not: “The sad thing is that we don’t realise how much of this we actually take on board. I don’t think I would ever have gotten fillers if it had not been for Kylie Jenner.”
I feel I was lucky to have a professional tell me when enough was enough, but not every young girl has that. My advice to anyone getting fillers would be to think about what is best for you, not about what is on trend.”
Indeed, some celebrities are now having their filler dissolved (even if it’s just to get it done again correctly), and Jeannette points to microneedling and the non-invasive ultrasound procedure Ultherapy as increasingly popular ways to tighten skin without the need for injectables. However, at this stage, it’s clear that it’s more than just a passing fad.
Research by Therapie Clinic in 2018 found that one in 10 Irish people have had Botox or fillers, with 57% of those who haven’t had anything done saying they’d consider it in future. Lip and nose ‘trends’ may change with every new crop of Love Islanders, but Botox and fillers are sticking around. Get involved or not, it’s your choice – just be sure you’re doing it for you.