- When looking at the psychology of appearance, I refer to Dr Eileen Bradbury who said that undergoing cosmetic procedures often exposes us to a judgement of being vain; we receive little sympathy from our peers. Yet, we all strive to look attractive and struggle with ageing (see my survey).
- Attractiveness is important in all walks of life – symmetry and evenness of facial skin and features signal our health. Yet, we often don’t see each other in movement, or when smiling, only static in the mirror. There is something disturbing about asymmetry – and as we age these asymmetries become more exaggerated. For example, sleeping on one side can contribute to more lines and a slightly ‘squashed’ appearance.
- Aspirations to look “young again” and procedures that promise that seem to be within our reach. We feel that we want to be untouched by age. In a competitive situation, we want to provide “no information” about our inner feelings to the world. We want to hide the story we carry in our faces – our joy and sadness – not to be vulnerable. We strive to look alive & natural in order to be competitive and hope our looks will help us to deal with life challenges.
- The power of expectations? Dr Bradbury says that women judge each other instantly on weight; a very contradictory topic in ageing when we want plumper faces yet slimmer bodies. Being able to afford to do “anti-ageing” is also an economic statement, opening us to risk and great vulnerability if the procedures go wrong. If a procedure does not deliver the expected results, women feel their sexuality and “their feminine power” has been diminished. People are often unaware of the risk when signing a consent form prior to a procedure – there is a “natural high” derived from expectations which can blind us to the risks. They often don’t have realistic expectations and six months after the procedure, they feel similar to how they did before. (Among people opting for cosmetic surgery, 19 % have pre-existing history of mental health issues versus 4 % in control group.)
Approaching life at a slower pace – relaxing, respecting and taking care of our face – represents a softer, yet better way forward. Injuring skin is a short-term quick fix and has trade-offs that we are yet to fully understand. Ageing is inevitable. Tools of mindfulness and engaging in the internal world of self – connecting with your body through skincare can be incredibly rewarding.