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Cosmetic surgery is a trend that widens economic diversities

The new beauty standards, between treatments and filler, are a form of status representation

Cosmetic surgery is a trend that widens economic diversities The new beauty standards, between treatments and filler, are a form of status representation

Forget the Birkin by Hermès. The real symbol of social status is beauty. Nothing new you will say. On the other hand, beauty and wealth have gone hand in hand since the Renaissance when pale complexions and rounded forms differentiated the elite from the rabble who, working outdoors, had sunburnt skin. Or perhaps even earlier. Today, however, the beauty industry seems to be the new place where the class struggle is staged and the gap between those who can afford the best products and interventions and those who cannot is getting bigger and bigger. It is no longer enough to take care of oneself, focusing on skincare, haircare, eyebrows, waxing, teeth and sports. One has to be flawless down to the last detail like Kim Kardashian or JLo in their best shots. 

If the pressures on women to maintain a perfect image, immune to any signs of aging, or to remove body hair and comb their hair to perfection are centuries old, social media, selfies and calls via Zoom have made our appearance the real thing to invest in to succeed in life. As far back as 2011 and 2013, two researches reported in a lengthy article by Dazed Digital, revealed that ""poorly groomed" women stand to earn 40 percent less than their beautified counterparts, while attractive people are over 20 percent more likely to be called back for a job interview, and are perceived to be more socially skilled, trustworthy, confident and competent." If beauty is the discriminating factor and nature has not endowed us with the genetic make-up of Margot Robbie, the only remedy is to get help with fillers, botox, liposuction and every aesthetic treatment or aid available on the market. This is what Bella Hadid (voted the most beautiful woman in the world in 2021), Kylie Jenner, Hailey Bieber and many other celebrities have also done. 

Confirming the obsession is the boom in requests for medical aesthetic treatments, particularly those for the upper part of the face. Here is some data. According to a recent analysis by P&S Intelligence, aesthetic medicine is set to exceed a global turnover of $19.4 billion by 2023 from $8.6 billion in 2018, representing an average annual growth of 12.2 percent.  According to the National Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Database, the number of Botox procedures performed in America increased by 54% between 2019 and 2020 and fillers increased by 75%; while the UK wins the award as the world's fastest growing market for facial fillers, with UK plastic surgeons reporting a 70% increase in consultation requests over 2020. And what about Italy? The AICPE Observatory reported that in 2019 the use of aesthetic medicine or surgery increased by +7.8% compared to the previous year, with growth in the use of botulinum toxin, +15%, and hyaluronic acid, +21%. 

The problem is that in order to chase often unattainable beauty standards, many are willing to do anything, even go into debt or travel to countries that offer more affordable procedures, but unfortunately do not meet health and safety standards. In fact, a recent article in Refinery29 reported how women are racking up thousands of pounds in credit card debt to get botox and fillers. Yet another confirmation that only middle- and upper-class women have the financial freedom to consider an expensive surgical procedure and that the beauty standards of 2022 demand a privilege and make those who do not have the possibility to invest all their savings in massages, manicures and other more complex and invasive treatments a sort of social outcast. Considering this data, all the work Gen Z has done to promote body positivity and different, more inclusive concepts of beauty still seems far from shattering the obsession with perfection. Today more than ever, the meme "You are not ugly, you are just poor!" seems more true than ever.