Recently, I found myself in Los Angeles with a free afternoon. Now, what does a beauty editor do with a free afternoon in Los Angeles? Go and see a dermatologist, obviously.
I managed to nab an appointment with Dr Lancer, aka Kim Kardashian and Victoria Beckham’s go-to skin doc, and was elated by the prospect of leaving with a face like either one of theirs. Or so I thought…
“Ok so I was thinking a bit of Botox here, here, and maybe here, too.” I say tugging at my neck, and pointing to my forehead, chin and jaw. “And a bit of filler in my cheeks. And what are we thinking about my lips?” I ask Dr Lancer, pouting up at him only to be met with what can only be described as a deadpan look of disapproval.
“I could do all that. But it would be a total waste,” he replied. The conversation that ensued would serve to entirely change my outlook not only on cosmetic procedures, but what beauty itself should be. Here are the lessons I learned in the 30-minute appointment with Dr Lancer that will stay with me for a lifetime.
Beauty has become bizarre
A week in LA meant I had seen more botched lip jobs in that week than I had in my lifetime. But immersion in a culture where cosmetic enhancement is ubiquitous quickly altered my perception of ‘normal’ and worse still, my perception of ‘beautiful’.
I felt inadequate having natural lips (with an imbalanced ratio of 30% volume on the top, 70% volume on the bottom as one cosmetic doctor once kindly told me) and was more certain than ever that I needed fillers.
“People look bizarre,” said Dr Lancer. “Just stop, step back and look. They look bizarre. And they look more and more bizarre and distorted the more time goes, because they have forgotten what they used to look like and have lost their grip on reality.”
“It’s treatment-related dysmorphic syndrome. As soon as the initial procedure begins to wear off a couple of months later, the patient has a burning desire to repeat it. It’s like heroin addiction. If you go to a good physician, they will tell you that administering treatment at that time is not in their best interest. But instead of waiting, the patient will go shopping for another physician who will do the procedure and sadly, they are easy to find. It’s a tragic reality.”
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Botox *does* have long-term side effects
We’re often told that Botox doesn’t have any long-term negative effects, but according to Dr Lancer, that’s not quite the case.
“With neuromodulators such as Botox, patients tend to have had treatments so regularly and for so long that they have muscle atrophy or loss of muscle mass. This can cause indentation in the temple and indentation in the forehead furrow line, which creates a shelf-like droop of wasted muscle. In the neck, patients experience exaggeration of the neck platysma muscle [the vertical, stringy muscles] because they have been trying to keep it relaxed for too long.”
“Botox is a total waste on someone who doesn’t have deep wrinkles or pronounced ageing. It will start altering the movements of those muscle, which you will eventually regret.”
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Even natural fillers have permanent consequences
When you start putting in volumising agents known as fillers, there’s a trauma to the skin of putting them in.
Fillers are administered with either a needle or a cannula, causing trauma to the skin. “The body considers it an injury, triggering an immune response each time the needle penetrates the skin. The body sends a rush of calcium from the blood stream to isolate the injury and jump start the immune process.
With repetitive unnecessary treatments, you get a calcium hardening that occurs, even with fully naturally hyaluronic acid fillers,” warns Dr Lancer. This repeated trauma can result in a build-up of permanent scar tissue, regardless of whether the filler itself is permanent. “It’s not the filler, it’s the needle,” he adds.
Less is most definitely more
“Every procedure has an undesirable consequence, so people need to understand the necessity of less is more, and only have treatments where the positive outweighs that consequence,” says Dr Lancer. He recommends severely limiting the amount of material used in each treatment, to create a more natural result, and also to severely limit the number of treatments and leaving longer between each one.
“Within a couple of years, the look will reduce to what I like to call ‘believable beauty’, where cosmetic procedures will aim to restore what was once there, whether volume or smoothness, as opposed to a create factor, which is where we are at now and sees the creation of a false feature that wasn’t there to begin with,” says Dr Lancer.