Confidence boosters or chasing perfection? The rise of cosmetic surgery in young Ireland

Cosmetic procedures, such as lip fillers and Botox, are on the rise among young people in Ireland. While this is partly due to the increased availability of cosmetic clinics nationwide, social media and television are contributing factors too. Here Grace McGettigan examines this changing culture... 


Since dating show Love Island aired on TV3, medical director at Thérapie Clinic Dr Paul Reddy says there has been a 75% increase in inquiries about injectable treatments, particularly since Megan Barton-Hanson joined the cast. The 24-year-old has allegedly had €28,000 worth of cosmetic treatments; including rhinoplasty, lip fillers and breast augmentation. Dr Reddy says, "We’ve seen a spike in enquiries for fillers and Botox over the past few weeks; our bookings have been rapidly filling up. Since Megan entered the villa, we’ve had countless clients ask to get a similar look.”

But what harm is this doing to young minds? Speaking to Image.ie, psychologist Anna Nauka at MyMind said, “In the era of social media, we are constantly bombarded with pictures and news about celebrities; the newest trends, dieting, the perfect body. There is no way to completely avoid it.

"Following shows like Love Island means you are not only watching it from time to time, but you are also exposed to online posts about the celebrities taking part in it. Constant exposure to a certain body image in this visual media leads to internalization of often-unrealistic beauty standards as ‘ideal’. We start to believe this is what the perfect woman is supposed to look like,” Anna explains.

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“In real life, there is no single ideal body shape. What people describe as attractive varies depending on gender, culture, or age. When we start comparing ourselves to this ‘perfect’ media we can experience huge body dissatisfaction; a key predictor of disordered eating and body dysmorphia.”

Dropping into the @loveisland villa tonight at 9pm @itv2 ??#loveisland

A post shared by Megan Barton-Hanson (@meganbartonhanson_) on

Confidence boost

Carly Keighley, coach at the Mind + Body Fit Club, agrees that social media can put additional pressure on women to look a certain way. “Young girls see ‘perfection’ and think that’s what they need to aim for. I feel saddened by it,” she tells us.

“Having three daughters, it worries me. They’re too young to be influenced right now, but it will come at some point.” Carly adds that, if her girls decide to get cosmetic treatments in the future, she would absolutely support them. After all, she’s been through it all herself. The mum-of-three had breast enlargement surgery 18 years ago and she hasn’t looked back since.

“My confidence was at zero when I was so flat chested. It even affected my posture, as I would try to ‘hide’ the fact I had nothing there. I remember hearing cruel comments as a teenager, so I finally took the plunge and had surgery when I was 20. I can’t even tell you the difference it’s made. I’m a different person now. I could never have done what I do now, working in the public eye; I preferred to sit back and hide. I just think if you’re not happy with yourself, do something about it and forget what others think.”

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Carly isn’t the only one. According to research by Thérapie Clinic, 11% of Irish people have already had Botox and/or fillers, while a further 57% said they would consider getting the treatments done in future. River Medical has reported an increase in demand for cosmetic surgery too. According to their research, breast augmentation is one of the most popular offerings.

The clinic's report shows women are seeking fuller, natural-looking breasts; with most patients going from an A cup to a C cup. Registered General Nurse Aisling Cleary says, “There’s a lot less stigma attached to cosmetic surgery. Previously, there was a 'tell nobody' attitude as well as a feeling that it was reserved for only the very wealthy or 'rich and famous'. We find that in more recent years, women have become more open and share their experience with close friends and family; so much so that 30% of our business comes from referrals. We really do see patients from all walks of life, all ages and backgrounds.”

Is it safe?

Provided you have your treatment carried out at a reputable clinic by a registered doctor or nurse, it's perfectly safe. To be sure, always ask for proof of qualification and examples of their work prior to your treatment. Dr Reddy says, “Thérapie Clinic injectable treatments are only carried out by world-leading medical specialists and we ensure the most natural results possible." River Medical also guarantees their treatments will be carried by either a registered doctor, nurse or surgeon – depending on the treatment the client is getting done. “We only operate in fully accredited Private General Hospitals, never unregulated private premises," they say. "We are proud to offer unlimited, lifelong, 24/7 aftercare, and sound, trusted, honest and ethical medical advice.”

When it comes to lip fillers, ensure the filler being used is natural and hyaluronic-based. Most clinics will use Restylane, a type of hyaluronic acid that can be broken down naturally by the body. This means the fillers will eventually dissolve and disappear over time. If you're unhappy with your fuller lips, a registered medical professional can inject a second substance into the lips, which dissolves the filler within a few days. Celebrity make-up mogul Kylie Jenner had her lip fillers dissolved after the birth of her daughter; she recently shared her more natural look on Instagram.

heat wave

A post shared by Kylie (@kyliejenner) on

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Do you actually want cosmetic surgery?

Carly warns not to let peer pressure, via social media or otherwise, trick you into getting a treatment you don't truly want. “My advice is to know for sure that it’s your own decision rather than a social pressure. For me, it was all about feeling like a woman and gaining confidence. But if it’s to look a certain way because you think you ‘should’, then it could lead you to want more surgery, which in itself can make you unhappy." This works both ways; Carly says not to let other people trick you out of it, either. Before her breast enlargement, she says, "I remember some resistance at the time from family and friends. They were looking out for me, telling me I didn’t need it. But I’ve always been quite strong-minded. It’s my body. More importantly, it’s my mind, and it was me hating my body and constantly feeling conscious. Once they knew I was serious, and once they saw the change in me afterwards, they were fully supportive," she says.

Body-confidence without cosmetic surgery

Psychologist Anna Nauka recommends taking a break from social media as often as you can. "Maybe have a 'detox day' once a week, during which you don’t use social media at all." If that doesn't suit your lifestyle, she suggests you follow pages that promote health and positive body image; ones that post pictures of women of all shapes and sizes.

"Remember, media ideals are not always realistic," she advises. "These 'perfect bodies' are generated through image editing. Even your friends use filters and editing tools when posting pictures online. A celebrity's look is the result of work by personal trainers, stylists, dietitians, beauticians, as well as money and time invested in it. Try not compare yourself to what you see on TV and online. Take care of yourself and find out what makes your body feel best. Try to connect with your body and learn what diet, lifestyle and exercise work best for you. Don’t treat your body like an object to shape. Accept that not every person is the same; the important thing is to feel good about yourself and to have a body that feels good, healthy and strong."

Whether you agree with cosmetic surgery as a tool for boosting self confidence or not, there are important lessons to be learned on both sides. Yes, we ought to be treating our bodies with self-care and love; we ought to be nourishing ourselves from within and ensuring our bodies are as healthy as they can be. But it’s also important to celebrate the choices available to us nowadays. Now, more than ever, we have the freedom to look exactly the way we want to; to present ourselves how we want to the world. If cosmetic surgery helps some women to feel more comfortable in their own skin, then really, who are we to judge them?

Photo: Pexels.com

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