Facing Facts: Is our addiction to cosmetic procedures a mental health issue?

by , on
12th December 2017

Our increasing acceptance of cosmetic procedures and plastic surgery is hardly headline news anymore but there’s no denying the sheer velocity of it’s popularity over the last three years…..particularly amongst young girls.

So what has changed?  Why are twenty-something hotties getting regular Botox injections and lip augmentation treatments?  What is making attractive young girls with dewy, line-free skin and already ample lips, visit the cosmetic surgeon?

It’s no accident that in this current world of instant gratification – the one where young women are addicted to their social media feeds – the need for acceptance and to conform to the images they’re continually shown; is immense.  And it’s not just how they should look.  There’s the designer duds they need to wear, the car they should be driving and the (perceived) lifestyle they need to be living.  It’s exhausting and it’s relentless.

A case in point is the current poster-girl for cosmetic procedures – Kylie Jenner.  Along with completely changing her face (check out the infamous time-lapse video on YouTube and you’ll see she’s virtually unrecognisable from the girl she was three years ago) she has seemingly set the precedent for the image that girls in their teens and twenties want to project.   We now have an epidemic of young women who fanatically control and curate every element of their lives, all so that they can post the perfect selfie on Instagram.

Now you might be forgiven for thinking I have a downer on Ms. Jenner. I don’t.  However, she’s a girl born into relative wealth (even before the explosion of KUWTK ) and who has every contact and resource available to her in order to carve out the life she wants. Does that mean she doesn’t work hard? No.  Does it mean she deserves to be verbally pelted on social media? Of course not. But it does give her a huge advantage and set her apart from the vast majority of other young women her age.  Kylie Jenner is not the norm. Nor should she be held up as being so. It’s an unrealistic benchmark and moreover, it sets people up to feel like failures.

Which is precisely where things get to start a bit messed up.   Here’s a synopsis of what Freud believed about The Pleasure Principle and our need for instant gratification.

“The id is an important part of our personality because as newborns, it allows us to get our basic needs met. Freud believed that the id is based on our pleasure principle. In other words, the id wants whatever feels good at the time, with no consideration for the reality of the situation”.

So, how does this relate to an addiction to cosmetic procedures?  Well, it’s ultimately the pursuit of instant gratification (how many people liked our photo, viewed our video etc.) through altering our appearance or portraying a certain lifestyle;  at the expense of what is actually going to give us long-term fulfilment.  And this is where – like any unhelpful behaviour or coping strategy – the need for many young women to continually get cosmetic procedures, is potentially a mental-health ticking time bomb.

“That’s all a bit dramatic Laney”, you might say.  Well no, it’s not.  Just think about it.  In a sea of young women fighting for social airspace and acceptance; what happens when your wrinkle- free forehead, overly large lips and teeth veneers still haven’t landed you a rich boyfriend/husband or a career as a millionaire Beauty Entrepreneur? Plus there’s the mounting cost of all this work (not to mention the financed Mercedes parked on your mums drive). Just what happens when you’re still feeling desperately insecure about your appearance ( now your celebrity idol has had yet another procedure done and you literally can’t …well…..keep up) despite having all of this stuff done? What then?

It’s because of this very factor, that the cosmetic enhancement industry needs to not feed this potential mental health issue. From an emotional standpoint, they have a real responsibility to manage expectations about what a cosmetic procedure can (and can’t) do.

Before you start thinking I despise the cosmetic enhancements industry; it’s actually quite the opposite. In the right circumstances, a cosmetic procedure can transform someone’s life and provide them with a new-found level of confidence  they didn’t have before.  In those cases, it’s not just about instant gratification.  It’s a life-changing and pivotal decision in their lives that provides them with real fulfilment long-term.  That’s why any cosmetic intervention has to be a well thought out decision and not something done on a whim (or because all your friends have it).  No amount of fillers or injections will make you happy, if fundamentally what you’re unhappy about or pursuing, actually isn’t (in reality) related to the size of your lips or how many people like your selfie on Instagram.

Need further convincing?  As I was writing this blog entry, a story flashed up on my Sky News feed.  The story had broken that day and involved ex Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya. He was voicing his concern over our unhealthy relationship with social media sites and how this manifests in our attaching importance to gratification, not fulfilment.  In his words:-

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works. We are in a really bad state of affairs right now.”

 “We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection because we get rewarded in these short term signals – hearts, likes, thumbs up.”
So, the bad guy in all of this really isn’t cosmetic surgery at all.   The real issue lies with the diet of illusion and pursuit of perfection that our Millenials are being continually force-fed – every single day. As a result,  it should be no great surprise when they’re turning to solutions that offer a short term buzz.  It therefore should also be no surprise, that they’re becoming addicted in the process.



Fifty Shades of Gray: Why your half century is the ideal time to spice up your fashion life!

by , on
17th August 2017

I speak to A LOT of women over fifty in my job, many of whom are finding themselves somewhat lost in the world of fashion.   Retirement, a change of job/lifestyle and changes in body shape; all play their part in wrong-footing their previous notions of what suited them and what clothes to actually buy.

Whilst there are quite literally hundreds of blogs centred around fashion for the twenties, thirties and even forties; come the half century mark, inspiration admittedly dries up a little.  But it is out there – if you look.  So, as a start and along with my top six tips; why not take a look at my Pinterest boards?  You’ll see that far from being relegated to fashion wilderness, fifty plus is the ideal time to add some variety to your wardrobe!

Tip#1 – if in doubt, start with a classic capsule wardrobe. 

It will never hurt to have a wardrobe that starts with great fashion staples.  A capsule collection of around twenty five different pieces will allow you to create literally dozens  of different looks. Classics work on all ages and if you buy right, will last for seasons to come.  The most important thing here is to spend time finding these key items in the colours and cuts that work best for you.

The great thing about starting here is that it gives you the opportunity to switch in “seasonal” pieces, knowing that they will work with at least a couple of items in your existing wardrobe.  You will ultimately feel more comfortable in taking the odd risk, if you know you’ve got a great foundation to fall back on.

Tip#2 Accessories are your best friend.

(………Before we go any further with tip #2, does anyone know the name of these two fashion icons?  I think they’re from The Nederlands and I’d love to feature them more. Quite why they are not already Internet sensations already, is beyond me).  

To me; they are the perfect example of how dressing in an age-appropriate manner, needn’t be boring or conform to expected stereotypes.   I look at these two and think what great company they’d be for lunch (can you just imagine the stories they’d have to tell)?  From the punk-y touches to the great tailoring, their amazing sense of style IS ALL in the little touches.

Think about it for a second.  If you took away the sassy shoes, berets, coloured leather gloves, silk scarves, designer specs and ties, the impact would be completely diminished.  Make no mistake, these outfits take time and effort to plan but the end result is more than worth it.

I’ve always thought that older women have the ability to pull off big statement accessories in a way that younger females generally just can’t.  So make this the time to experiment with finding great pieces that really amp up your outfits and make your style individual to you.  You needn’t go mad – a great tote bag in a fabulous colour, a pair of leopard print loafers or a stunning statement necklace can all totally transform a look.  In stepping a little outside of your comfort zone, you can make a massive difference in how you look.  Experimentation, never did any harm!

#Tip 3 – stay away from fads and trends.

The biggest concern I hear from women over fifty is “I don’t want to look like mutton dressed as lamb” and it’s a valid point.  No-one wants to look like they’re desperately trying to relive their youth via the medium of fashion.  Here’s a case in point.


“Hello, is that Dyan Cannon?  Hi, this is Jon Bon Jovi calling from 1987 and I want my stage outfit back”.  Now, let’s get this straight, if I have a figure like this aged 70 plus, I will be a happy bunny but that’s where the admiration ends for me.   This is a classic example of someone trying way too hard to dress younger and “trendy” (and let’s be honest, missing by decades), when quite frankly with her body she’d look amazing in most things.

However, does this mean you should never venture near a pair of skinny jeans again?  No, of course it doesn’t – skinnies are pretty much a fashion basic now anyway, so I wouldn’t personally regard them as a ‘trend’ item.  If they work on your body shape – go for it.  The trick is to avoid passing trends, which are generally aimed at the younger market anyway.  Although there are always exceptions, generally speaking, anything that shows too much skin or has lots of detailing such as cut outs, ruffles and embellishments is best avoided.

Tip #4 – know what colours suit you

As we age, our hair colour is not the only thing that changes.  Very often, our skin tone changes too and the wrong colour can have the undesirable effect of pulling all of the vibrancy out of our face.  This applies to neutrals too – particularly nude shades and taupes – so if you’re unsure, I would highly recommend having your colours done by a professional.   Not only will this provide you with a palette of around 20-30 shades that really work for you but you’ll also come away with a really strong comprehension of WHY they suit you.  This can really serve to make your clothing purchase process faster and less stressful, as you’ll immediately know where to focus your attention.

Right now there’s a real resurgence around embracing greying hair, which is great – if you suit grey hair.  If however,  (like myself) you have a warm skin tone, chances are that grey is not going to work on you particularly well.  If you’re not prepared to dye your hair, then you really need a firm understanding in this area because what suited you five years ago; might not suit you now.

Ultimately, it is what you wear next to your face that has the impact (good or bad), so at the very least try and make sure you have a scarf or jewellery in a shade that really lights up your skin tone.   That way, if you just HAD to buy that sweater in ink blue and it’s really not your colour; you’ve got a quick and easy remedy to hand!

Tip#5 – Great hair, great skin and a touch of make-up make all the difference.

I remember back in my youth, there was a very definitive point at which women became “middle aged”.  There was an omnipresent army of over-fifties who suddenly decided to give up on fashion.  Having brought up families and successfully managed a household for a few decades, you’d have thought they should be celebrating spending time and money on themselves.  But no, it was almost like an unspoken line got crossed and their focus was all about fading into the background and dressing as nondescript as possible.  Invariably the hair got cut into a “functional” style that could be set on rollers and last all week and shades of beige became de -rigueur.  Like I said;  an army.

Fortunately, nowadays this stereotype is increasingly a relic of the past but it also isn’t that long ago.  Many women still struggle with the concept of spending money on themselves that their own mother would have regarded as “unnecessary” or even worse “frivolous”.

The thing is that – whatever your age –  nothing will ever beat good grooming in completing an outfit and it doesn’t have to involve massive investment either.  Competition in the beauty market is fierce, so getting a hair cut and colour, having a manicure or a facial is much cheaper  – comparably – than it was twenty – even ten years ago.  Again, when I was growing up and buying make-up I would save to buy Kanebo skin care and Chanel eye-shadows because the product was so superior to the budget brands.  Not so now.  I use a range of supermarket skin care that has state of the art ingredients and my make up bag is a mix of high and low end brands.   In the town where I work there are fifteen hairdressers and nearly as many beauty salons, all offering the latest treatments and all doing well, thank you very much.

As we get older, the care of our skin and hair becomes of greater importance to keep it looking healthy and vibrant. It makes sense therefore, to take time to find products and treatments that help keep it in the best possible condition.  Our production of collagen has slowed dramatically as has our natural exfoliation process.  In turn, hair can thin or become dull so what worked for you a few years back, might just need some revision.

In terms of your skincare, it’s a great time to consider booking in for a facial.  The therapist can have a good look at your skin and advise you on any problem areas and what products and ingredients to look out for.  So whether you decide to buy salon products or find a drug store  range that works for you; you’ll know which keywords to look out for.  Even if you can’t afford to go for a monthly treatment, it is never too late to start a regime.

There’s no reason why you can’t be older and have a longer style – again the general rule of thumb is to stay away from ‘trends’ and opt for classic styles (such as a long bob) that are easy to maintain.  Older hair can have a tendency to get wispy ends, so once you find a style you like; regular trims are a must.  If you do decide to colour your grey, highlights and lowlights are much softer than a block colour but as always, ask a professional for advice if you’re unsure.  In the picture above, Rachel Welch (who has a warm skin tone and is a natural brunette) looks amazing with her honey coloured bob.

Even if you’ve avoided wearing make-up your whole life, now is the time to explore how just a touch of well applied colour can make a huge difference to both your confidence and your look.  Watch this space for an up and coming feature on beautiful day time and night time looks for older skin as it really is an area that warrants its own feature.  However, in the meantime here are some quick fixes that make all the difference.

  • Brows and lashes fade and go grey as we age, so at the very least have them tinted.  This will serve to “frame” your face and will literally open your eyes, even if you don’t wear make-up.
  • Don’t know what shade of lipstick suits you?  A warm pink suits most people.  Go for creme formulations as matte or long-stay just sit in creases and will make the lips seem narrower.  A bit of light refraction and gloss is much kinder.
  • In general, avoid powder based foundations and opt for liquid varieties.  There are a wide range of formulations out there and I would strongly advise spending time – and if necessary – money to find one that works for you.  If the thought of applying a base fills you with dread, there are some great tinted moisturisers out there that will also help in giving your skin a glow and lessen any redness.
  • Avoid shimmery eye shadows as they draw attention to any wrinkles or folds on the eyelids.

Tip#6 – Now has never been a better time to switch up your look.

I get it.  All of this can sound a bit intimidating, right?  If you still don’t know where to start, don’t worry.  Fortunately, in this day and age of social media there is literally inspiration all around you, if you know where to look.  From Pinterest Boards through to YouTube clips and fashion bloggers, believe me there is someone out there who will resonate with you.  One of the people I most admire for over-fifties dressing is Lucinda Chambers the ex fashion editor of Vogue.  She’s always age appropriate and though much of her wardrobe (unsurprisingly, given her job) is designer – particularly Marni – her looks are really easy to recreate.  She loves to mix textures, clash patterns and always chooses interesting accessories.

If you have the budget, another good investment would be employing a stylist cum personal shopper to work with you and do a wardrobe weed-out.  This would include going through every item in your closet to establish whether it ultimately stays or goes; including items that might end up staying but need alteration or repair.   They will work with you to establish what you wear most (and why).  From here – and taking into consideration things like your colouring, body shape and lifestyle – they will  firstly look to  “fill any gaps” in your clothing collection but also accompany you on future shopping trips, be it choosing an outfit for a special occasion OR just topping up for the season ahead.  Most good personal shoppers and stylist have an intimate knowledge of boutiques in your area and will be able to guide you to the right stores, be they independent or chain.  It’s an upfront investment that will save a great deal of time, stress and in the long run, money.

So, don’t get stuck in a fashion rut.  Whatever your age, shape or style there’s something out there to suit your appetite.  So have fun experimenting!