With 2011 at an end and 2012 already well upon us, the past twelve months have proven to be a bustling time, not merely for the cosmetic industry itself but for their media counterparts also.
2011 was a year when many cosmetic surgery stories came to light and whether it was a celebrity attempting a new and extreme form of cosmetic sculpting with quite ludicrous results (I think you remember the one) or a worldwide scandal that almost rocked the industry to its very foundations one thing we can say is that it certainly wasn’t dull.
The year kicked off in typical style when an article came to light in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journal which indicated that a lack of bone in the faces of older patients could well be the cause of their most obvious outward signs of ageing.
By comparing facial CT scans of people at various stages of their lives, researchers showed that over the years bone became much less dense thus resulting in the sagging of the skin around the cheeks, jaw and eyes making for a less defined appearance.
Indeed, for those seeking facial rejuvenation and who previously thought Botox provided a miracle cure, the findings must well have made uncomfortable reading. With plastic surgeons now having to consider facial reconstruction methods such as implants and fillers in order to achieve desired results, turning back the years has never before seemed such a complicated and potentially costly process.
In February, The Guardian published an article which laid internet porn to blame for the rise in the number of young people choosing to undergo cosmetic procedures. According to article, many doctors were of the belief that women in particular, more of whom were seeking out "designer vaginas", were only doing so as a result of viewing explicit material. These outlandish claims resulted in many a heated exchange between the body that conducted the study and industry commentators. A lot of the defence of cosmetic surgery industry were quick to defend itself with quite an archaic view that this would “surely not be the case as it is a proven fact that women are far less likely to be interested in watching pornography than men.”, a ludicrous end to quite a bizarre debate indeed.
Teenagers came under a similar spotlight in March, with the numbers of girls seeking cosmetic surgery said to be on the rise. There was much debate amongst both tabloids and broadsheets as to whether or not teenagers should even be allowed to undergo such procedures at all despite potentially improving their health as a result. Breast reduction became a main bone of contention, particularly with teens who had successfully received treatment in the past which effectively changed their lives speaking up for the procedure and its effectiveness at relieving their discomfort.
In April the economic crisis and whether the cosmetic industry had felt the pinch was highlighted. Plastic surgeons noted that although the number of treatments carried out had fallen in previous months however they were pleased to note that they were, once again, on the rise. It had been thought that those who may have opted to undergo Botox or similar treatments prior to the recession would in more austere times, have reverted to giving the rejuvenation a miss or even giving over the counter anti-ageing crèmes a try instead. Despite this air off doom and gloom surrounding the cosmetic industry surgeons were remaining, on the whole, relatively optimistic. Reports that injectable treatments and fillers had seen a sharp increase in popularity set many a mind at ease.
It was during the month of May that news broke of former businesswoman, Penny Johnson, being awarded £6.2 million compensation in a law suit filed against the cosmetic surgeon who ruined her life. The surgeon was accused by The Daily Mail of "playing God" with his victim after leaving their patient with permanently slurred speech and a drooping eye following a botched operation.
In June it was revealed that Sarah Ferguson, the former Duchess of York, no longer used Botox to keep mother nature at arm’s length. Photographs showing her "looking her age" appeared in the press along with many comments regarding her wrinkles which were, in their typically reserved opinion “all too obvious”. Harking back to the "hefty ten stone" media sneers she was subjected to back in the 1980's, one can only surmise that the "Duchess Botox no more" headlines would, in hindsight, amount to nothing more than water off the former Duchess's back.
In July, with downloadable cosmetic surgery apps becoming ever more popular, there was talk in the media about what these apps actually contained. Naked images caused controversy with their legitimacy as a source of providing the public with relevant information coming under scrutiny as some discerning groups regarded the potentially titillating images as pornographic.
August was the month in which the manufacturers of Botox announced that they were to cease product testing on animals. The Los Angeles Times reported that the FDA, the US Food and Drug Administration, had approved a new method of determining the drug's potency. This could only serve as good news for animal lovers but for the cosmetic industry as well, with animal-free testing bound to unleash a whole new marketing potential for an industry that’s typically never met eye to eye with public approval.
In September, warnings were issued to all would-be, DIY plastic surgeons when an American woman died shortly after injecting beef fat directly into her face. These quite unbelievable events were summed up by a plastic surgery industry expert who was interviewed by ABC news, "it's not worth taking a chance with your face to try to save money when it could ultimately cost you a lot more money."
Cosmetic procedures were once again at the centre of media attention in October when the murky criteria surrounding correctly taxing treatment were finally underlined by the UK authorities. Operations deemed medically unnecessary would at first, it was feared, be subject to a 20% increase in tax, which would in some cases vastly increase UK cosmetic surgery prices. However as many treatments were carried out for medical reasons as opposed to aesthetic ones, according to the government the VAT ruling merely served as a clarification of a pre-existing rule.
The fact remains that patients, in light of this ruling, will be likely to be subjected to further red tape prior to their surgery in order to determine whether or not their operations are medically essential.
In November a simple Groupon offer caught both the eye of the press and many potential patients as it offered a vastly discounted breast augmentation in a relatively slight window of opportunity. The fears were that it would encourage people to undertake cosmetic procedures in haste. The offending coupon offered less than half price surgery to be carried out in a Manchester clinic and stated that the discount would only be given if patients booked themselves in before midnight on the day of receipt.
Surgery was to be carried out on November 28th, six months after most coupons were received and prior consultation would be given, but the length of time people had to decide on whether or not to take up the offer was deemed unacceptable by the UK authorities and banned as a result. Despite the familiar sight of IPL treatments and Botox popping in to our inbox every morning not going away anytime soon Groupon has taken steps to review the terms of similar offers in the future.
Towards the dying embers of the year a poster campaign for cosmetic surgery was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority which pictured a beautiful young women in next to nothing. The “gossip mag” style poster, said to be aimed at young and impressionable girls, appeared to trivialise cosmetic procedures and following several complaints was deemed unethical. Spire Healthcare, the company behind the poster campaign subsequently claimed this was a test advertisement which had not yet received clearance.
So, yes, it's true that during the course of past 12 months, the cosmetic industry has seen its fair share of ups and downs in the eyes of the media and within the industry itself. With 2012 starting on a sour note and cosmetic surgery hitting the headlines once more due to the on-going controversy surrounding PIP breast implants the trend seems set to continue with controversy and debate never being too far behind the dramatic, ever-changing and at times bizarre world of cosmetic surgery.