The ugly side of plas­tic surgery

CLEO’s PHOEBE HOOKE is 24 and gor­geous. But sev­eral of Syd­ney’s leading cos­metic surgeons say she needs Bo­tox, a nose job, brow lifts and fillers. She delves into an in­dus­try thriv­ing on girls’ in­se­cu­ri­ties.

CLEO (Malaysia) - - FRONT PAGE -

The cos­metic sur­geon leads me into his of­fice in Syd­ney’s swanky east­ern sub­urbs. I re­lax into a deep leather chair and feel com­forted by the med­i­cal de­grees lin­ing his walls. Then he hits me with a bar­rage of ques­tions. “How old are you?” 24. “What do you do for work?” I’m a writer at CLEO. “You’re in a bru­tal in­dus­try. Have you been think­ing about this for a while?” Yes. “We’re talk­ing about your nose, aren’t we?” Ouch. “Have you ever bro­ken your nose?” And so it be­gins...

You Need A New Nose

I’m at the first of four ma­jor clin­ics in Syd­ney that I’ll visit over a week as I ‘win­dow shop’ for cos­metic surgery. Ev­ery prac­tice I visit knows my name, age and that I work for CLEO.

As de­bate heats up about whether teenage girls should be banned from hav­ing work done, I want to find out how much pres­sure plas­tic surgeons are putting on young women who walk through their doors. Do they prey on girls’ in­se­cu­ri­ties to make thou­sands upon thou­sands of dol­lars? To find out, I’m ask­ing each of the clin­ics what work they think I need to fit in with the glossy world of mag­a­zines. The doc­tor at the first clinic is bru­tal.

“Ev­ery­thing is about pro­por­tion, ev­ery­thing is about bal­ance,” he says as he grabs what I’ve not-so-af­fec­tion­ately termed the face pro­trac­tor. He mea­sures the dis­tance from my fore­head to my nose, then chin to nose, all the while bom­bard­ing me with fa­cial ra­tios. “In a per­fect world, I want to mea­sure your face and find that the lower third matches the mid­dle third and that your nose is two-thirds as long as the mid­dle third of your face, and sticks out two-thirds as far as it is long…” Huh? All I know is that my num­bers don’t add up.

“Your nose is dom­i­nat­ing your face,” the doc­tor con­cludes. “We need a plan to fix it. I don’t want to see some hang­ing kamikaze hawk thing go­ing on.” So hav­ing con­firmed that my schnoz is the prob­lem, we go through a be­fore and af­ter slideshow of re­con­struc­tions (on an im­pres­sive plasma screen), paus­ing on the ones that best re­sem­ble my own bumpy predica­ment. The doc­tor takes my mugshot from ev­ery an­gle (as­sur­ing me that these un­flat­ter­ing im­ages will go nowhere with­out my per­mis­sion – un­der the plas­tic surgery con­fi­den­tial­ity clause, of course).

If I go ahead with the “po­ten­tial changes”, I’ll be knocked out with a gen­eral anaes­thetic, the doc will peel the skin on my nose back off the bone and get to work chis­elling and re­shap­ing. Then I’ll be like a bear in hi­ber­na­tion (or at the least be forced into Lady Gaga-style sun­nies to con­ceal the two black eyes I’ll be sport­ing) for two weeks postop. On top of that, it’ll be at least 14 weeks be­fore I can hit the so­cial scene and then up to a year be­fore I even think about post­ing a selfie.

For such a huge com­mit­ment, I am given ab­so­lute as­sur­ances about qual­ity and safety, which I to­tally be­lieve. But that’s not the part that makes me un­easy. To cover the enor­mous ex­pense of the pro­ce­dure, the doc­tor sug­gests I take out a bank loan. (Hey, Mum and Dad, my shit­load of debt is for a new nose, not an apart­ment!)

So, armed with all the right in­for­ma­tion and a brand new nose com­plex, I cough up $220 (RM645) for the con­sult and head off with the com­fort­ing thought that if I just hand over an additional $10k (RM30k), I could be sym­met­ri­cal – that is, beau­ti­ful.

Your nose is dom­i­nat­ing your face. We need a plan to fix it

A Brow Lift Should Do It

Fol­low­ing my visit to Dr Nose Job, I book in to see a cos­metic con­sul­tant at the In­ter­na­tional

Cen­tre for Cos­metic Medicine (ICCM) in Syd­ney’s CBD. The clinic ad­ver­tises it­self as “Syd­ney’s pre­mier cos­metic clinic”. One look at the young plat­inum-blonde man­ager (and, er, face of the clinic) and you can tell she’s a big fan of lip fillers. She also con­fesses to hav­ing had a boob job. I tell her I work at CLEO and am look­ing to “fit in” with the mag crowd. “You’ve got great cheek­bones,” she says. It softens what comes next. “You have a heavy-set brow… we could do a brow lift, but not sur­gi­cally.” Phew! No surgery. But my re­lief is short-lived. “We do it with thread­ing, where we put a su­ture un­der­neath the skin from your eye­brow to your fore­head in a tri­an­gle to lift it up.” This $3,500 (RM10,256) pro­ce­dure is per­formed un­der lo­cal anaes­thetic and se­da­tion. Hmm, sounds like surgery to me. Af­ter­wards, I’ll be left with youth­ful – but, I imag­ine, per­ma­nently sur­prised – fa­cial fea­tures, with the added ben­e­fit of be­ing “able to put on more eye­shadow”. Al­ways a plus.

She also rec­om­mends a non-sur­gi­cal nose job, which in­volves putting fillers in the ar­eas around my nose bump to make it ap­pear flat­ter. All I need is a few tweaks, cost­ing a fewfe thou­sand dol­lars, and I can join their per­fectpe club.

As I dou­ble-check my brow line in the el­e­va­tor mir­ror,m the mid­dle-aged prac­tice owner jumps in for theth ride to the ground floor. With a be­mused look on his face he asks how old I am. When I tell him, he bursts out laugh­ing and, with a megawatt smile, says,sa “I call it the pre­tox for people your age! A gen­er­a­tionge ago women put make-up on but now it’s a lit­tle jab here and there – it’s your gen­er­a­tion’s beau­tybe reg­i­men!” And he’s right. Sta­tis­tics from the Cos­met­icC Physi­cians So­ci­ety of Aus­trala­sia show thatth 700,000 Aussies be­tween the ages of 18 and 29 haveh had an anti-age­ing cos­metic pro­ce­dure.

Fill ’er Up

My third con­sul­ta­tion is where things take a co­con­fus­ing turn. I go to the Re­fine Cos­metic Clinic in Bondi Junc­tion for a free con­sul­ta­tion with ththe man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Manuela. Manuela is not a doc­tor – but she knows how to sell cos­metic prpro­ce­dures. When we meet, her smile is broad and be­beau­ti­ful, but her fore­head doesn’t move. “I can’t frown, you see, be­cause I’ve got a lot of Bo­tox,” she says with mock hu­mour.

She of­fers me sage ad­vice: the skin is the big­gest or­gan on our body and it’s the most ne­glected. Then comes the hard sell. I’m pitched med­i­cal-strength skin­care prod­ucts that will set me back about $400 (RM1,172). That’s not all. “In re­gards to face shape, you’re miss­ing cheek­bones.” What? No! The last pro­fes­sional I ‘con­sulted’ told me I had out­stand­ing cheek­bones! Manuela sug­gests plump­ing up my cheeks with fillers to bal­ance out my “boxy mas­cu­line jaw­line”. I feel a lump in my throat. Be­ing told my “best fea­ture” needs $1100 (RM3230) -worth of der­mal fillers is heart­break­ing.

You have a heavy-set brow... we could do a brow lift

Just A Lit­tle Jab

All of this was be­com­ing emo­tion­ally ex­haust­ing. At first, there was a cer­tain ex­cite­ment that came from be­ing told how I could im­prove my looks, a bit like hav­ing the of­fer of a real-life In­sty fil­ter. But there’s a come­down: are my flaws re­ally that ob­vi­ous?

My fi­nal con­sul­ta­tion is booked in with Samia Chara­mand, a con­sul­tant and se­nior laser tech­ni­cian at In­dulge Cos­metic Medicine in Syd­ney’s south-west. Samia seems gen­uinely shocked to see me. We sit down in what looks like the wax­ing room of a cheap beauty par­lour and she says, “I think you’re gor­geous and still so young, you don’t need any­thing.” But just as I think I’ve dis­cov­ered a rar­ity in this biz, she blurts

out, “Look up for me please.” I do as I’m told. “You need Bo­tox in your fore­head,” she says in a mat­ter-of-fact tone. “When you look up there are deep lines and with age these will get worse.” Need? I need Bo­tox, do I?! At 24, I’m not sure I do – es­pe­cially when it’s $350 (RM1026) a pop!

Trad­ing On In­se­cu­rity

It’s hard to say how you feel af­ter be­ing told you need surgery to look bet­ter. Grow­ing up, we’re all taught to em­brace what’s unique about us as in­di­vid­u­als, but I’ve delved into an in­dus­try that is ea­ger to elim­i­nate those lov­able quirks – for a price.

Once you’re in a plas­tic surgery clinic, they’ve got you. All of your in­se­cu­ri­ties about your looks are mag­ni­fied. Be­ing told you need so much work done is soul de­stroy­ing. But that’s what hap­pens when you ask for a pro­fes­sional opin­ion on your looks. Then they of­fer you hope for a bet­ter nose, plumper lips or higher brows.

For some, hav­ing a lit­tle work done might be the so­lu­tion to crip­pling anx­i­ety about how they look and I ap­plaud them for hav­ing the courage to make that choice. But per­son­ally, I was com­pletely floored by the in­con­sis­tency of what I was be­ing sold and of the pro­ce­dures I was told I needed. Yes, I own a mir­ror and I do re­alise I have a wonky pro­file thanks to my mum’s DNA. But a brow lift, der­mal fillers and Bo­tox all rec­om­mended to me at 24? I think I’ll leave this con­ver­sa­tion for at least an­other 10 years.

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