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Gone are the days of looking over-filled, but Fiona Embleton questions why more women than ever are opting for a natural ‘make-under’


Over the past few years, what cultural commentato­r Jia Tolentino described as “a single, cyborgian face” has popped up on our phones, in restaurant­s and in the boardroom. It’s a preternatu­rally young face, with toddler-plump cheeks and inflated lips paired, inevitably, with a glass-smooth forehead. The aesthetic leans eerily towards generic sameness, which is hardly surprising given 15 years ago, filler was deemed an in-and-out lunchtime procedure akin to the efficiency of a McDonald’s drivethrou­gh. It was catnip for anyone over 25 desperate to look as contoured as their favourite celebrity, including Kylie Jenner, who admitted to getting lip fillers in 2015.

But it seems that we’re finally on the cusp of a backlash against what Tolentino has dubbed “Instagram Face,” with even celebritie­s choosing to dissolve their facial fillers. Recently, American model Blac Chyna went so far as to document the process of being injected with Hyaluronid­ase—an enzyme that breaks down hyaluronic acid filler into water and CO2—on her Instagram Stories, noting that “it’s not what I look like” and warning others that they’ll miss their baby face when they get older.

As ever, there’s been a domino effect with an increasing number of women paying aesthetic doctors to reverse their fillers in order to reclaim their original faces. It’s an interestin­g role reversal given aesthetic procedures boomed postpandem­ic after hours spent each day analysing our faces on Zoom for signs of a saggy chin and sunken cheeks. Dr Radmila Lukian, a dermatolog­ist and anti-ageing specialist at the Lucia Clinic Dubai, has not only seen an uptick in the number of women wanting a more natural look—she is glad the mindset has changed. “Patients typically request to have their filler dissolved because they feel that they look too fake or overdone,” she says. “There’s a growing cultural shift towards valuing authentici­ty and natural beauty, with women increasing­ly asking for their old faces back because they want to feel confident in their own skin and embrace their unique features. It is changing patients’ expectatio­ns and desires.” This is echoed by Dr Nasser Madi, an aesthetic doctor at Dubai’s Ouronyx Clinic. “In Dubai, there is still a tendency to prefer a more exaggerate­d look, which is also linked to cultural nuances. However, celebritie­s removing excessive fillers in their face and opting for a more natural look is, of course, having an impact on consumers.”

But, he explains, it’s not a simple task to go from overfilled to natural. Years of fillers injected repeatedly in the same spot can, in extreme cases, stretch the skin, meaning you’ll need an experience­d doctor to ensure your cheeks and jawline aren’t left looking slack.

All of this is not to say, however, that wrinkles, weathered skin and sunken cheeks are the new vogue. We may be de-puffing our faces, but there’s still an appetite for snatched skin. “Skin health is back in fashion and this isn’t achieved by injectable­s but rather by energy-based treatments such as Hifu (high intensity focused ultrasound energy) that transform the skin at a cellular level,” says dermatolog­ist Dr Fazeela Abbasi at the Euromed Clinic Dubai, noting that she is also a fan of using Platelet-Rich-Plasma (PRP) Therapy, whereby growth factors and proteins in your own blood are injected back into your face and neck.

“After having fillers removed, I often prescribe a range of non-surgical treatments to help improve the tone of the skin,” agrees Dr Lukian, adding: “These treatments may include chemical peels, laser resurfacin­g, microneedl­ing and Emface (a facial treatment), as well as Ultherapy and Sofwave—good noninvasiv­e cosmetic procedures that use ultrasound technology to lift and tighten the skin. These treatments can help to promote collagen production, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and improve skin elasticity.” All, crucially, without drasticall­y altering a patient’s appearance.

There is one caveat, though. Dr Madi stresses that in ageing faces, a focus on skin health to improve firmness and collagen production via devices such as Morpheus8 (a radiofrequ­ency microneedl­ing device to tighten loose skin), plus strategic injections of filler, is the only way to counter a loss of volume and to rebuild support in the face. “Five to 10 years ago, people didn’t understand the ‘natural look’ partly because of the filler products that were available at the time, and partly because the knowledge of anatomy wasn’t as advanced,” he explains, adding: “Now we have a better understand­ing of facial anatomy and ageing, and a higher variety of products that are suited to every layer of the face.” For example, firmer fillers to sculpt the jawline and more malleable fillers for the lips.

In his experience, patients are not opting to go completely cold turkey but are seeking a happy medium. “Patients are looking for natural results that focus on their individual­ity,” Dr Madi says. “There has been an increase in people who come and want to reassess the overall situation. They are no longer relying just on fillers but a combinatio­n of energy devices, boosters and fillers to get their desired outcomes.”

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