Daisy Goodwin: Don't do it, girls. It wouldn't work for me, and it shouldn't for you

Why diet or exercise when the panacea is easily available?
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The Independent Online

At the age of 17 I was convinced my difficulties with boys, parents and French verbs would be resolved if my hair was blond and curly instead of dark and straight. Funnily enough, the marmalade-coloured frizz that I arrived at, courtesy of Clairol, did nothing to improve my lot - quite the reverse if anything. But at least the evidence of my folly had grown out four months later.

This won't be the case for today's insecure, narcissistic teen. She thinks all her problems can be fixed by the judicious application of the surgeon's knife, shaving the nose a little here, whittling the inner thighs a fraction there. Today's teen is a rapacious viewer of shows such as Ten Years Younger, Cosmetic Surgery Live, Extreme Makeover and The Swan, in which depressed, downtrodden ugly ducklings are transformed by the wave of a scalpel into confident, glamorous beauties.

Cosmetic surgery programmes now rival property shows as the boom genre in British television. Their proliferation is the reason that demand for cosmetic surgery is growing fastest among young people - in the United States, the number of adolescents having plastic surgery has increased 32-fold in just 10 years. Television makes it all look so easy. Why bother with diet, exercise or even making friends when the panacea is easily available?

All these programmes end by showing "before" and "after" pictures, leaving us in no doubt that the subject's life has been transformed for the better.

But we never see the same woman three months later. Does she still feel that her 36DD breasts are the solution to her problems? According to a recent survey, more than 60 per cent of the people who have had cosmetic surgeryare disappointed with the results. But disappointment doesn't make good television. I speak with some authority, having created any number of shows - Grand Designs, Property Ladder, How Clean Is Your House? - that depend upon a stonking "reveal" at the end to keep the viewer hooked. But none of these involve cutting people's faces off.

As the mother of a teenage girl, I am so concerned with the television-inspired boom in plastic surgery among the young that I have retaliated by creating the first anti-plastic surgery show.

We take young people who are convinced they need surgery and, with the help of a style expert and a psychologist, we spend two weeks trying to convince them surgery is not the answer. The case studies are poignant. Take Sophie, a ravishing brunette of 18 convinced the only way she will make friends at university is by having £20,000 of liposuction and chin reconstruction.

At the end of the programme, the subjects can say "yes" or "no" to surgery. Over the course of the series, about 80 per cent of them have chosen "no". They have realised surgery is not the answer. Thosewho say "yes" are at least making an informed choice, having watched the operation they are intending to have and heard from women who had the work done and now wonder why.

It remains to be seen whether a show that says surgery is not the answer will besuccessful. My hope is viewers will be gripped by the tragedy of young people who have been deluded into undergoing irreversible, dangerous procedures and will be willing them to change their minds. I also hope we might do something to reverse the television-fuelled surge in cosmetic surgery. That, surely, would be public service broadcasting.

'Say No to the Knife' starts Thursday on BBC3

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