Our social media beauty ideals are warped, is there any turning back?

Social media has distorted our idea of what beauty is and what a ‘normal’ looks like – causing a boom in cosmetic surgery. So what now? Cherry Casey finds out

Monday 30 May 2022 10:31 BST
Filter apps and social media have accelerated body dysmorphia trends
Filter apps and social media have accelerated body dysmorphia trends (Getty/iStock)

The normalisation of cosmetic “work” has been underway for the best part of a decade. In the 12 years from 2003, cosmetic surgery procedures increased threefold, reaching a peak of 51,000 in 2015. And while by 2019 that figure had almost halved, non-invasive treatments such as dermal fillers boomed with 13.6 million people worldwide having some form of “tweakment” in the same year.

Post-Covid pandemic, that looks set to continue, with the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons actually reporting a 70 per cent increase in requests for virtual consultations during lockdown; a commonly accepted reason being that after months of staring at their own reflection on Zoom calls, people had honed in on their flaws. Add to that that Botox is now so standard that dentists administer it, little wonder that the global cosmetic surgery and procedure market was valued at $63.4bn in 2021, predicted to increase to $145.7bn by 2030.

Concerns around the lack of regulation within the industry, however, and the ever-younger demographic keen to modify their looks have gained traction, leading to legislation such as the banning of Botox and lip-fillers for under-18s in England, which came into place in 2021 to protect young people – according to MP Nadine Dorries – whose “physical and mental development is not complete”.

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