Lebanese-American poet and writer Khalil Gibran said “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart”, but Bengaluru-based software engineer Maansa Suresh (name changed on request) considers this statement to be “ironical in today’s times”.
“Who has the time to look at your heart?” Suresh tells Happiest Health. “It is all about how presentable and attractive one looks. I am not disputing Gibran’s idea of beauty — which is internal — but the reality around us is different. We, especially women, must fit into certain beauty stereotypes. Thanks to Bollywood for defining beauty standards.”
Her observations are not just off the cuff — the 43-year-old, who also holds a diploma certificate in beauty and hair from Delhi, ran a beauty salon in Bengaluru for three years. Differences with her partner led to the closure of their business venture in 2017.
Pressure to look pretty
Suresh says the biggest lesson she learnt during her stint in the beauty industry was the insatiable urge of women to look young and beautiful. She thinks there are two aspects of grooming and beauty.
“We all want to present the best version of ourselves to the world,” Suresh says. “It boosts our self-confidence. Self-care — be it physical or spiritual — is also self-love. And it should be encouraged.
“The problem begins when there exists social pressure to look a certain way. Unfortunately, most of our ideas of beauty, grooming and self-care have been commercialized. So, we all started looking similar — a carbon copy of each other. The face filters on smartphones help all to have similar noses, jawlines, hair and smiles too. Many of us are increasingly taking the help of surgical and non-surgical procedures to achieve our desired look.”
Dr Dinesh Kumar Devaraj, honorary secretary general, Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists, agrees. The Chennai-based consultant dermatologist, who runs Dr Dinesh’s Skin and Hair Clinic in the southern city, says the number of people consulting him has increased exponentially in the recent past. “The desire to look young, beautiful and better exists among both men and women since time immemorable,” he says. “However, in today’s age — with easy access to information, thanks to social media — there is a constant pressure to look young, better and presentable. Be it for the workplace or a social gathering, we have to meet a certain standard.”
Dr Shireen Furtado, consultant, medical and cosmetic dermatology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru, says India is seeing a rise in people visiting dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons. “Most of their issues are related to cosmetic procedure,” she says.
According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery’s (ISAPS) 2020 worldwide annual global survey on aesthetic/cosmetic procedures, “The US saw an increase in both surgical and non-surgical procedures, consolidating its position as the number one country for surgical procedures performed worldwide (14.7 per cent of total surgical procedures) and taking the lead from Brazil with most non-surgical procedures performed worldwide (22.1 per cent of total nonsurgical procedures).”
Released in December 2021, the survey by ISAPS — the world’s leading professional body for board-certified aesthetic plastic surgeons — said 8,744,646 cosmetic procedures (surgical) were done on females and 1,384,883 on males in 2020. In the same period, 12,339,411 cosmetic procedures (non-surgical) were done on females and 2,060,936 on males.
Bengaluru-based psychologist, researcher and behavioural expert A Sridhara said that the global data confirmed the common belief that the beauty industry revolves around women. However, he added that the concept of beauty was fast changing, and gender and sexuality should not be a bar to look presentable and younger.
From Botox to breast augmentation
Along with the US and Brazil, the other top 10 countries for procedures in 2020 were Germany, Japan, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, Italy, Russia and India, followed by Spain, Greece, Colombia and Thailand.
While the top five surgical procedures across the world were breast augmentation (1,624,281), liposuction (1,525,197), eyelid surgery (1,225,540), rhinoplasty (852,554) and abdominoplasty (765,248), the top five non-surgical procedures were botulinum toxin or Botox (6,213,859), hyaluronic acid (4,053,016), hair removal (1,837,052), non-surgical fat reduction (560,464) and photo rejuvenation (517,675). Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance found in the fluids in the eyes and joints.
The top five surgical procedures for women were breast augmentation (1,601,713), liposuction (1,300,020), eyelid surgery (968,381), abdominoplasty (703,778) and rhinoplasty (643,468). And the top five non-surgical procedures were botulinum toxin (5,307,901), hyaluronic acid (3,558,511), hair removal (1,538,982), photo rejuvenation (446,250) and non-surgical fat reduction (439,757).
So, the statistics show it is mostly women who go for beauty and anti-ageing procedures.
In India, the most common surgical procedures were liposuction (60,120), rhinoplasty (34,800), breast augmentation (27,648), gynecomastia (22,464) and fat grafting-face (17,232). And the popular non-surgical procedures were hair removal (97,920), hyaluronic acid (45,120), botulinum toxin (44,880), chemical peel (44,784) and photo rejuvenation (11,016).
Trends in India
In a way, India followed the global trend when it came to beauty and anti-ageing industry in 2020.
“Most of the people ask for non-surgical methods to help them get rid of their scars and pimples, and to cover and treat thinning hair, to name a few,” says Dr Furtado. “Among the surgical methods, facelift (lifting the full face) and hair transplant are quite common. In non-surgical methods, PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy for hair loss, laser for hair and skin, chemical peels, microdermabrasion and vampire facelift are commonly used.”
Dr Devaraj says the current shift is more towards non-invasive than invasive surgeries as far as cosmetic procedures were concerned. “While the cost is less, non-invasive procedures require lesser time for recovery,” he says.
Looking good in times of pandemic
The time frame for the ISAPS report also covered the coronavirus pandemic. Expectedly, the beauty industry too went through the jitters during this phase since the pandemic changed perspectives on the need to look good.
As per the survey, plastic surgery procedures for aesthetic purposes decreased by 10.9 per cent in 2020, but non-surgical procedures (primarily fillers and hair removal treatments) continued to increase.
“The global beauty industry (comprising skin care, color cosmetics, hair care, fragrances and personal care) has been shocked by the Covid-19 crisis,” says a McKinsey & Company report. “We saw a drop in beauty-industry revenues of 20 to 30 per cent in 2020.”
The need to work and study from home saw a rise in virtual meetings over apps such as Zoom. This came with its own set of dos and don’ts.
“The camera captures minute details,” says Papori Mallick, a Delhi-based public relations specialist. “Everyone can see the marks, wrinkles or under-eye hollows on your face (if they want to) during Zoom calls. Moreover, you can see your digital reflections throughout the day. That is when I decided to go for a nose job (rhinoplasty) to reshape the tip. I always wanted to change the way my nose looked but during the pandemic I decided to go under the knife.
Mallick, 30, is happy with her “new nose” after spending Rs 80,000 but is “keeping it a secret.” “Unless and until someone asks me, I do not tell them that I went for plastic surgery,” she says. “I am not shy about taking medical help to bring a change in my facial appearance, but I am not sure how the other person would take it.”
Experts call such pandemic-induced experiences the ‘Zoom effect’.
Dr Furtado says since most meetings and discussions happen online, young adults want to look better and be more presentable.
“We have seen a 30 per cent increase in plastic surgery nationwide during the pandemic, including at my practice,” US-based plastic surgeon Dr Rady Rahban was quoted as saying by Yahoo Finance.
“The number one reason is the Zoom effect. Next, as a result of the pandemic, people are wearing masks which can allow them to heal from facial surgery and at the same time be covered up. Number three, people have saved a lot of money that they haven’t spent on vacation and other luxury items like entertainment which they can now put towards plastic surgery.”
Beauty at a cost
Experts are more worried about the physical and psychological price of cosmetic procedures. What happens if a surgery does not bring the expected results? What kind of physical and mental impact would it have on a person?
“We have to see if a person is trying to improve on his or her present looks within the acceptable limits or is suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (a mental illness involving obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance),” Dr Devaraj says. “If a person has body dysmorphic order, then the person would never be happy with his/her look.”
Dr Devaraj says counselling is a must before going for a cosmetic procedure. “Every cosmetic procedure should be done after getting an informed consent from the person,” he says. “Every procedure has its own limitations and drawbacks. Once a person understands what to expect from a particular procedure, there is less dissatisfaction.”