When did growing older become a medical condition that needs to be treated? Probably about the same time that pharmaceutical companies realized how much money they could make by playing on our insecurities. And despite the legions of ethical doctors in the U.S., greedy plastic surgeons have managed to transform their profession into a multi-billion dollar industry (1). In this age of technology and instant gratification, youthful beauty is something we can buy and enjoy immediately -- or so we are told.
The current preference for non-surgical techniques is proof that cutting into the skin can result in a host of problems that are beyond a plastic surgeon's control. Scarring, allergic reactions, leaking of breast implants and infection are all potential risks. As a result, plastic surgeons promote Botox to paralyze frowning foreheads and fillers to plump up sagging skin, but these too carry risks.
In the HuffPost article "Filler Follies," Dr Arnold Klein shares some disturbing photos of complications resulting from the use of several products currently on the market (2). Finding information about these kinds of problems requires substantial digging (3). Medical forums, where patients post their problems with migrating filler, granuloma formation (4) or infections, are one source of information. Another is online news magazines, one of which described the allergic reaction a Canadian woman had to a filler known as Dermalive. Its surgical removal left her chin and mouth scarred (5).
Problems such as these should be an important topic for health professionals. But according to Dr. Klein's article, it is rarely discussed at Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hearings, or at medical conferences, which he describes as resembling drug company "trade shows" (2). And if Dr. Daniel Marchac, a respected French surgeon, is right, then patients receiving fillers over a period of years could risk forming tough, fibrous tissue that won't be treatable (6).
Which brings me to another point: The vast majority of articles questioning these products and practices are found in foreign news publications. Perhaps we don't hear about problems associated with these non-surgical techniques in the U.S. because there aren't any long-term studies being conducted here (7). One study we should look into concerns rabbits injected with Botox. Not only did the muscles atrophy around the injection site, but muscles in other areas of their body did as well (8). It makes sense that facial muscles would atrophy and sag if they couldn't contract, requiring fillers to prop them up, but where might that atrophy spread? And if we can't form certain facial expressions, are we then blocked from feeling those emotions and/or recognizing them in others (9)? During a period of such enormous shifting, do we really want to lose our capacity to question, analyze and criticize?
Yes, I am a skeptic. My first-hand experience with breast implants has led me to trust only reconstructive plastic surgeons (10). From what I've read and directly experienced, I feel comfortable stating that unscrupulous surgeons see breast implant recipients as cash cows, knowing they will be obliged to have repeated surgeries to correct leaking, scarring, and resulting disfigurement. What is criminal is that many women save up money to get them and then don't have the resources to repair the resulting complications.
We are talking about the human body, a multi-cellular organism that is constantly changing, not a machine that we can add to, or remove parts from without risk (11). Our youth-obsessed culture exists to sell products to the most vulnerable demographic, and makes women over 50 virtually invisible by not featuring them as news reporters, political pundits, financial experts or legal resources (12). The few exceptions are often required to plump their age away in order to remain on camera. Meryl Streep aside, how many other actresses are able to avoid the pressure of not publicly aging?
And are we only physical forms? Is it wise to focus so much attention on our shell that we lose our connection to the greater source that animates us all? There are options to surgery and non-invasive techniques that can improve our appearance and well-being simultaneously, but they won't make us forever 35 (13). The new science recognizes that as energetic beings, we are shaped by our beliefs, which in turn, are shaped by our environment (14). So if you're feeling old and worthless, then recognize the power of media to make you feel that way (15). By allowing it into our lives while ignoring the intention behind it, we unwittingly participate in the brainwashing.
The world needs us now more than ever to stand up and assume our places as leaders, embracing our years as a symbol of the wisdom we've accumulated. Don't fall for the man behind the curtain, promising magic through a needle. It's just a trick to get us to give our power away, and once you've started down that path, it's hell to step off.
1. Americans spent $10 billion on plastic surgery in 2010, according to American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
2. Physicians paid by Big Pharma occupy influential positions in the medical community, write for journals, testify before the FDA and do not disclose financial interests in the companies on which they report. Klein, Arnold. "Filler Follies," The Huffington Post. 2010. Online.
3. A google search for "problems with fillers and injectables" resulted in 14,800,000 links, most of which were links to plastic surgeons' sites containing reassurances about the transitory nature of potential reactions.
4. Lumps visible under the skin.
5. Fidelman, Charlie. "Beauty's Hidden Cost." The Gazette. Canada.com. 2007. Online.
6. French surgeon Dr, Daniel Marchac warned of the possibility of seeing patients with fibrous, tough tissue resulting from prolonged use of fillers. Boztas, Senay. "'Filler' injections can cause permanent damage, say doctors." The Independent. 2007. Online.
7. The FDA does not require studies of minority groups, or for studies to specify race of individuals tested. It doesn't require long-term safety data, nor does it study or approve the specific cosmetic purposes many products are used for.
Poor outcomes are not considered serious risks and are often not reported. Zuckerman Ph.D, Diane, Beth Nichols MSW, Megan Cole. "The Wrinkle in Facial Injections and Implants: Safety Questions." Center for Research. 2010. Online.
8. The rabbits had one arm injected, but eventually had muscles in their other arm atrophy as well, suggesting the toxin had migrated. Borland, Sophie. "Botox 'causes muscles to waste away into FAT,' scientists warn." Mail Online. 2010.
9. An abstract from an article published in Sweden sums up the question. Sonneby-Bourgstrom, Marianne. "The facial expression says more than words. Is emotional "contagion" via facial expression the first step toward empathy?"
And in Blink, author Malcolm Gladwell describes the results of Fritz Strack's "Inhibiting and Facilitating Conditions of the Human Smile: A Nonobtrusive Test of the Facial Feedback Hypothesis." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1988.Vol, 54. No.5. p. 768-777.
10. Hot Flash Films PDX web page offers a detailed description of my experience with breast implants.
11. In The Biology of Belief, Dr Bruce Lipton applies the insights of quantum physics to cell biology to expand our understanding of the inherent intelligence of the human body. http://www.brucelipton.com/biology-of-belief-overview
12. This Women's Media Center web page offers statistics and the consequences of the limited representation of women in the media.
13. Some movement techniques that cultivate our energetic qualites are Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Spacial Dynamics, Anti Gravity Yoga and infrared heated saunas and Yoga. They promote circulation, joint health, strengthen balance and provide meditative focus. Dry brushing the skin is also helpful in stimulating blood flow and increasing the skin's capacity to expel toxins. Only paraben-free, and all natural products should be used on the skin.
14. Dr. Bruce Lipton demonstrates that it is through interaction with our environment that our beliefs are formed, which in turn influences our physical state. He also mentions that our subconscious is capable of processing 24 million stimuli per second, as opposed to our conscious mind, which can only process 40 per second.
15. The Center for Media Literacy offers media kits for educators, as well as other information helpful in understanding the influence of media on society.