Bergdorf now has Botox every three to four months and Profhilo, an injectable hyaluronic acid that treats skin laxity, every six months. Though Bergdorf is somewhat relaxed about not having access to her regular procedures at the moment, she is concerned for others: “I’m very aware of how many trans people will be feeling how I felt before surgery, and that can’t be taken lightly. Dysphoria impacts trans people’s quality of life. For us, medical procedures can make all the difference when it comes to our mental health and also physical safety.”
Perhaps, then, non-essential procedures are more essential than we first thought. Benjamin Kauffholz, co-founder of the Dr Dray London clinic, certainly thinks they are. “What we do is bring joy to our clients, we bring confidence,” he explains. “It’s about giving a client a new lease of life. Many clients come in self-conscious and when they leave, they exude confidence once more.”
Reece Tomlinson, CEO of cosmetics treatment company Uvence, believes we need to stop thinking about cosmetic procedures as being motivated solely by vanity, but rather as a means of correcting something that may cause stress, anxiety, reduced self-confidence and even depression. “For some, cosmetic procedures represent a major facet of their self-identity and confidence,” he tells Vogue. “By removing the ability to receive treatments, some patients are experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiousness due to the potential impact that not having treatment may have on their appearance.”
A time for reflection
However, there might be a silver lining. While this time may indeed be triggering for many, it can also be a time for reflection. By removing access to those quick fixes, things we rely on to boost our self-esteem, we may be forced to confront larger underlying issues relating to self-worth. “I’m sure there are benefits to this forced period of abstinence,” notes Rebecca Sparkes, a psychotherapist who specialises in addiction.
“Some people, perhaps those with more robust self-worth, will recognise that they lived without treatments for over 10 weeks and were actually OK. Some people who have struggled without their procedures may be forced to acknowledge that their self-worth is fragile, and exposed as fragile without the ‘fix’. I would hope they would seek help from a specialist.”
This is something Sarah has experienced. “One thing I’ve learned is that I rely upon Botox too much to feel good about myself,” she says. “I’ve started doing yoga and breathing exercises, which has been making me feel better.”
Which is, perhaps, the most important point. It’s not about whether cosmetic procedures are essential or not. They clearly are to a large proportion of people. It is why they feel essential which is problematic, as it points to a much larger systemic issue: the need to conform to some internalised notion of beauty ideals and gender stereotypes. What this pause in normal life will hopefully bring, however, is a reconsideration of how we define beauty as a whole. Only then might we no longer depend on these quick fixes to boost our self-esteem.