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It feels a little odd to be sitting down to write a post on why I'm not getting work done, but I guess it says something about the world we're in! It always makes me chuckle to myself when younger women in their early 20s tell me I look great for being 30, because (to me, at least): 30-something is young. Hell, 40 is still young in my books! But, in a world of preventative 'baby' botox, I guess the fear of ageing is present in people much younger than me. So, given I'm now in my 30s, it seemed a good time to sit down and talk about it all...

I guess it makes sense to start with beauty standards. The Instagram face seems to have morphed into what I'm going to call the TikTok face (because it's almost like the smoothing effect of the low-resolution upload is part of the look!) The TikTok face is incredibly smooth, maybe with a smattering of well-placed freckles, fox-like eyes, a tiny ski slope nose, veneers and very full lips. It's interesting because the trend cycle in the 2020s has become shorter (with Stanley cups and fashion trends peaking and dying in a matter of months), yet the trends many look to follow require much more risky and permanent choices. Buying a one-wear fast fashion dress isn't great, but I find it worrying that beauty standards now seem to involve often permanently altering your face and body rather than - I don't know - trying a new style of eyeliner you can wash off at the end of the day...

Big butts are in: people rush out to get a BBL, which involves injecting fat from 'undesirable' areas of the body to the hips and buttocks (this one of the most dangerous cosmetic surgeries out there due to the risk of fat being injected into major arteries running through the buttocks). Thin is back in: let's all get on Ozempic and alter our brain chemistry when there was nothing metabolically-unhealthy about our weight to begin with. People are getting buccal fat removal; taking fat out of the cheeks to get a more 'snatched' look, which could lead to loss of structural support in the face as we age and - in the very least - it's going to look very different after natural fat loss occurs in the face over the decades. Thread lifts are also popular to get that 'foxy' eye look that's popular right now. I was in the pub recently with a friend and the barmaid commented 'I love your freckles, how did you do them?' I responded that this was my natural face and she cooed over how jealous she was and that she has to go to various lengths to create hers, finishing with 'you're lucky - freckles are so in right now!' My friend quipped back 'what about when they're not in?' It's funny how something I was teased for as a child is now desirable; I worked on being ok with it a long time ago, so I really don't care if a thing I can't change is 'in' or 'out', but it's bemusing to watch trends cycle that involve a natural attribute. 

It sort of feels like we're all morphing into one face; slightly ethnically-ambiguous but still Eurocentric (plump lips = yes, wider noses = no) and in its mid-to-late 20s. I saw an article recently that claimed it's 'ageist' to note that this year's crop of smoothed and filled Love Islanders look older than their chronological ages. Whilst I'm sure many people delight in criticising those who represent the beauty standard in today's landscape, I think the truth is a little more complex. People in their early 20s are getting very similar procedures to people in their mid-to-late 30s and I honestly think that's led to a look that kind of 'meets in the middle', whereby everyone looks around 28. I find it a little sad that there's been this flattening of a slightly quirky feature that makes someone memorable, or is even a fundamental element of their beauty. Of course, that's a flattering read on it and there are plenty of people out there that don't just have Lady Gaga's nose or Kirsten Dunst's teeth (which are cute and add character to their faces) and genuinely feel something is abnormal and is impacting their life. But, even if you truly can't love your original [insert body part / facial feature] it's still a big choice...

None of that is to judge anyone who engages in 'tweakments'; I think there's a selection bias for sure when it comes to the spectrum of how these things look on people. You notice the person who has overdone it, not the person who has subtly altered their appearance whilst still keeping the essence of their individuality. Whilst many people are now being more honest about their enhancements, and many of them look amazing, I'm still not convinced it would be right for me for reasons I just alluded to. I underwent keyhole surgery for my endometriosis a couple of years ago; I thought about it a lot. The amount of pain I was experiencing and the impact it was having on my life - on balance - was enough for me to go for a fairly low-risk elective surgery. In the same vein, I'm not sure two black eyes are a decent trade for thinking your nose doesn't quite look like the one the girls on TikTok with millions of views lip-syncing and pulling 'quirky' faces have. Or that having to lie on your stomach for weeks of recovery is worth having a 'cuter' backside. It's not a popular opinion right now, but my feelings are: these are major surgeries to be taken seriously. I don't think we should be entertaining doing these things based on trends or for minor insecurities we could come to terms with. Of course some people truly do take all of that in and still make the decision and fair enough for them, but I don't think they're the majority. But, what does that have to do with 'tweakments', which is where I started here...?

Well, they do still carry risks! And obviously they're so popular because getting a bit of filler in your nose is many times less risky, expensive and requires far less recovery time than surgical rhinoplasty. But, there are still risks. Although it’s less likely with a good injector, Botox injections could still accidentally give you a drooping lid that will still take months to fully wear off. Tear trough filler can be injected into veins beneath the eyes accidentally (again, even a very experienced injector could do this, because everyone's anatomy is a little different), which means a trip to A&E if you don't want to end up blind. And, we're learning every day about new potential side-effects from both surgeries and minimally-invasive procedures; from breast implant illness through to fact that we used to think filler just dissipated after a few months, but it now seems to migrate and gather in other areas (requiring proper dissolving to try and return your face to its natural state). I just don't feel that comfortable... Many do, and they've shared their experiences with different procedures that might put your mind at ease. I guess I'm just trying to provide some balance and a reminder that it's a little riskier than going to get a haircut.

I feel like this mantra is far easier now at 31 than it would be in my 40s, which is why I'm not saying I will never do anything more than skincare. I have no idea how I will feel in decades to come. But at 31; I feel like I'm still young and should just be appreciating what I have now rather than trying to change it. I've never liked my dark, baggy eyes, the gap between my two front teeth or the creases on my forehead (that appeared when I was still a teenager), but I'm sure one day I'll look back and wonder what I was complaining about and wish I'd appreciated what I had. So, I'm trying to do that now preemptively! I get told often that I have an expressive face, so of course creases are going to form from the faces I pull and the laughter I've had; I think it makes my face my face. I don't feel like I want to lose that expression or character right now. Though, I completely get that lines can form in less 'flattering' places and by the same token; some people don't want to look like they're always frowning when they're actually a happy person! It's complicated, but this part is talking about my choices and my journey, and this is where I've landed. Of course I'll never say never because I'm in my 30s and that's young (despite what the youth seem to think 31 looks like!) so if I'm not happy now, it's going to be much harder in decades to come. Also - as someone prone to obsessiveness over certain things - I don't think it's healthy for me to be frowning in front of the mirror worrying if my botox has run out. Even just getting my roots done every so often (obviously not very regularly, given how many visible greys I have whilst typing this...) feels like another thing I have to fit into my schedule and pay for. I live in a home I own on my own; I have enough bills to pay! Being fine with my appearance for at least the next 5-10 years seems the right choice for me right now. Hyper-fixating on imperfections doesn't feel like a path to happiness. We're all so focused on ourselves that paradoxically our perceived flaws are probably invisible to others and theirs to us. Maybe, in the words of Jemima Kirke, we are all simply 'thinking about ourselves too much'.

Right now, I'm focusing on topical prevention and minimal-risk improvements. I want my face to look its best. That means preserving what I have with sunscreen and helping to protect and optimise my skin with retinoids and antioxidants (I don't currently use a prescription-strength retinoid, but see myself transitioning to this over the coming years). Of course there's only so far this can all take you, especially if you're a little older and were sun-worshipping with everyone else in the 90s! Gen Z are incredibly lucky that they will be able to keep their skin looking its best for ages by only doing prevention, because they've been educated on the importance of sunscreen from childhood (don’t let those with dubious financial incentives convince you that you need ‘preventative Botox’ at 21). But, if the damage is already done; whilst good habits now are going to help a lot, I completely understand that more invasive treatments are what will deliver the best results. I'm kind of the generational middle child between these two camps, so I'm going to do what I can with low-risk topicals for as long as I can! Even basic things like ensuring my skin is hydrated has helped so much in reducing what I thought were fine lines I'd be stuck with forever. So, with this platform, I want to bring you along on the journey with me so we can see what results we can achieve in the long run with skincare. Either way; we've had fun, learnt something and taken some time out of the day to look after ourselves. 

Well, I hope that muddle of thoughts made some semblance of sense, and that it will be received in the way I intend it (without judgement of anyone on an individual level, and more as a weariness with society). Have you dabbled in cosmetic procedures - why / why not? I'd love to open a dialogue and hear about your experiences!

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