Reinventing the face: Fashion meets science fiction

Reinventing the face: Fashion meets science fiction

If you hear a woman singing, “I feel pretty, oh so pretty,” take a good look at her. She may have taken advantage of a technological wonder – the ability to actually reshape the face with cosmetic injections that freeze wrinkles and plump lips and cheeks and chin.

Lately, dermal fillers, the plumpers, may be so prevalent as to influence what we have come to consider as beautiful. Goodbye bony air kisses, hello plump cheeks you can sink into and lips that cushion you against life’s miseries.

But, wait a minute. It may literally be a pity how pretty these plumped-up women feel. Joan Kron, writing for Allure magazine, suggests that there may be confusion… “or maybe the word is ‘delusion’ in the world of aesthetic enhancements.” Kron is talking about being overdone and she’s not referring to filet mignon. She’s talking about women who are so pleased with their cosmetic injections that they keep on getting more.

One such woman, a 36-year-old nurse, confronted a person in the subway who was behaving inappropriately. That person retorted, “F you, you F-ing plastic surgery bitch with your F-ing plastic surgery face.” The nurse was devastated, not by the swearing, but because even though she had not had lip and cheek injections for at least a year, she still looked ‘plastic’ to a stranger. The nurse was unhinged because she thought that her appearance was normal, i.e., natural looking.

David B. Sarwer, PhD, body-image psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania, has noticed that young women, after undergoing many such treatments, look in the mirror and don’t see unnatural results. That raises some good questions: “What do we see when we look in the mirror?”

Do any of us really see what we look like? What I’ve noticed is that, myself included, everyone approaches the mirror with a set facial expression aka “mirror face” – a certain tilt of the head, revealing a best look. A Beverly Hills plastic surgeon says we live in an age of “volume abuse.” Are golf ball cheeks, trout pout lips and frozen foreheads becoming the rule rather than the exception? Will these be the new faces of Lancome and Chanel? Tattoos have gone mainstream and so have voluminous buttocks, so why should the face be exempt from changing styles?

Not so fast. There are plastic surgeons who are fighting this trend. A Chicago plastic surgeon, Dr. Julius Few has coined the term “distortion vortex,” which refers to patients who get such a rush from good treatment results that treatment becomes addictive. Dr. Rod Rohrich, a Dallas plastic surgeon rejects requests to overfill the top lip because it makes women look like giraffes. Dr. Lawrence Bass from New York City rails against patients that request total obliteration of the nasolabial fold. He is all for keeping us looking ‘human.’

In fashion, there’s always a new normal. Our notion of pretty has always bent to fashion. Especially, the nose. Remember when the pert “ski-slope” nose was in style and everyone was waiting for Barbra Streisand to fix hers? Now there are actresses sporting real and glorious noses: Claire Danes, Rachel Weisz and Sarah Jessica Parker.

The face does not get a pass. It is also a reflection of fashion, which, by definition, changes.

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