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Study: Women Divided on Use of Cosmetic Surgery


Beauty today is young, thin and toned. So with an aging population, it’s not surprising anti-aging products have exploded. According to a new Canadian study, older women are torn on the use of the products.

Today, non-surgical interventions such as chemical peels and Boxtox injections have surpassed surgical procedures in popularity. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, non-surgical cosmetic procedures accounted for 82 per cent of cosmetic interventions performed in the United States in 2004. No Canadian statistics are available.

In a new study, lead researcher Laura Clark and her colleagues at the University of British Columbia interviewed 44 women aged 50 to 70 regarding their perceptions and experiences of non-surgical cosmetic procedures. The majority of participants were Canadian born and relatively well educated. Twenty-one of the women had used a range of non-surgical cosmetic procedures and 23 women had not. Study groups were similar in education, income and marital status.

The findings extended earlier research into the use of surgical procedures (See AHB’s interview with Dr. Clark, March/April, 2007).

Attitudes to non-surgical cosmetic procedures

The women’s reactions to non-surgical procedures fell into three camps, according to Clark and her colleagues:

Some women viewed them positively;
Some women rejected them as too risky;
And some women rejected them because in their view, they devalued women and later life.

The study appeared in the Journal of Women & Aging, Vol. 19(3/4) 2007.

Thumbs up

Eleven of the 21 women, who used a range of non-surgical procedures, gave them the "thumbs up". The women said they used the procedures to increase their physical attractiveness and bolster their power and self-esteem. They described the procedures as therapeutic: the ultimate "pick-me-up."

"I just think it’s made me look – my face look – much younger . . . I came home and I couldn’t believe the difference . . . " said one 65-year old woman, who had Botox and Restylane injections.

"The results were good, and I found I didn’t frown. I didn’t get any lines or wrinkles. I haven’t had it again since and I’m really feeling the need to go back again . . . " reported one 59-year-old woman, who had Botox and Collagen injections.

Too risky

According to the researchers, 22 women (10 of whom had procedures and 12 had not) approved of non-surgical cosmetic interventions such as microdermabrasion (removal of outermost layer of dead skin cells by light abrasion), photofacials and chemical peels that treat the outside of the body. However, they were strongly against injecting Botox or fillers such Restylane or other substances under the skin.

For example, a 71-year-old woman, who had microermabrasion said, "I wouldn’t go near injections."

Three of the 10 women, who had non-surgical cosmetic procedures, were only "moderately satisfied" with the results. "EL," 61, had photofacials but after five treatments, she found no difference. "Except I was a thousand dollars poorer," she said.

Still, these women were willing to consider other "safer" or more effective surface cosmetic procedures in the future.

But this was not the case for injectables. The women feared long-term negative side effects, especially of Botox.

As one 52-year old woman put it, "I would never consider anything like Botox. I don’t believe in injecting poison in my body. You know, it concerns me that some of this stuff just hasn’t been around long enough to see what the long-term effects are."

Aging naturally

According to the researchers, 11 participants were opposed to all forms of non-surgical cosmetic procedures because they devalued women and later life.

"For women who are older, I mean we’re invisible anyway . . . And as you get older, you get less and less okay and people look at you less and less. It gets down to, well, you’re old, you can’t look good," said one 60-year-old woman.

Five of the participants rejected spending money on anti-aging products.

"I’m very comfortable with where I am right now and it just doesn’t appeal to me . . . . I’ve got enough to worry about without worrying about whether or not I’ve got one more wrinkle or one more sag," said one 56-year-old woman.

According to the researchers, older women are torn between the need to be an accepted member of society and the need to be one she is – an older woman in society.