Can aesthetic treatments make us happy?

Considering the array of different offers for aesthetic procedures and the confusion created about the ethics for Aesthetic Medicine, Dr. Joanna Karamon is this week giving readers her views on this very relevant subject.

Sometimes there is nothing like the Daily Mail to give you some inspiration to write an article. The headline in question was “Having plastic surgery can make you more LIKEABLE”. Well, that’s quite a statement!

The article then goes on to quote a Georgetown University School of Medicine study, which assessed responses from random people to faces of women before and after their plastic surgery procedures. The results showed that after their procedures, the women scored much higher for likeability, social skills, attractiveness and femininity. Some would argue that this is a positive finding for the question of whether plastic surgery increases our self-esteem.

The old age saying “you are only as old as you feel” holds true in many psychological studies. However, there is a lot more to Aesthetic Medicine treatments than just making us “feel better”.

Ageing is a natural biological process that we all undergo, whether we like it or not. This process can be exacerbated by intrinsic (such as our genetics, hormones and metabolic processes) and extrinsic factors (such as UV radiation and chronic sun exposure, air pollution, toxins and diet).

This process affects the skin, the underlying soft tissues such as the muscles and fat pads, as well as the structural bone elements. Restoration of each component is essential in the overall approach to anti-ageing aesthetic treatments.

In addition to these physiological issues that must be addressed, any solid aesthetic practitioner will also advise their client to what is ethically correct and indicated for them. It is very easy to convince someone to undergo a procedure they may not really need but want. It is extremely hard to advise someone to not do a procedure or treatment that is not really necessary for that particular individual.

This is where that elusive element called “trust” comes in – trust between the client and the practitioner that what they are offering to their client is indicated and correct for their condition and health status in general.

Anti-ageing therapies cover a whole spectrum of interventions, from the most obvious skin-based treatments such as peels and injectable treatments such as Botulinum Toxin and dermal fillers, to the least obvious such as sun protection and diet, and the more “sophisticated” such as laser and radiofrequency treatments. And as any aesthetic practitioner or therapist will testify, the sun protection and diet are the hardest to follow, and the necessity to follow those rules the hardest to relay to the clients.

There is an ever-more growing number of well-designed clinical studies showing the importance of diet to control and combat the oxidative stress attributed to the accelerated ageing process.

The skin reflects the health status of any given individual, and although it is still a very controversial field, we do know that diet plays an important part in cellular glycation and oxidation, and therefore the whole ageing process. Many chronic diseases affect these metabolic processes and may accelerate the ageing process. Understanding them and understanding the individual who is suffering from these medical disorders will help the aesthetic practitioner to develop a structured treatment plan to combat the effects of their disease as well as the ageing process.

Skin care has been targeted by the media for centuries … literally! But even though skincare options have changed drastically over the ages, from lead, mercury and arsenic-based make-up and skin creams, to the more organic approach currently, the most important factor to bear in mind and practice at all times is sun protection.

Many in-depth animal and human studies have shown unequivocally that UV exposure ages the skin prematurely, and is a direct cause of a loss in skin collagen density, with a resultant accentuated skin wrinkling and sagging.

Sun exposure is essential for Vitamin D formation, but excessive exposure can lead to major changes in the molecular structure and characteristics of the cellular matrix of the skin, leading to not only accelerated ageing but also to abnormal cell mutations and potentially cancer.

In the medical world, beauty is not only skin deep. We should approach the individual as a whole in order to make them truly beautiful … and I am not only talking about the inner beauty of each individual.

That inner beauty is sometimes overshadowed by phobias and pre-conceived ideas of external beauty. Sometimes fixing a very minor “external” issue can lead to an “internal” awakening and blossoming, which ultimately empowers that individual to feel whole and who they have always wanted to be.

It takes a team of dedicated and ethical individuals to understand each individual, their concerns, their health issues and their desires, in order to translate that into a functional treatment plan to help them look and be themselves … only better and for longer.

By Dr Joanna Karamon
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Dr Joanna Karamon is a consultant in General and Family Medicine.
Diploma Aesthetic Medicine (AAAM). MSc Skin Ageing and Aesthetic Medicine (Manchester University). Medical Director – Medilagos – Rede Luzdoc