The perception of beauty, and the lengths to which followers will go to achieve it, is as old as society itself. Throughout history, mankind has adorned itself in various ways in order to conform to popular ideals.
From the oxygen-inhibiting tight corsets of the Victorian era to the skeletal, knock-kneed Twiggy look-alikes, the need to conform to fashion – and in particular, emulate our idols – has threatened the younger generations in particular.
Even today, beautifications such as body piercing and tattooing are seemingly harmless reflections of world-wide tribal customs. Westerners undergoing colourful tattoos on painful, sensitive body parts would cringe at the extreme pain experienced by the Sepiti River tribes of Papua, New Guinea whose skin is cut slowly to resemble alligator patterns. Nose-ring wearers would balk at displaying the enormous nose-plugs of the Apaiti tribe in India, while those who are proud of their many skin-piercings should diarise October, when religious fanatics on the exquisite island of Phuket pierce their cheeks with large amounts of sharp metal objects.
And women who sport pierced ears are warned by doctors that continued use of heavy earrings could result in ear-stretching, a look taken to the extreme by the women of the Huaorini tribe in the Amazon Basin.
However, our ‘culture’ tends to be an idolising of the wealthy film and music stars, whose idiosyncrasies are copied slavishly.
The problems arise when cash-strapped fashionistas try to find cost-effective ways to emulate the wealthy stars.
Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health, is particularly worried about the current lip-enhancing fad.
“While surveys have shown men find fuller lips more attractive, the means whereby women attain them are often extremely dangerous. Lip-enhancing should be performed in the safety of a doctor’s surgery by experienced, accredited medical personnel, certainly not by the general public using over-the-counter products at home. Even surgical procedures can go horribly wrong – there are countless examples on the Internet alone – if one were to do a little investigation.”
Hewlett is appalled by the methods being used to enhance lips after Kylie Jenner revealed her new lips, which sparked a craze in the teen market called the ‘Kylie Jenner lip challenge’.
The growing popularity of ‘bottle-lips’, which involves putting the lips into a plastic bottle or tot glass and sucking out the air creating a vacuum which sucks the persons lips into the space, not only rarely gets the desired effect, but can end up bruising the lips and breaking blood vessels. The lips are not enhanced – but often end up hugely swollen and grotesque; and naturally with teenagers who always push to the extreme to get the attention or adoration of their peers – makes this even more dangerous.
Hewlett feels that idols should be at the forefront of warning their followers not to emulate their expensive cosmetic procedures. He adds that parents, though, should be the first port of call.
“We are told as parents that we should be giving our children ‘that’ talk on sex, emphasising the dangers of unprotected sex, STDs and unplanned pregnancies. But there are very real dangers of altering one’s body to suit the current fads, whatever the cost. I encourage all parents to discuss these fads with their children and explain the inherent dangers. We can only wonder what the future fads will be.”