I’m not anti tweakments – but why do already gorgeous young women get their lips filled?

Red hair. Pale skin. Academically smart. Uh oh. In terms of desirability in my teens, this wasn’t a good mix. I remember being in a biology class on genetics; because my hair colour indicated a double recessive gene, I became the subject of scientific discussion – but not before the teacher double-checked no tinting had taken place. Instantly, a fellow pupil piped up, ‘Oh come on, Sir, as if anyone would actually dye their hair that colour.’ Cue mass hilarity. 

It was also a time before we’d fully grasped the necessity of sun protection. Everyone coveted a deep, dark mahogany tan. With my Celtic complexion, when I stood next to friends and their families, I looked like the resident ghost. Felt nearly as invisible too. Until the freckles appeared and I wanted to hide, an ugly-duckling sensitivity that I never really shook off my whole adult life. Perhaps that’s why I became a beauty editor at the start of my magazine career, loving all the lotions and potions. The promise of change. 

So a couple of weeks ago, when I came across some 35mm transparencies of me in my 20s with long Pre-Raphaelite hair and creamy skin, I was shocked. Because if I say so myself, I looked rather… (she hesitates to articulate this) lovely. I posted these archive images on Instagram. Compliments flooded in. Sizzling emojis flashed. It was pure indulgence, of course. That part of me wanting to show the world I wasn’t as bad as I’d always thought. Dammit, if only I’d realised at the time.

But then if only all young people realised they are beautiful in the present moment. Because being ripe of age myself, I can now see youth, at its very essence, is sublime. You don’t have to have a face drawn to the golden ratio. Simply being in possession of bounce-back skin or sparkly eyes or supple limbs or a smooth neck or sheer youthful energy, enthusiasm and exuberance gives you a magical kind of magnetism.

Which is why I feel sad that many (often women) use dramatic facial filters and editing apps until all their selfies display about as much variation as a row of shop mannequins. I can only guess it comes from the pressure of constantly seeing themselves on screen – perhaps more than they see themselves in the mirror. 

Many seem to end up with the same shape of brows and lips, too. Why do already-gorgeous young women get their lips filled? Come to that, why do old women get their lips filled? I’m not anti ‘tweakments’. Far from it. I have no problem with opting for subtle-if-they’re-safe improvements. But serious pillow lips on a senior just draw attention to your age.

Naturally, there are reasons specific looks are prized at certain times. In social anthropological terms, prevailing ideals of beauty embody what the culture holds dear. Witness the tan. It only became fashionable when Coco Chanel reinvented it as a visible sign you travelled. Centuries before, it said you lived an outdoor life rooted in serfdom and turnip farming.

Interestingly, alongside filters and fillers, an alternative beauty trend has gained traction. That of the distinctive individual. A reflection of the drive to champion difference. In general, I thoroughly applaud the inclusiveness of this narrative. I remember, as a beauty editor in the Nineties, walking past Liberty’s windows and seeing a Nars make-up campaign with women whose beauty bucked prevailing stereotypes. As a redhead, I was struck by Karen Elson with her carrot hair and pale brows. My heart leapt for joy. It signified a step away from the cookie-cutter, cheerleader look that had held court for so long. 

But recently, some beauty ads have pushed individuality to such an extent, there’s the suggestion unconventional looks are somehow superior to those that are more commonplace. Which is an irony. Instead of saying it’s wonderfully cool to be different, it’s almost implying that to be cool, you need to be different. 

I’m talking about the Marc Jacobs ad where the models keep repeating the same word… no, not Daisy, Daisy, Daisy, Daisy, Daisy, punch-the-TV Daisy. It’s the one where they say ‘Perfect’ over and over. A chorus line of arresting models ramming home the message they’re perfect as they are. I’m assuming that there was a casting for this. That they were carefully selected. Which renders the thrust of the ad a wee bit disingenuous. If they had been gathered completely randomly – say if the first 40 youngsters to emerge from a subway station were approached and signed, regardless of who they were and what they looked like, that would have been more representative of the theme. 

Then there’s the whole concept of being perfect. Surely, none of us are. And that’s OK. Wouldn’t that assertion be a more groundbreaking message? Certainly, more of a comfort.


What beauty advice you give your younger self? Let us know in the comments section 

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