As a wellness writer and counsellor, I have seen both sides of this issue. Aesthetic procedures can help people to improve – or eradicate completely – skin and body concerns that have dogged their confidence all their lives.
I also know personally how life-changing aesthetic treatments can be – laser treatment for rosacea flare-ups has given me long-lasting freedom from the facial fire that had me shunning social gatherings and work opportunities.
In her 27 years of clinical experience, EV Expert Dr Bhavjit Kaur has seen first-hand how life-changing aesthetic medicine can be.
“I have so many examples of the ways in which aesthetic treatments have improved my clients’ confidence and even changed lives,” says Kaur. “I worked to restore the appearance of an actor, whose looks and self-confidence had been shattered by trauma and grief. The relatively minimal dermal filler treatments I gave him enabled him to look and feel himself again, as he re-entered the world of auditions and the public gaze.
“I have practiced as a GP and worked in cardiology, obstetrics and gynaecology, and many of my colleagues didn’t understand my decision to switch to aesthetic medicine. They didn’t understand the positive impact that you can have on people’s lives. I have experienced what it is like to have acne and melasma, and know the cost that these conditions can have on self-esteem and the restorative powers of aesthetic medicine.”
Aesthetic Doctor and EV Expert Dr Nestor Demosthenous was one of the first to use soft threads to treat people with Bell’s palsy and give them back better facial balance and symmetry – and with that their self-confidence.
“One patient I treated was so emotionally affected by the facial paralysis left by Bell’s palsy that she would barely leave her house," he says. "Following treatment, she felt able to be herself in the world again and even booked a holiday.”
Red flags that signal deeper issuesIn my role as a counsellor, I often work with people who attach their distress to physical appearance. Dissatisfaction and even hatred of your appearance are often red flags, signalling that there are deeper mental health issues at work.
Physical imperfections become the scapegoat for unhappiness. People think, “If only my nose were smaller, my cheeks were sharper, my breasts were bigger, I would be happier.” In reality, once those hang-ups are ‘fixed’ they move focus to the next error in appearance in order to avoid difficult, more complex issues beneath the surface.
Dr Nestor has lots of experience with people who reveal mental health issues in consultation, which cannot be alleviated by aesthetic interventions.
“It is sadly common for me to see people who have deeper psychological issues that aesthetic medicine would not help,” he says. "I spoke with one woman who confided in me about years of traumatic experiences that she had endured. The anguish had taken its toll on her face and, while I could help to freshen her features, no aesthetic treatment could begin to address the emotional damage.”
The importance of consultationsDr Nestor and Dr Kaur both agree that an empathetic and thorough consultation is crucial in understanding what brings a person to their clinic, and for detecting when treatment is not appropriate.
“Initially, I am less interested in what people think they want. I am concerned about the ‘why’. What is underneath their decision to have an aesthetic treatment?” says Dr Nestor.
“Once I get to know the patient and understand their motivations, I can assess what course of treatment would best serve them or, crucially, whether they may actually benefit from mental health support. My practice has good relationships with trusted psychologists to whom we can signpost, and I am also often in contact with patients’ GPs."
Dr Kaur provides a 45-minute consultation for all new patients. For her, it’s vital that people are properly informed about procedures, including potential side effects, and have realistic expectations.
“I won’t provide treatments if I can see that they would be feeding into a cycle of low-self-esteem or obsession," she confirms. "For this reason, I advise eager patients to wait the required amount of time between top-ups and I decline appointments for people who are after a completely frozen and over-plumped appearance.”
Advances in aesthetic medicine gives practitioners the tools to restore lost confidence. For people like Dr Nestors’ Bell’s palsy sufferer, aesthetic treatments can be the intervention that stops mental health issues from forming. For others they are a crutch, but not a solution.
For anyone considering booking a treatment, he recommends thinking about your ‘why’. If you are unsure about your reasons for wanting to have aesthetic treatments, are looking for a ‘quick fix’ for happiness, or can trace back your ‘why’ to difficult emotions, it may be helpful to first talk things through with a mental health professional.
Nestor Demosthenous, Cosmetic & Reconstructive Doctor
Dr. Nestor MBChB, BSc Hons Neuro, Associate Member of the British College of Aesthetic Medicine, Member of Association of Scottish Aesthetic Practitioners,...Book with Nestor Demosthenous
Bhavjit Kaur, Aesthetic Doctor
An aesthetic physician with over 26 years of clinical experience, Dr Bhavjit Kaur is the co-founder and director of Health & Aesthetic Clinic (London)...Book with Bhavjit Kaur