Cosmetic surgery has long been thought of as a luxury available only to the rich. And this assumption is founded on pretty reasonable evidence. For one thing, there’s the parade of ultra-rich celebrities, sporting every kind of nose-job and skin-tuck. For another, there’s the fact that surgery is expensive – it requires the labour of highly-trained professionals, working with highly-specialised equipment. And, when it comes to the human body, cutting corners is rarely a wise move.
The organisations whose role it is to sell and provide cosmetic procedures, of course, are surgical in their approach to marketing, much like every other business. They don’t just target everybody; they target the individuals most likely to invest in their services. If middle-class people are more likely to convert, then that’s where the marketing money will be focussed.
Moreover, cosmetic surgery tends to market itself through word-of-mouth. If you have a friend who’s gone under the knife, then you’ll be more likely to elect to have work done yourself. Thus a few successful operations in a given socioeconomic class can have a cascade effect.
So, is there a class divide running through the world of cosmetic surgery? Up until a few years ago, the answer might have been an unequivocal yes. But recently, the picture has gotten a little less clear.
In 2020, we all had a unique opportunity to reign in our spending. For several months, we were forbidden from leaving the house, visiting the pub, travelling to work, and browsing at our local shopping centres. For those of us who were able to work from home effectively, this allowed for significant savings to be made. A few grand, or even more, might be sitting there waiting to be spent – and if the person who’s saved it has wanted cosmetic surgery, it’s a unique opportunity to make it happen.
Lip fillers and other non-surgical procedures have exploded in popularity over recent years, thanks mainly to their affordability, and their endorsement by celebrities. Fillers are based on a kind of acid that will dissolve over time – or all at once if you decide that you don’t like the results – and thus they represent a new gateway into the wonderful world of body modification.
Without social media, the world of cosmetics would be a vastly different place. Digital effects, like the famous Instagram filters, can help us to see how we might look if we were to change a few things, and thus they provide a means for new procedures to be cheaply auditioned. Of course, in doing so, they also pave the way toward a profound body dysmorphia, to which girls (and a few boys) of every social class are susceptible.