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BY Shadine Taufik

Healthcare

‘Disfiguring’ Procedure Puts Cosmetic Treatments under the Microscope

Cosmetic treatments have become more widespread, but it doesn’t mean that the risks have diminished.

SEPTEMBER 30  2021

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Former supermodel Linda Evangelista has recently spoken out about her ‘disfiguring’ CoolSculpting procedure, filing a £37m lawsuit against provider ZELTIQ Aesthetics Inc.

As a prominent face of the 90s fashion industry, the Canadian model has become reclusive, having ‘kept to [herself] for over five years’.

In a public statement on Instagram, Evangelista announced:

‘To my followers who have wondered why I have not been working while my peers’ careers have been thriving, the reason is that I was brutally disfigured by Zeltiq’s CoolSculpting procedure which did the opposite of what it promised. It increased, not decreased, my fat cells and left me permanently deformed even after undergoing two painful, unsuccessful, corrective surgeries. I have been left, as the media has described, “unrecognizable”.’

As a result of the procedure, she had developed Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia (PAH), a risk that she was not made aware of pre-op.

She continued to explain that ‘PAH has not only destroyed my livelihood, it has sent me into a cycle of deep depression, profound sadness, and the lowest depths of self-loathing.’

Although cosmetic procedure rates have gone up within the past decade, cases such as this make public that even with high-profile clients and the best treatment, adverse effects may remain. Not enough attention is placed upon the risk of such surgeries.

Risks

With every procedure, there is always risk, and this can range from minor pain to lethal complications. As Generation Z has become more tolerant, further destigmatising cosmetic surgeries, they have become more commonplace.

Evangelista’s procedure was non-invasive, intended to freeze fat cells via an external tool that clamps the target area. This is often done under the chin, arms, back, and abdomen. On top of PAH, other risks remain, such as pain, stinging, tugging, bruising, sensitivity, and swelling. As the treatment is non-surgical and requires no recovery time, many patients are quick to assume that it isn’t as dangerous as cosmetic operations.

Other minimally invasive procedures include Botox and fillers, which can also cause disfigurement, swelling, infection, filler leakage and movement, as well as blood vessel trauma.

Another popular procedure is the Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL), as the fame of figures such as the Kardashians and Jennifer Lopez have made the hourglass figure the dominating beauty standard. This consists of utilising liposuction to take fat from other parts of the body, and injecting it into the buttocks, for a more ‘natural’ take on implants. Since 2015, the number of BBLs globally has risen by 77.6%, making it the fastest-growing cosmetic procedure in the world. Though they may seem simple, the mortality rate is 1 in 3,000, much higher than any other form of cosmetic surgery. This is risky because if the fat is improperly injected into or below the muscle, it can cause a pulmonary fat embolism (PFE), wherein fat cells enter the circulatory system, traveling into the heart and lungs. This may result in immediate death.

Tummy tucks and liposuctions are also popular and traditional plastic surgery techniques, which aim to reduce fat at the stomach and around the body. Both procedures can cause life-threatening blood clots, infections, and hypovolemic shock. In an infamous incident, the day after having a combination of these treatments and a breast reduction, Kanye West’s mother Donda passed away. Although the surgeries went well, unforeseen circumstances led to heart failure.

These side effects often occur due to improper technique – as cosmetic surgeries are not affordable for most, patients often travel to other countries with lower costs, such as the Dominican Republic, Korea, or Turkey. Due to the high demand or perhaps lack of regulation and training, unqualified surgeons may make irredeemable mistakes. Regardless, Evangelista’s treatment shows you that even the best practitioners cannot guarantee perfect results.

Psychological ill effects are also a risk that must be understood, as post-op symptoms of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and excessive alcohol consumption may increase. This is understood to be the result of negative self-image prior to the procedure, and a lack of contentment or unmet expectations after the enhancement.

With the great number of people seeking cosmetic enhancement, it is important to understand what it may mean to them. After all, most people do not experience these rare side effects.

Benefits 

Cosmetic surgeries have been shown to boost self-confidence, as the patient looks the way they have always wanted to, bringing to life their best self. This may lead to more openness and fearlessness in social situations. From this, mental health becomes better, as fear of social rejection and better self-image arise.

Some procedures also improve physical health, such as breast reductions, which help with back pain, or rhinoplasties, which along with aesthetic purposes, may help with improved breathing.

Controversially, increased attractiveness also brings more opportunities – you are more likely to get interviews, jobs, and promotions, and seem more likeable due to the ‘halo effect’ – wherein more attractive people are viewed in a better light. Also called beauty bias or ‘lookism’, studies have shown that the people closer to society’s beauty standards are overall treated better.

 

Why do people get cosmetic treatments?

Heightened demand for cosmetic procedures can be attributed to several things, along with the benefits mentioned above. Better technology, making for cheaper, more effective procedures is one. As it has become more accepted by society’s standards, those who would’ve wanted it in the past will find it easier to take the gamble now.

Additionally, our media consumption has become more integral than ever before. We are constantly exposed to screens and social platforms, where both celebrities and regular people display images of themselves, fine-tuning their features to gain acceptance from peers and strangers alike. These curated moments may instill a sense of insecurity in many. Having the beauty standard thrust upon the public in such a manner may make individuals question their own attractiveness.

Similarly, we record our lives and ourselves more than ever now. Having access to a handheld camera, and devices that can store thousands of pictures at a time, ‘selfie culture’ has become a real phenomenon. When we are frustrated with the way pictures show up, we are more likely to look to cosmetic procedures to ‘correct’ imperfections.

In other cases, it may simply be an expression of identity, an instance in which the individual will find self-actualisation in appearing the way they feel inside.

Nevertheless, though cosmetic procedures have become somewhat normalised and beneficial to many, they must still be taken seriously as risky operations. The possibility of developing adverse effects must be thoughtfully considered beforehand, and trusted surgeons or estheticians must be consulted.

 

 

About the Author: Shadine Taufik

Shadine Taufik is a contributing Features writer with expertise in digital sociology and culture, philosophy of technology, and computational creativity.

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