Picture a face with arched eyebrows, pouting lips and poreless skin. The plump cheeks are undercut by razor-sharp cheekbones; almond-shaped eyes are topped with wispy lashes. Sound familiar? It’s likely you’ve scrolled through hundreds of variations of this face - known as Instagram Face - on social media before.
You can sample the Instagram Face look via various filters on the app: There are plenty that will smooth out your skin, amp up your lips and enlarge your eyes. But to make the change more permanent, it’s fairly common that people will go under the knife or try out a tweakment - AKA a minor cosmetic procedure.
Twenty years ago, cosmetic surgery was still seen as taboo, Botox was something only celebrities did, and Kylie Jenner, aged four, had not yet made lip augmentation aspirational. But things are very different today. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery’s Global Survey, over 53,000 non-surgical treatments were carried out in the UK in 2019. And if you search “#kyliejennerpackage” on Instagram, you’ll be met with thousands of photos from practitioners promising to give you the cheeks, jawline, chin, and lips of Kris Jenner’s youngest offspring.
The UK's cosmetic surgery industry is currently worth an estimated £3.6 billion, with non-surgical treatments accounting for nine out of ten procedures and worth £2.75 billion on their own. It’s clear the cosmetic surgery industry is thriving, but just how much are we as individuals pumping into it? How much will it set you back to undergo the sort of procedures needed to create and maintain Instagram Face?
“If someone wanted to achieve this look in real life, I would expect that Botox will be used to open their eyes and make them look wider by reducing the frown and wrinkles around the crows feet as well as lifting the brow,” explains Dr. Ross Perry, medical director of the Cosmedics skin clinics.
“Dermal fillers would be used to volumise the cheeks and exaggerate the cheekbone, as well as the lips’ fullness and the contour of the lips. The fillers could also be used for the jawline and chin profiling to increase these areas as well.” On top of this, those pursuing the Instagram Face look can also expect to pay for lash extensions and semi-permanent makeup.
Zofia Rogers, 21, has had a range of tweakments done, including lash extensions, lip filler, brow waxing and tinting, semi-permanent eye makeup, and fake tan. “I get lash extensions every month - or probably more like every three to four weeks - and have done for the last three years,” she says. “I’ve also had two lots of lip filler six months apart, I get my eyebrows done once a month, and fake tan every few weeks.”
Zofia Rogers, 21
“Lash extensions probably cost me between £40 to £50 a month,” she tells me, adding that the cost has gone up since she moved from Bristol to London. “Lip filler was £200 each time - so I’ve spent £400 in total on lip filler. I can’t really afford a top-up at the moment because of London rent, but I’ve been happy with the results so am keen to get more.” Zofia also spends a further £10 a month on eyebrow waxing and £20 a month buying fake tan for her face.
This brings Zofia’s annual spending on tweakments and procedures to £1,610. To date, she’s spent over £5,000.
While this might seem like a lot to some, Zofia’s annual spend on maintaining her look is actually on the cheaper end of the scale. Spending on non-surgical procedures can dramatically increase if a person opts to include dermal fillers or Botox in their routine. Naturally, costs skyrocket further if surgical procedures are part of the equation.
Presenter Ellie Phillips, 34, has had a variety of non-surgical procedures done. “I’ve had filler in my lips, Botox all over my face. I have semi-permanent lashes and I have cosmetic tattoos too, where I have my eyebrows, my eyeliner, and full lip blush done.”
Ellie Phillips, 34. Photo: courtesy of interviewee
“I get Botox around every three to four months, and filler… it depends. Once a year, maybe once every other year. With the cosmetic tattoos, usually they’ll last a year or two years. And now that life’s vaguely back to normal, I probably get my semi-permanent lashes every three weeks to once a month.”
Breaking down the cost of her various procedures, Ellie explains: “I go to a lash trainer who’s super expensive, and she’s £95 for a full set. I feel like the more trained practitioner you go to, the more you will pay, but you get what you pay for.
This means that in total, Ellie spends around £3,215 a year keeping up her look.
Chad Teixeira, 26, has also undergone a number of tweakments. He began getting work done just over a year ago, around the beginning of the pandemic.
Chad Teixeira, 26
Chad lists all the non-surgical procedures he’s had done: Botox, dermal filler, jaw filler, lipotropic injections for weight loss, microblading, microneedling, and Profhilo, an injectable hyaluronic acid moisturiser. He’s also had a full body liposuction, tummy tuck and chin liposuction.
He explains that his ongoing facial treatments cost around £3,000 per month, while the liposuction and tummy tuck set him back £18,000. “They’re not usually that expensive, but I didn’t have normal lipo, I had mega lipo [where over five litres of fat are removed in one surgical session],” he says, adding that he includes the costs of flights and accommodation in the price as he had the procedure done in Turkey. All in, Chad has spent £54,000 on altering his appearance, and can expect to pay around £36,000 a year to maintain his current look.
Despite the apparent homogeneity of Instagram Face, there’s no fixed price for the look, as everyone’s individual regimen is different. Obviously the more procedures you undertake, the higher the cost will go, but it’s clear that even the price point of the same procedure can vary massively. A lot depends on where you live, the standard of the practitioner you use, and the amount you want done.
Those that we spoke to maintain that their Instagram Face look will set them back anywhere between £1,360 and £36,000 a year - a pretty broad range. It ultimately all depends on your dedication to the look and, more importantly, how deep your pockets are.