Going under the knife was once the preserve of the rich and famous. But a new range of non-surgical cosmetic procedures, like lip fillers, have changed the beauty industry: these days, you can plump your lips or alter your jawline for the price of a weekend away. There's even a name for the look that's become ubiquitous across social media and reality TV: "Instagram Face".
A poll of the VICE UK Snapchat audience reveals that these treatments are viewed as increasingly commonplace among young people. Over half of some 51,000 respondents in the UK (59 percent) said they viewed procedures like lip fillers as comparable to getting a haircut or manicure.
Almost 60,000 people answered the question: "Have you had any cosmetic procedures like lip fillers done?" Of that group, only 7 percent answered that they had undergone such beauty treatments.
But out of 47,000 people, 68 percent said that one or more people from their friendship group had already had one of these cosmetic procedures.
Our Snapchat audience is primarily comprised of 13 to 24-year-olds in the UK, and is equally split between men and women. Users can exit the poll or close the app at any time they wish, meaning that the number of people answering varies from question to question.
As Hannah Ewens writes in VICE, a Snapchat poll "isn't the most rigorous method of data collection" – but it does allow us to survey a huge sample size of predominantly Gen Z and younger millennial audiences.
Bearing that in mind, it's alarming that 66 percent of almost 50,000 young people told us that they would like to change their facial features. When asked which ones they would want to change with a cosmetic procedure, 33 percent said they wanted to alter their nose, followed by 24 percent opting to change their lips and 9 percent who said they wanted to modify the appearance of their cheeks. Only 34 percent told us that they didn't want to change any of their facial features.
However, there are clear risks to performing cosmetic procedures on teenagers and young people – especially those who might not have the financial means to pay for an accredited and more expensive beauty provider. Professor Ash Mosahebi, a plastic surgeon with BAAPS, told VICE that teenagers' facial structures are "still changing and growing and filers might damage that growth", and that it is "definitely unethical" to allow teens to access facial fillers.
A VICE UK investigation found injectable fillers administered in every kind of setting you can think of throughout London and Essex – leisure centres, gyms, suburban hair salons and even living rooms. Even more concerningly, 90 percent of the providers we approached didn't think twice about offering them to a 16-year-old child.
"Although it is extremely alarming that 59 percent of respondents perceive dermal fillers as comparable to getting a haircut or a manicure, it is not at all surprising," says Ashton Collins, the co-director of Save Face, the national register of accredited aesthetic professionals. "The figures are reflected in the number of complaints we receive, almost 50 percent of which are from 18 to 24-year olds. The data gathered as part of this survey reiterate just how important campaigns like Fill Me In are to inform younger people about the risks involved with cosmetic procedures.
"Unless we do more to change the way young people think about cosmetic procedures, we will have a crisis on our hands, and it is extremely likely that the 66 percent of respondents who are considering treatment will fall into the wrong hands."
People all over the UK undergo non-surgical treatments like fillers every year, but the industry operates almost completely unchecked. Fill Me In is a VICE UK editorial series in collaboration with Save Face, the national register of accredited aesthetic professionals, that aims to raise awareness of the dangers of unregulated procedures. Read all our stories here.