When Kylie Jenner emerged grinning from her car with no-make up on, the internet had some things to say. She held a bag of crisps and wore a tie-dye tracksuit with a scraped-back hair bun that’d seen more debonair days. It was a quarantine WFH vibe, very “week seven in lockdown”. But people weren't worried about her acting like a normal person. They specifically mocked Jenner with "before" and "after" photos because it looked like her facial fillers had dissolved. Or as one generous Twitter user said, "Nooo... still smashing though.“
It's feasible that Jenner's fillers might have broken down more than she’d like under lockdown. But in pictures of her over the following days, including one staged paparazzi shoot, Kylie Jenner, Instagram queen of the aesthetically altered, reappeared. If Instagram Face was as simple as just getting filler (it’s not), we wouldn't see see 14-year-olds under lockdown reproducing the same look. Over-lined lips and a pout are a typical trick to produce volume, and along with bronzers, learned poses and FaceTune, are as powerful as injectables for sculpting a “racially ambiguous” look.
But if the Kardashians – or any A-list billionaire – wanted non-surgical cosmetic procedures during lockdown, does anyone believe their money couldn't summon a practitioner with a needle and hyaluronic acid within the hour? Grinning Kylie Jenner is just what Kylie Jenner has looked like all along.
The photos of Jenner with her round “natural” face and people’s response to it was bound to hit a nerve for many. We've all seen the memes about coming out of the pandemic looking terrible without our vanity props. Non-surgical cosmetic procedures need refilling, since the agent breaks down naturally in your face. For the average person, there’s no way of going to a clinic. Practices are, of course, shut since their procedures are non-essential. If anything could discourage excessive filler use, it's a global pandemic.
Frances*, 26, Portsmouth, was horrified when she saw people’s responses to the pictures of Jenner: “People just really hate people who have had ‘stuff done’ looking bad. I was due to get my Botox and filler done when coronavirus stuff started, so I hate going on video calls to my friends and work. They might comment on it.”
Anna, 27, London tells me she’s thankful that she topped up her undereye and lip filler two months before lockdown. “It depends how long this goes on though,” she says. “I’m already seeing the changes in my face and I’m worrying about the waitlist at the clinic I go to once lockdown is over.”
Dr Riccardo Frati of Frati Cosmetic Surgery tells me on the phone that his patients are increasingly anxious to get their filler done. “A want is becoming a real need for them,” he says. “This need is irrespective of the critical time we’re facing.”
“Some patients aren’t bothered because they aren’t having to go out and show themselves”, he explains, but other more “obsessed” patients who feel they need to have the procedure done every three to six months are feeling the pressure.
Frati adds that clients were likely than ever to have enhancements in various areas – chin, jawline, under-eyes, Botox around the mouth – before lockdown, which means more top-ups needed in more areas. But even those who have never had procedures done are enquiring in greater numbers. “Probably because people are bored, they’ve got time off work and could get things done and have the time for recovery, so want to get it soon.”
When I ask if Kylie could get fillers during lockdown, the Harley Street practitioner is stumped. The antics of LA are a different world, but in the UK, no matter who the patients are, he says, the lockdown rules rules are strict. “I have quite a lot of British celebrity clients but no one has yet asked for a non-surgical treatment."
Once lockdown is lifted, Frati will give priority appointments to people who had procedures done before lockdown so they can have check-ups, which he believes will be the case industry-wide. Older and at-risk patients, who are more likely to suffer with coronavirus symptoms, should take a "cautious approach" to getting treatment for the months ahead. But if everything goes smoothly, younger people may be free to return to the needle once lockdown is lifted.
There’s little the public relish more than the rich and hot caught looking rich and normal. But there was something perversely relatable about the Kylie Jenner micro-scandal – if it's not the filler sculpting your face, it's your darkening roots, fading tan, changing body or flailing acrylics. We are all struggling A-listers within our tiny shared. Unless you've been furloughed and have made getting hench your new occupation, we're all staring the raw truth of our appearance in the face.
Sign up to our newsletter to get the best of VICE UK delivered to your inbox every week.