Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Are cosmetic surgery rates rising cheek-to-cheek with plumped-up stress levels? Or is Plain Jane becoming just plain vain?

We’ve all heard that 30 is the new 20 – that’s old news. And bad news for our skin, as fresh faces start to become decidedly dull with each passing birthday, whether or not we choose to celebrate. We are neck-deep in a youth-obsessed culture, where anti-aging campaigns get more attention than more pressing medical issues. But are we lusting after youth because – well, we are human, after all – or are we actually aging more quickly than in years past?

Let’s face the facts: more Canadians are going under the proverbial knife each year for the sake of beauty. According to a recent survey by the cosmetic surgery financing group Medicard, more Canadians are turning to anti-aging procedures than ever before. 72% of Canadians have considered cosmetic enhancements, with Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta being the largest markets nationwide. Ontario accounts for over 40% of all procedures performed in Canada – it seems like the Concrete Corridor is actually a hall of mirrors.

And if you don’t like your reflection, you’ve got options: face lifts, brow lifts, eyelid lifts, neck lifts, chemical peels, fat grafts, collagen injections, Botox injections, Restylane injections – the list goes on. Who says you can’t turn back the clock?

But why do we age in the first place? Besides, well, time, of course? Sun, smog, sugar, and cigarettes have all taken their share of the blame for skin damage. Or perhaps we are actually aging at a much more rapid pace than we used to. But why? With sunscreen as this season’s must-have beauty product, and smoking being about as un-chic as – er, smoking – shouldn’t we be making steps towards prolonging a youthful appearance, naturally?

Maybe so, but a new villain has emerged from the shadows under our eyes: stress.

When we are stressed out, adrenaline is released as part of the body’s natural ‘fight or flight’ response to threat, whether this threat is real or not. And when there’s no fight to win or flight to catch, it disrupts the body’s balance. Eileen Gravelle, an expert on the visible effects of stress, says that fluctuating hormones, disrupted collagen production, and inhibited cell repair can all be blamed on excess adrenaline. This shows up as breakouts, dry skin, wrinkles … Whatever happened to aging gracefully?

The way we deal, or attempt to deal, with stress affects our skin as well. Lack of sleep, caffeine, poor diet, smoking, drinking – each of these contributes to surface-level trauma and more serious health concerns.

Stress has always been an issue, but it is becoming more predominant these days. Beverly Beuermann-King, consultant for the Canadian Mental Health Association, says the top three sources of mental stress are financial-, employment-, and family-related, according to an October 6th article by Canadian Press writer Anne-Marie Tobin.

Financial issues? Check. Certain economic developments, or – ahem – lack thereof, have even the most Botoxed of women furrowing their perfectly shaped brows. While we may be too young to worry about our retirement funds, we are certainly not too young to feel the effects of the blossoming recession. Yet cosmetic surgery rates continue to rise, even when savings are slim.

Employment issues? Check. The fashion industry, along with many others, has taken a huge hit this year. Many design houses have either shut their doors for good, or at the very least, decided to abstain from Fashion Week worldwide. As aspiring designers, stylists, boutique owners, etc., this news is causing more than a few of us to question our future career goals.

Family issues? Check. Divorce is just as common as not, and the once-typical two-parent nuclear family is so last decade.

Ultimately, cosmetic surgery is a personal choice. But who redefined beauty and youth as synonyms, anyways? Instead of opting for false youth, let’s focus on health. Let’s skip the tanning salon, and sign up for yoga instead. Let’s laugh as often as we can and not fret when our faces start to show the signs of a life well-lived. And as for those bags under our eyes – well, what woman doesn’t need another bag?

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