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The question of when hairdressers and nail salons will reopen is asked on a weekly basis, but far less has been said about cosmetic clinics.
Increasing numbers of people, particularly women, undergo regular, non-surgical cosmetic treatments, dubbed “tweakments”. These temporary procedures, such as Botox and fillers, may have a growing clientele, but speaking about them is still taboo.
Clinics around the UK are waiting for confirmation on when they can reopen, although many are taking bookings for July 4 – the expected, but unconfirmed, date of beauty salons reopening. So what has it been like for those who haven’t been able to attend a clinic for three months?
“I definitely see the effect the lack of Botox has had to my face,” says Sarah*, a 28-year-old originally from London. “Yes, it’s the natural me, but I don’t have that fresh tight glow that I usually have – and I really miss it.”
Sarah, who has been getting lip fillers since she was 20 and Botox in her forehead since she was 24, moved to Israel just before lockdown. Israel is ahead of the UK in lifting lockdown, so she has an appointment for her usual tweakments this week.
Amidst the uncertainty of clinics opening in the UK, though, some members of the public have attempted ‘DIY tweakments’, says Dr Jane Leonard, a qualified GP, as well as a cosmetic doctor.
“I’ve luckily got such a good relationship with my clients that they fully understand the need to wait for me to get back to work,” says Dr Leonard, who’s been working on the NHS frontline during the pandemic.
“However, I’ve heard from peers in the industry that they’ve had clients purchase filler on the internet and attempt to administer it themselves.”
Dr Leonard stresses the need to have procedures carried out by a qualified professional and says attempting to use fillers on yourself can be dangerous.
“You can very easily hit a nerve, and worse case scenario cut off blood supply, making the area go black and needing urgent medical attention,” she tells HuffPost UK.
Botox is a temporary treatment and the effects start to wear off after three to six months, explains Dr Leonard. Over time, the muscles regain their momentum and movement begins to get back to normal. The prior wrinkles will then re-appear, she says. So people who usually have Botox might be starting to notice the impact of lockdown
Filler, however, can last for anywhere between six and 18 months, depending on the type used. So those who use it may not be due a top-up just yet.
It’s hard to know how many people usually have fillers and Botox in the UK, because non-surgical cosmetic treatments aren’t regulated. But surgeons anecdotally report an increase in clients seeking out this work.
Consultant surgeon Niall Kirkpatrick, a member of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS), previously told HuffPost UK demand is increasing for lip fillers in particular, “especially in the young 18-24 year age group”.
Being unable to access treatments during lockdown has had an impact on body confidence for some.
Ellie Phillips, 33, started getting Botox six years ago and lip fillers a year after that. The presenter and showbiz journalist, originally from Liverpool but now in London, was increasingly conscious about her frown lines and wanted a fuller lip.
“As a TV presenter, it was frustrating to have makeup quickly sink in these deep grooves between my eyebrows, making them appear more prominent and making me seem angry when I’m actually a happy, smiley person,” she says. “I naturally frown when I’m concentrating, so I opted for anti-wrinkle injections.”
Ellie isn’t due for a filler top-up yet, but was due to have her regular Botox top-up in April. That appointment was cancelled and she says her appearance has “definitely” changed as a result.
“Now, I can see my frown lines coming back and I’m itching to have them sorted out,” she says. “I feel much more unattractive without the Botox.”
Other woman also told HuffPost UK they’ve missed having procedures while clinics have been closed. Rebecca*, 29, from London, started to get Botox on her forehead last year because she felt concerned she was developing a “very deep” frown line. There are “highs and lows” to not being able to access Botox during lockdown, she says.
“Without Botox, my forehead definitely becomes lax and lines return,” says Rebecca. “However, with all this time on my hands, I’ve perfected my morning and evening skincare routines, which has helped the overall appearance of my skin.”
Rebecca’s boyfriend was “dead set” against the idea of Botox when she said she was considering it, so she still hasn’t told him she uses the injections. During lockdown, she has been worried he might notice the difference in her appearance. “Instances where I thought he was about to realise [have] made my heart drop,” she says. “It’s not a nice feeling.”
“I feel much more unattractive without the Botox.”
Ellie and Rebecca both say they feel more confident after undergoing treatments, but what are the signs clients are too reliant on them?
“My duty as a doctor means I will always look out for clients that have unrealistic expectations or are requesting too many treatments,” says Dr Leonard. “Not only will I not treat them, but I also have a network of trusted psychologists I can recommend to them if relevant and appropriate.”
Of course, there may be some people who’ve embraced lockdown without tweakments, and will no longer want to visit clinics when they reopen. But for Ellie, getting her Botox topped up at the first opportunity is a no-brainer.
“I get that some people would say ‘embrace the wrinkles’,” she says. “But I’m much happier when they’re not there.”
*Some names have been changed to provide anonymity.