Cosmetic medicine: yes please or no way?

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My exploration of cosmetic medicine was triggered by finding myself single again in my early 40s. I wanted to have some fun after years of an unhappy marriage. As the sole caregiver of two very young children, I was quite unprepared to be putting on the ‘glad rags’ again. I never thought I’d have to go through the angst of feeling pretty enough again, but the whole game had changed. I wasn’t meeting men my own age any more. All the good ones were still married. 

Instead, I was seeing younger men – not all bad! – and the harsh reality of dealing with an age gap and social norms around dating younger men was being shoved squarely in my face.  I should have been comfortable in my own skin and have reached the stage where worrying about how I looked could be taken off the table, right? I was too busy for that! Big corporate job, divorce papers, two kids and I needed to look picture-perfect so the age gap wouldn’t be so apparent when I dated younger men. Yikes.

How do we combat ageing in a youth-dominated culture?
Our culture constantly tells us to be ‘sexy’ and ‘hot’ – but that can’t last forever. One day, we look in the mirror to find a distressing dissonance. Surely that person looking back at me isn’t really me? There are too many lines, and I look tired. 

Once we wake up to the fact we’ve inadvertently bought into a youth-dominated view of the world, we can challenge this. We can start the journey of ageing and how we want to look from a more empowered perspective.  

Start by asking the big question: How do I want to age? From a practical standpoint, we can acknowledge that how we look in a very visual society has implications in many areas when we make it to our 40s, 50s and beyond. Some of us have real concerns about competing with younger women for jobs and status in the workplace, and in an ageist world at large.

Fighting this as an individual can be beyond our capabilities – one person can’t single-handedly reverse everyone else’s subconscious training. The quest for something we really can’t ever be – young again – sets us off on a wild goose chase in which we become increasingly disempowered.

Cosmetic medicine as a weapon against ageism
Should cosmetic medicine be used as one of the tools in an arsenal of things we use to stay relevant? We are justifiably outraged at having to think like this, but this is the reality faced by many women who remain silent on the topic.

The need to keep ‘having a bit of work done’ a secret makes it seem shameful, and that’s equally disempowering. Wouldn’t it be better if we could talk about the elephant in the room as we transition through this period of history? Women need to use all means at their disposal to survive, and tactics change at different stages along the road to victory.

There are many detractors fiercely opposed to cosmetic medicine. They say it is frivolous, restrictive or unsafe. My question is this: Why are these people so intent on making us feel guilty about using technology to influence how we look? What do they have to gain by keeping us from looking and feeling our best?

Cosmetic medicine can be an empowering health practice
As I started to look fresher and less harried from the judicious use of cosmetic medicine, I turned my thoughts to more strategic ways to look well. I started hormone modulation and found that my skin dramatically improved in appearance and texture. The compliments came thick and fast. My skin had never looked better, and this spurred me to lift the bar for my internal health as well. 

I started researching supplements, doing more exercise and actively looking at my nutrition. I was starting to glow with good health, all because the cosmetic medicine and the positive feedback triggered sustainable changes in my behaviour. My health journey started with me wanting to look good, but now I also feel great. I’m fitter and ageing better than I was 20 years ago.

It’s all connected to the skin
Our skin is our largest organ. It shields us from the elements, keeps our bones and soft structures intact; it detoxes us, and keeps us warm and cool. We are expected to use any means necessary to look after other organs such as our brains and liver, but when we use medical interventions for our skin, we are accused of vanity.

If loving yourself is vain, I say bring it on. If we are conscious about using cosmetic medicine as a tool for personal empowerment and health improvement, then I believe that cosmetic medicine is a fabulous thing to have in our lives.

Kate Marie is the founder of the Slow Ageing movement which aims to support women to embrace the beyond-50s as a time to optimise personal health and wellbeing, and to live a life of purpose and contribution. She is the co-author of the Slow Ageing Guide to Skin Rejuvenation and the best-selling book Fast Living Slow Ageing. Both books are available where all good books are sold. For more information visit

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Total Comments: 14
  1. 0

    When my husband of 39 years walked out on me I was 60 years old. I was totally traumatised. The shock left me looking 20 years older. With the encouragement of a friend I had a face lift. It was the best thing I could have done. It took years away and gave me the confidence to go out and find a job. I never looked back. I have a true gentleman in my life now. Further the surgeon assured me that I would never in my lifetime have as many wrinkles again. Fifteen years on I can say that is true . . .

  2. 0

    Good on you Maggie. Well done. I, at age 68, have had an eyelift ie the sagging eyelids and when in Bali I had a mini facelift which made me feel so much better. I may in time have a necklift. Who knows but I would point out I do this for myself not necessarily to find a man cos let’s face it. What’s out there at this age leaves a lot to be desired if they are on their own. Pity some of them didn’t have a face lift and get rid if those ridiculous grey beards which age them more.

  3. 0

    Is “cosmetic medicine” code for surgery?

  4. 0

    I don’t think “cosmetic medicine” is necessarily a code for surgery. Botox and fillers are injected, and there is skin peeling etc. A great many men are using these now too.

    • 0

      The author writes “Wouldn’t it be better if we could talk about the elephant in the room as we transition through this period of history?”, so why doesn’t she call a spade a spade, and not blur it with an injectable filler, skin peeling and/or surgery?

      My response to the author saying “Women need to use all means at their disposal to survive, and tactics change at different stages along the road to victory.” is this: Do women really need to attract a man to survive? I don’t think so. I appreciate that having a loving partner will increase your happiness and lifespan, but maybe the question should be asked: Do you want to attract a man by pretending to be someone you are not? I don’t think this will be a life-long happy relationship, because we all face ageing at some stage, and we all go to the dogs eventually. Sometimes people look worse when they seem to be trying too hard. They are clearly past their youth but are desperately clinging on, actually, flogging a dead horse.

      What I don’t like is the continuing pressure on women to be dependent on their looks to be happy; that only serves to have women competing against each other.

      The author asks: “Why are these people so intent on making us feel guilty about using technology to influence how we look? What do they have to gain by keeping us from looking and feeling our best?” My answer is this: you are only forcing other single women to have to compete even more. Also, you are taking up valuable hospital beds from poor people who are on long waiting lists for very painful knee replacement surgery, etc.

      I agree with the author about exercising and eating well. Do that first and you’ll feel better about yourself instantly. If you feel good you’ll look better too, because you’re not depending on someone else to make you happy. So just be yourself and age gracefully. It doesn’t mean you can’t wear makeup or colour your hair, but needles and surgery are radically different and intrusive. Remember, hospitals are rife with Staph. strains for which their are no antibiotics. Both my parents-in-laws died from this after open heart surgery and day surgery (for a skin cancer removal on the ear, not melanoma).

      But as the famous and curvy beauty, Zsa Zsa Gabor once said, “A lady of a certain age must choose between her face or her figure – I have chosen the face”, as she batted her false eyelashes on her lovely plump cheeks.

    • 0

      Well said, Janran. Let’s get rid of the pressure for beauty and enjoy being ourselves.

  5. 0

    Goodness! I had a face lift because I looked awful and I wanted to look my best FOR MYSELF! And it did not turn me into an oil painting, I can tell you. While there may be some women out there who think that cosmetic surgery will help them “catch” a man, a good many women have nips and tucks to make the best of themselves for themselves.

    Nobody can hide their true self behind a mask of make-up or surgery. Some men may be looking for a “trophy” woman to prop up their own egos. Most, when they reach the age of maturity are much more interested in a woman’s personality, her values and how many things she may have in common with them.

    • 0

      I’m sure you’re a gem, Maggie, and your great personality and wisdom shines through in your words.

      Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not knocking people for getting cosmetic surgery – I just want to warn them that it isn’t the answer to their problems or to making them happy. Happiness is yours for the taking, but sometimes it involves effort and hard work, like exercise, seeing yourself truthfully and eating well. I think cosmetic surgery is a short term shortcut. And sometimes it goes horribly and tragically wrong.

  6. 0

    If you were unhappy for years in your marriage why would you have two very young children?

  7. 0

    I worked for a plastic and cosmetic surgeon for many, many years. The people having cosmetic surgery were always having it for themselves, not “to get a man” as some here have suggested. “A nose job” was very common and what a difference it made to the self esteem of the person having the op done. Eyelid surgery made them look far less tired and with some the heavy eyelids had been interfering with their sight. Facelifts made a huge difference to the esteem of those having it done. The ageing heavy wrinkles, the saggy jawline – gone. Now I don’t mean looking like Sharon Osbourne who has had so much done and so tightly that she looks like her face will crack at any moment.
    Now to breast reduction. The most wonderful operation surely. The patients would have BIG breasts, huge dents in their shoulders, suffer from constant headaches and sore backs. Bras would cost a fortune as many had to have them made to fit. Can you imagine being 21 years old and having a size K bra? No searching for things under the bed, no jogging or running. Exercise painful ++.
    As for the ridiculous comment that these people are taking the beds of people wanting to have knee replacements etc. Well you obviously don’t realise that it is a different type of surgeon, with different allotted beds at a hospital. Cosmetic surgery is not done in public hospitals either.
    As for infections etc. there is a risk with any operation.
    Would I have a procedure done – in a heartbeat if I could afford it. Unfortunately my old boss is no longer with us, having gone on to the great surgery in the sky.

    • 0

      Thank you Arisaid, I was getting tired of writing and you have now sorted the points about beds in hospitals etc too.

      Let us not forget the very gifted surgeons who also do reconstructive surgeryfor badly burned people, victims of abuse, people with birth defects etc.

    • 0

      As I said earlier, I’m not knocking people for getting cosmetic surgery – I just want to warn them that it isn’t the answer to their problems or to making them happy. Be aware of the risks – sometimes it goes horribly and tragically wrong.

      Obviously there are very legitimate reasons for some people to have cosmetic surgery. But is it fair that only rich people can access it? And is it fair that many rich people have it done continuously for the rest of their lives? Many of these instances are just people being in denial that they are ageing. It is simply vanity and could very well be described as frivolous.

      Can I also acknowledge the cowardly husbands who abandon their wives and children, simply because they want a younger woman. These men are the cause of so much grief and family disruption across the nation. They are creating the ugly meat market that occurs when there is an over-supply of middle-aged women looking for decent partners. As the author of the article said, all the decent men their age have stayed married to their wives, so the pressure is on to seek younger, as yet unmarried men.

    • 0

      Janran from what I observed over many years and many many people it does make them happier. Yes sometimes things go wrong, but very rarely if you have a fully qualified surgeon do the surgery. (Not some quack in Mexico.) The risks from a suitably qualified surgeon will ALWAYS point out the risks involved – whatever type of surgery you are having. You may think it is simple vanity but it isn’t, and certainly isn’t frivolous. Would you suggest that reconstructive surgery (which my old boss also did) is frivolous too? Certainly it is cosmetic. I can assure you that not only ‘rich’ people get cosmetic work done. It is people from all economic stratas.
      If “many rich people have it done continuously for the rest of their lives” so what, it is their money they are spending. Not your money.
      Some people go to the hairdresser every week, do you consider that vanity and frivolous too?
      I remove leg and underarm hair is that vanity and frivolous too?
      I wear glasses so that I can see better, is that vanity and frivolous too?
      I could add to this such as those who exercise every day, are obsessive about their diet etc. Everything in moderation I say.

    • 0

      Wearing glasses to see cannot compare, you could wear contact lenses too.



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