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A Continuum

As discussed in the previous section, cosmetic surgery has been normalised in various ways, which may lead to the view that cosmetic procedures and beauty products/services are part of a continuum. The conceptual connection between cosmetic procedures and other beauty products/services operates in two ways. On the one hand, medical procedures are presented as similar - or even identical - to non-medical beauty products and services, whereas, on the other hand, beauty products and services are increasingly drawing on medical discourse.

In line with the concept of medicalisation, natural processes of life have been redefined and “treated as medical problems, usually in terms of illnesses or disorders” (Conrad 1992: 209). This ‘redefinition’ is mainly constructed discursively, is driven by commercial and market interests, and “depends on the effective use of multi-semiotic means to construct new illnesses and convince people that they will benefit from treatment” (Harvey 2013: 692). A clear example of medicalisation can be found in the discourse of adverts for skincare. In her study of skin cream adverts published in a lifestyle magazine targeted at middle-aged women, Smirnova (2012: 1241), for instance, observed that adverts constructed ageing as a “disease”, “implying that there is something wrong with the ageing body that needs to be fixed”. A different study of women’s lifestyle magazines, conducted by Polonijo and Carpiano (2008: 467), also noted that appearance was defined in a manner consistent with a “medicalisation framework”, as medical professionals were introduced as experts on beauty.

Paradoxically, whereas adverts for beauty products are increasingly drawing on scientific and/or medical discourses, advertising for cosmetic procedures has traditionally been reluctant to draw attention to its medical side; rather, cosmetic procedures have been framed across media “as a beauty technique like others...” (Woodstock 2001: 437)10. An American TV advert for Botox, for example, described the product as “Botox cosmetic”, presenting it as “[no] different from mascara and blush” (Bordo 2003: B7). Moreover, the growth in non-surgical cosmetic procedures, which can be performed in traditional beauty salons11, and the rise of cosmeceuticals, which are sold in both beauty salons and cosmetic surgery clinics, has led to a blurring between the beauty and cosmetic surgery industries (Mintel Essentials 2006; Worth 2009). This trend towards ‘blurring the boundaries’ between beauty salons and clinics offering cosmetic procedures has been celebrated by Aesthetics magazine (2009), a UK journal for medical aesthetic professionals, as the alignment of cosmetic procedures with ‘regular’ beauty practices encourages acceptance of the medical aesthetic market.

Far from being incidental, the cosmetic surgery industry has made a conscious effort to align itself with the beauty industry. In a report on the cosmetic surgery market, Mintel (2006: 45) commented that the market needed to reposition itself; by “[becoming] more closely related to subtle and risk-free enhancement”, cosmetic surgery would become associated with maintenance, which would lead to increased consumer acceptance and uptake of procedures (ibid: 35). Moreover, several professionals within the industry have also explicitly spoken out in favour of presenting cosmetic procedures alongside (other) beauty products and services. Russell Place, on behalf of Juvederm ULTRA®, for instance, advocated blurring boundaries in his entry for the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s Effectiveness Award 2010 (Place 2010). In his report, Place states that “[we] wanted to convince our target [audience] that starting a programme of Juvederm ULTRA® was no different to making any other fashion or beauty decision” by “firmly [placing] Juvederm ULTRA® in the same frame as any desirable fashion or beauty brand”. In order to achieve this, an advertising campaign was designed that “[communicated] in the style characterised by a high end [s/c] fashion or beauty brand”, which “[borrowed] the values, aspiration and personal nature of the advertising environment” (ibid). Moreover, by publishing the adverts in close proximity to beauty or fashion editorials in lifestyle magazines that shared editorial affinity, the normality of cosmetic procedures was accentuated.

I will return to some of the ideas discussed in this section when I explore how cosmetic procedures and beauty products/services may be presented as belonging on a continuum in both the broad and core magazine corpora. Moreover, I will elaborate on the policy implications of the continuum view of cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products/services in the final chapter.

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