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Continuum View

As this chapter has focused on the idea of a ‘blurred boundary’, some form of boundary between cosmetic procedures and beauty products/ser- vices has been presupposed. However, as stated in the introduction to this chapter, a discussion of ‘blurred boundaries’ must include a consideration of whether a boundary exists and, if it does, how this boundary can be defined. This section explores the question in more depth as it considers the concept of a continuum which includes both cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products and services. Moreover, the concept of a ‘boundary’ is examined.

Supporting the idea of a continuum, Olesen and Olesen (2005: 12) have criticised the strict division between cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products and treatments in Cosmetic Surgery for Dummies, arguing that these procedures have merely taken the idea of “enhancing personal beauty” to a different level. Related to this view is the idea of technological incrementalism as adopted by Smirnova (2012: 1237)6, which “describes the process by which the use of less-invasive (or less ‘serious’) treatments [or products] by consumers pave the way for more invasive procedures (and vice versa), thus constituting all of these products and procedures as nodes along a continuum”. In this explanation, the use of beauty products such as mascara and foundation belongs on a continuum with cosmetic procedures7.

As explored earlier, several studies on (the reception of) cosmetic procedures have found that procedures have become normalised to such a degree that people - predominantly women - compare cosmetic procedures to ‘other’ “matters of maintenance” such as going to the hairdresser’s (Weinstein in Gilman 1999), buying clothes, and/or getting a mani- or pedicure (Garnham 2013: 44). Interestingly, the continuum view of cosmetic surgery is also present in academic discussions of cosmetic procedures. In her study of both marketing materials for cosmetic surgery and ethnographic accounts by women who have undergone breast surgery, Sanchez Taylor (2012: 464), for example, argues that “[some women] choose surgery simply because it is affordable, readily available, fashionable, and so increasingly ‘normal’ to consume surgery in the same way that other beauty and fashion products and services are consumed”. Although the author distances herself from the normality associated with the cosmetic industry by putting ‘normal’ in scare quotes, she (unintentionally) links surgery to beauty and fashion products by using the word ‘other’. A similar example can be found in work by Conrad and Jacobson (2003: 230) as the authors describe cosmetic surgery to be at “the extreme end of the wide spectrum of beauty practices meant to deal with ‘abnormality’” (my emphasis).

In addition to the adoption of the continuum view in industry-led and academic literatures, the presentation of cosmetic procedures as somehow similar to beauty products/services is - perhaps unwittingly - reinforced by some regulatory institutions. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), which writes and maintains the Advertising Codes that regulate advertising in the UK, for example, has advanced the idea that cosmetic procedures and beauty products are comparable by issuing only one guideline for advertising for “medicines, medical services, health-related products and beauty products” (my emphasis). However, it does need to be noted here that CAP published specific “guidance on the marketing of surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures” at the start of 2016.

The above examples have demonstrated how cosmetic procedures and beauty products/services may be presented as belonging to a continuum. However, although rarely considered, it is important to explore the reasoning behind and the validity of assuming such a continuum.

A potential explanation for the idea of a continuum relates to the pharmaceutical and/or healthcare background of several beauty brands. As reports by marketing intelligence service WARC show, various beauty conglomerates - e.g. Johnson Sc Johnson - have “roots in healthcare” (WARC 2015a: 7) or are “dermatologically aligned” (WARC 2015b: 32). Vichy Laboratoires - owned by L’Oreal - for example, was established by a physician in 1931 and its products are still widely available in pharmacies. Other beauty products, for example by Eucerin and La Roche- Posay, are also sold in pharmacies, which emphasises that they are similar to - or on a continuum with - the healthcare products these outlets provide. Moreover, retailers such as Boots and Superdrug further the idea of a continuum between beauty and medical products as they sell both medical supplies and beauty products. Interestingly, as of August 2016, Superdrug has been offering facial fillers as part of a ‘Skin Renew Service’ in one of its major London stores. The decision to offer fillers in-store attracted a lot of criticism and in January 2019, Superdrug stated that it will conduct “enhanced screening” for signs of body dysmorphic disorder before treating customers (cf. Campbell 2019). Although this screening process has been lauded by NHS Medical Director Stephen Powis as a step in the right direction, the question remains whether Superdrug’s nurses are qualified to conduct the screening and what happens to patients’ personal data.

In addition to some of the beauty brands’ health-related backgrounds and the mixed retail outlets which combine the sale of healthcare and beauty products, perhaps the most important reason for assuming a continuum relates to the underlying reasons for participating in beauty practices. As Jones (2008: 35) has explained, cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products and services are both “connected to ideas about self-love, body-maintenance and psychological wellbeing”. This idea that self-love and psychological well-being can be achieved through beauty work has been contested, particularly by feminist scholarship concerned with how women are targeted by the beauty market (e.g. see Gill 2006; Lazar 2006, and Orbach 2009).

Although similarities can be observed across cosmetic procedures and beauty products/services, various authors have pointed at the different actuality of undergoing a cosmetic procedure and the (relative) permanence of it, as will be explored in the next section.

 
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