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Despite the reasons for the adoption of a continuum on which cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products can be placed, several arguments that support a distinction or at least a dissimilitude between the two have been put forward. One of these arguments was proposed by Paul Sweetman (2000) who, like Featherstone (2000,2007), classifies cosmetic surgery as a body modification practice alongside tattoos and piercings8. According to Sweetman (2000: 62), one major distinction between body modification practices and other “free-floating commodities” relates to the former’s “physicality of ... production”. In other words, tattoos, piercings, and cosmetic procedures all require a process and cannot be bought as an end product - they “demand one’s presence as producer, consumer and living frame for the corporeal artefact thus required” and are part of the body “rather than simply an adjunct to it” (emphasis in original, ibid: 64). Whereas Sweetman’s argument may sound convincing, it must be questioned here whether he does not merely describe the difference between products and services relating to the body - getting a haircut or receiving a massage, although perhaps more temporary, also demand one’s presence in much the same way as body modification practices but instinctively may feel different from going under the knife, syringe or laser. Perhaps the difference between cosmetic procedures and beauty products and services relates to the former’s penetration of the skin by a medical instrument in some form and the (desired) medical training that is required to perform a cosmetic procedure9.
Some other, perhaps more obvious, differences between cosmetic products/services and cosmetic procedures that have often been presented relate to expense and risk. Concerned about marketing materials’ minimisation - or even total disregard - of risk, several industry-led organisations have introduced campaigns to emphasise the reality of cosmetic procedures and the risks they may carry. The British Association for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), for example, launched an advertising campaign in 2008 which featured a picture of a ‘life-sized’ black and white scalpel in order to “get people to stop and consider carefully what’s involved, to ensure safe and happy outcomes” (Douglas McGeorge, former president of BAAPS, in BAAPS 2009). More recently, Save Face launched a campaign on the London Underground in 2015, urging people to choose an accredited physician in order to be “safe, not
Вtuning Boundaries 131
Figure 7.5 Save Face campaign in Elle, broad corpus, September 2015: 397 ©Save Face.
sorry” (see Figure 7.5). A different advert belonging to the same campaign was later also published in a select number of women’s lifestyle magazines.
In addition to differences in price point and risk, the (semi-) permanence of cosmetic procedures also sets them apart from (other) beauty products and/or treatments (cf. Hennink-Kaminski & Reichert 2011: 42). Echoing Schouten (1991), Ogilvie and Mizerski (2011: 660) capture this difference well when they note:
[M]akeup represents an inexpensive and non-permanent means of ‘trying on’ a new image and testing society’s response to it. Unlike more permanent plastic surgery procedures, it offers a quick retreat should the new image not meet with approval or be congruent with the image the individual is trying to create.
A final point to make with regard to the distinction between cosmetic procedures and beauty products/services relates to people’s perception. Returning to earlier observations on the perceived normality of cosmetic procedures, it must be reiterated that most of the studies which found that people increasingly thought of cosmetic procedures as a ‘matter of maintenance’ were conducted in North America or Australia. Moreover, a recent publication on the use of Botox in the US by Berkowitz (2017: 129) points out that most women make a distinction between ‘normal’, or even normative, beauty techniques and non-invasive procedures: “for some women, Botox is situated within the standards of concealer, but for most others, it does not fit within the normative realm”.
In line with Berkowitz’s findings, and despite the industry’s active attempt to align itself with ‘other’ beauty treatments, several - slightly dated - market research reports have found that people in the UK still perceive a distinction between (non-) surgical cosmetic procedures and beauty products and services. Mintel (2006: 32), for example, found that
with regard to the concept of the complete makeover, the UK masses have embraced the elements of beauty treatments such spray tanning [sic], sun beds, highlighting, manicures, facials and body treatments ... But currently the concept of surgery still appears to be one step too far.
The issue of the perception of the cosmetic surgery market - particularly relating to the blurring of cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products and services - will be explored in more depth in the last section of this chapter, which discusses some of the results of the focus group conducted with six female readers of various lifestyle magazines.
‘Boundary’ - a Concept
Before analysing the female focus group data, it is useful to provide a short overview of how ‘boundaries’ are constructed and understood in general. The problematic nature of distinguishing boundaries has been acknowledged across the literature, particularly from a philosophical standpoint. Varzi (2013), for example, has argued that, although the concept is “central to the common-sense picture of the world”, it is highly problematic as “it may be observed that ordinary objects and events, as well as the extensions of many ordinary concepts, may have boundaries that are in some sense fuzzy or indeterminate” (also see Smith and Medin 1981: 1-2). ‘Fiat boundaries’ - “which exist only in virtue of the different sorts of demarcations effected cognitively by human beings” (Smith 2001: 135) - are particularly hard to define as they are socially constructed and may vary across times and cultures (cf. Rosch 1999:189-190). Moreover, although concepts may have prototypes, a concept is generally not fixed and may adapt over time to include new examples10.
In light of these observations, the main question of this chapter becomes whether cosmetic procedures can be categorised under the wider concept of ‘beauty products and services’ or if we should adopt the concept of a boundary and acknowledge its fuzziness and indeterminacy. Following Wittgenstein’s (1980: 108e) argument that “it is unnatural to draw a conceptual boundary line where there is not some special justification for it, where similarities would constantly draw us across the arbitrarily drawn line”, a clear justification needs to be offered in order to support the distinction between cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products and/or services. I will come back to this discussion in the final chapter.