With little more than the prick of a needle, wrinkles disappear and cheeks are plumped until they are round and youthful.
If recent industry figures are to be believed, Australians are parting with more than half a billion dollars each year on minimally invasive cosmetic procedures such as Botox and dermal fillers.
And they are spending at least the same amount again on other, more complex surgeries, such as breast implants and liposuction.
The Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia (CPSA), which represents registered medical practitioners, estimates that $645 million was spent in Australia on non-surgical treatments in the year to April 2012.
This compared to $300 million five years ago, according to the organisation’s survey of its members and product suppliers.
Despite a lack of nationally coordinated data, figures by another industry body, the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery (ACCS), point to a similar result.
The college estimated that Australians spent about $225 million in 2011 on Botox procedures alone.
ACCS secretary Dr Russell Knudsen said taking into account dermal fillers, a significant growth area, the figures would likely stretch into the half-a-billion-dollar range.
‘There’s no doubt that the biggest growth in cosmetic procedures in the last five years has been around the minimally invasive injectible field,’ Dr Knudsen told AAP.
Dr Knudsen says dermal fillers, which volumise the skin, have become increasingly popular as an alternative to surgical facelifts.
The fillers, which commonly use biodegradable material injected into the skin, achieve more natural results than facelifts which involved stretching sagging skin, he says.
‘It’s less invasive, but it’s actually a better result,’ he says.
Costly surgical procedures such as liposuction and breast implants would lift cosmetic surgery spending into the $1 billion-plus range, Dr Knudsen says.
This is in keeping with an IbisWorld study released in December, which estimated that Australians would spend about $850 million on plastic surgery such as breast implants and liposuction in 2011/2012, and about $560 million on cosmetic procedures.
In comparison, about $3.8 billion was expected to be spent on hairdressing and beauty, and $1.6 billion on gym memberships.
CPSA President Dr Gabrielle Caswell said improvements in technology, including laser treatments, were also contributing to the increased spending on cosmetic surgery.
She believes the level of sun damage in Australia is another driving force behind the level of cosmetic surgery take up.
‘There’s been a phenomenal growth in the filler side, but we still use a lot of the anti-wrinkle drugs because of sun damage,’ Dr Caswell told AAP.
‘Australia wouldn’t have such an uptake of this technology if we didn’t have the sun damage in the first place.’
New laser technology to improve the tone and texture of the skin is another factor, she says.
‘What used to cost $15,000 and take three weeks downtime and a general anaesthetic is now a walk-in, walk-out procedure and heals in a week,’ Dr Caswell says.
Brisbane mother Christine, 42, says she first decided to try Botox and filler injections 10 years ago because she felt she had aged after the birth of her daughter.
‘I didn’t look wrinkly…I just wanted to look fresh again,’ she tells AAP.
‘So I went for purely vanity reasons.’
Christine says her skin had also been damaged by acne scarring.
Botox and filler treatments made a huge difference, she says.
‘After my initial treatment I felt absolutely fantastic, loved the result. Not one person said to me, have you had something done’?’
She later had laser treatment to improve her scarred skin, which took longer and was more painful than the injectible treatments.
Christine has Botox injections every six months, spending about $600 each time. she estimates she spends about $2000 a year on cosmetic treatments.
University of Technology Sydney academic Dr Meredith Jones is the author of two books on the cosmetic surgery phenomenon, Skintight: An Anatomy of Cosmetic Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer.
She says the spending upsurge on non-surgical cosmetic treatments exists partly because the technology has only emerged in the past 10 years.
But she also points to a cultural shift which may be changing society’s perceptions of what and who is beautiful.
‘It’s moved from something that used to be reserved for the rich and narcissistic, to now being something that people see as just a part of good grooming,’ she tells AAP.
‘We live in a culture where our ideal faces, the faces of the most beautiful movie stars, the most beautiful models, their faces and bodies are bodies that often have been adjusted with cosmetic surgery.
‘We almost define beauty now as a cosmetic surgery aesthetic.
‘Twenty-five years ago it was a kind of beauty that someone was born with. Now it’s a beauty that you can have manufactured, that you can pay for.’
Non-surgical treatments, she says, are the high street’ version of cosmetic surgery, accessible at a relatively low one-off cost to the average consumer.
Dr Knudsen says the growth experienced in the cosmetic surgery industry in the past decade is unlikely to be sustainable.
Although non-surgical procedures have continued to be popular in Australia in the wake of the GFC, he points to a potential slowing down in the near future.
‘I wouldn’t be surprised if we see between now and next year … that maybe the market will keep increasing but I doubt it it’s going to increase at the rate it’s been increasing over the last few years.’
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