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In this video, Chelsea dives into the epidemic of "Instagram face," the rise in spending on cosmetic procedures, and how fillers and other procedures are interfering with our perception of "normal."

Script by Ryan Houlihan

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Hey, guys.

It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet. And this week's video is sponsored by Fabulous.

I've teamed up with Fabulous, the number one self-care app to help you build better habits and achieve your goals. And the first 100 people who click on the link in the description will get 25% off a Fabulous subscription. So as some of you might know, I have been on a journey recently to eat less sugar because I was definitely addicted.

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And today, we are here to talk about serving face. Some of you guys may have seen a few recent videos that we've done, including this one, which is one of our most popular videos of the past year all about how celebrities and influencers are gaslighting the general population about how they achieve their age defying beauty standards, and often are selling their bogus snake oil products in the process. I'm looking at you, J.

Lo. You might have also seen our video about the Kardashians, who have basically ushered in an entirely new era of female beauty standards, which, they, themselves cannot even regularly attain and are trying a hard pivot away from now that they've somewhat gone out of style. And something that really connects these two videos and is a topic that I think is really underexplored when it comes to some of our consumer choices and the messaging we're receiving, especially as women, who do make up the majority of TFD viewers-- although, hey, boys, I know you're out there.

And this does affect you too. We'll talk about it-- and that is "The Rise Of The uncanny valley Instagram Face," and all of the various injectables that don't just make it possible, but are often necessary to achieving it. Combined with the almost ubiquitous use of filters on apps like Instagram and TikTok, in a very short span of time human beauty standards, especially for women, have gone from something that is pretty unattainable to most people to not even really based on what human faces look like.

Now, I want to caveat all of this video to say that I have zero problem with cosmetic treatments of any kind that you want to undergo for any reason. It's a totally personal choice. And as I've said before on this channel, I've undergone some of them myself.

In addition to being someone who has to stare at her own face in 4K on a biweekly basis, which the number that's probably done on my psyche. Thanks, YouTube. I'm also someone who my entire life has struggled with skin problems.

I have acne. I have rosacea. I have pretty serious scarring from the cystic acne I had as a teenager.

And I have worked with a cosmetic dermatologist to help some of that. I've done laser treatments. I've had Botox in my masseter jaw.

I've had hyaluronic acid injections. I have done some of the things that we're going to talk about here. And while for me it's important to achieve the self-confidence results I do from some of these procedures, full disclosure, I've literally burst into tears in my dermatologist office because I was so happy with some of the results I saw after years of being so uncomfortable about my skin.

I, also, like everyone else, have to ride the line between wanting to look my best and wanting to fit into an ideal that is neither realistic for my face structure nor compatible with my age and the process of existing in a human body. And as I've mentioned before, I have a pretty hard and fast rule of only following influencers over the age of 50. And when it comes to skin care and cosmetic stuff, that rule is doubly important for me.

I'll link you in the description to a few YouTubers that I like to follow who shared their sort of aging gracefully with a little help tips in a way that I found honestly really interesting to watch and admirable for them to be so candid. Plus, they're gorgeous gals. There's no one right or wrong answer.

But as we covered thoroughly in the celebrity gaslighting video, the most important first step is honesty about what people are actually doing to achieve these results and what it actually costs to get there. Now, let's get into it. First and foremost, every person should have the right to choose what cosmetic procedures they're comfortable with or desire.

And that's really no one's business. And it's important to note how often classism will intersect with what we consider normal or acceptable beauty treatments versus ones that aren't. For example, if you grew up with money, chances are you probably had braces if you had superficial crookedness in your teeth, which didn't affect your bite at all, but maybe didn't look amazing at a job interview.

Or if you were wealthy and had acne growing up you probably had access to some of the best dermatological procedures. And it's important to remember that what is normalized culture to culture completely varies. For example, in certain countries like Iran, getting rhinoplasty is almost a rite of passage.

Or in South Korea, skincare is something of a national sport, often involving many dermatological treatments. And as the all powerful Cher once said "if I want to put tits on my back, it's my business." But what's very important to remember with the fact that it is your business, is that when it comes to cosmetic procedures, it is also very much big business. Part one, from Barbie to Bratz.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that Americans spent $16.7 billion on cosmetic surgery last year-- a record high. And the dermal filler market is projected to grow from $3.07 billion in 2021 to $6.28 billion in 2028 at a compound annual growth rate of 10.8%. And these enormous markets represent the outsize emphasis placed on physical beauty in American society.

Now, the Sisyphean pursuit of a perfect beauty standard is not new. The ancient Greeks had the "Golden Ratio" in an attempt to mathematically define ideal beauty. And it is still in many ways in use by beauty professionals to this day.

Now, the bulk of scientific research on physical attractiveness has been conducted in Western studies with Western participants. So these results are skewed to represent that. But that research has found that human beings, on the whole, prefer large eyes, high cheekbones, a small nose, a large smile, and a small chin.

And this look is perhaps most recognized in American society when paired with other features we've more recently fetishized, such as thinness, youth, and light-- but not too light-- skin. And for, perhaps, the example of this, we can look to feminism's old reliable example-- Barbie. First modeled after a German sex toy for men looking to undress a tiny fake woman.

Seriously, look it up. That's real. Barbie burst onto the scene for children in 1959.

Young, blonde, perfectly symmetrical, with unimaginable proportions and endless wealth, Barbie has long occupied the cultural space of the ideal independent American woman under capitalism. But following her rise in dominance in the latter half of the 20th century, Barbie's ideal face was usurped by a competitor product-- the Bratz doll. While Barbie's recipe of symmetry, proportions, wealth, and whiteness were impossible to produce in nature, the Bratz took things even further.

The dolls featured a variety of ethnicities with massively oversized eyes, unnaturally plumped lips, and high cheekbones all balanced on impossibly slender frames. With them, the beauty standard went from uncanny and aspirational to completely unachievable. Now, while the Bratz did represent a level of democratization in terms of representing women of different ethnic backgrounds in their dolls, through their increasingly unachievable and unrealistic beauty representations, the impact was largely spreading those negative self-images across the races that they represented.

And in the process, creating a kind of unified beauty standard across them. And it is impossible to say when one beauty trend fades and another one begins. But it's pretty accurate to say that by the end of the 20th century and into the beginning of the 21st, what we were obsessed with in female beauty was starting to look closer to a Bratz doll than a Barbie.

Part two, from plastic surgery to injectables. As Jia Tolentino wrote in The New Yorker "For those born with assets-- natural assets, capital assets, or both-- it can seem sensible, even automatic, to think of your body the way that a McKinsey consultant would think about a corporation. You identify underperforming sectors and you remake them, discard whatever doesn't increase profits and reorient the business towards whatever does." But from the first turn of the 20th century facelifts to at-home laser treatments that are now available, plastic surgery and cosmetic technology have evolved enormously over time.

Because of technical advancements, plastic surgery has often followed a trend from subtle to dramatic, testing the limits of what we can scientifically accomplish for patients and ourselves before swinging back to subtle as we make choices more suited to our individual appearances instead of wanting to maximize effects just for the sake of maximizing them. For example, the first nose jobs existed to remove bumps or correct physical deformities. And eventually, fashion dictated the ski slope nose of the '70s, '80s, and '90s.

Popular with celebrities like Jennifer Gray and LaToya Jackson, this was the plastic surgery norm before we settled into our current trend-- the "your nose but smaller look". Think, Ryan Gosling, Ariana Grande, or Beyonce-- all alleged. And while surgical interventions are no longer the only option, financially they are still an option that many people are pursuing despite their enormous cost.

People today pay an average of $8,000 for a facelift, according to 2020 statistics. Though, reports estimate that many wealthier people are regularly paying nearly $250,000 for a single facelift. According to The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, other alternatives to fillers can cost $1,400 to $2,500 per treatment for laser skin resurfacing, $740 to $7,500 per treatment for various types of skin tightening, $400 to $2,500 per treatment for non-invasive collagen stimulation, $500 per treatment for chemical peels-- all of which require multiple maintenance sessions to maintain or even achieve-- $2,300 to $3,500 for "one time" facial implants which need to be replaced each decade, or $5,000 for one-time fat grafting.

But when it comes to achieving our particular moment of beauty standards and the "Instagram Face," which has become the reflection through which many young women see themselves via the overuse of things like fillers, as well as the celebrities and influencers we've discussed who are constantly bombarding their feeds while not disclosing their treatments, few things have made this as ostensibly achievable and universally quite costly as the rise of injectables. Historically, there are a variety of injectable cosmetic products. The first and still the most popular of which were neurotoxins, like Botox that prevent muscles, often in the face, from flexing, thus preventing the formation of wrinkles on the skin.

And for reference, Botox and other similar products regularly run the average customer about $446 per full treatment. It should be noted that Botox has also recently become quite popular in making other small alterations to the face besides just preventing wrinkles-- things like subtly flipping up a lip or lifting a brow. And the relative affordability and convenience of Botox has exploded into a $3.41 billion market in 2021.

And Botox has only found itself even more appealing when paired with volumizing products since the introduction of fillers. Fillers are often employed to create scaffolding to hold the skin in place where bone, fat, or collagen may have naturally occurred-- or in the case of people trying to achieve an increasingly unrealistic look where these things may not have naturally occurred. And in addition to being less invasive than other procedures, as well as more affordable in some instances, injectables also have a very specific social connotation with many people feeling like, well, this isn't really plastic surgery, which often carries a stigma.

As I mentioned earlier, the line between which treatments and cosmetic adjustments and improvements we consider socially acceptable, if not the norm versus the ones we don't, are often incredibly blurry and culturally defined. And part of the reason I'm personally very committed to being transparent about the things I've done is because I think aside from the fact that it's important to demystify these things and be honest about ourselves, it's also important to remind ourselves that the lines that we all draw about our own personal beauty standards and procedures are ultimately pretty damn arbitrary, especially in a context where our beauty standards are constantly shifting beneath our feet and people wonder why they're not able to keep up when everyone around them is lying. Part three, The Rise Of The Injected Instagram Face.

First appearing on the faces of the Upper East Side and on stars like Madonna, the Olsen twins, and Naomi Campbell, the post Y2K phenomenon of facial filler was deemed the "New New Face" by Jonathan Van Meter in "About Face," a landmark article in the August 28 issue of New York Magazine. Van Meter describes this new look as having "big ol' baby faces" with "big crazy doll eyes and plush lips" paired with "wiry little bodies" produced by "yoga, pilates, and the treadmill." And innovations in facial filler led to trends like Kylie Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Chrissy Teigen creating unnatural, but highly coveted features before beginning trends we're starting to see now, such as "preventative" Botox and filler, which is not meant to be noticeable to an untrained eye. And while we're still reshaping our jaw lines and our cheekbones with filler, today's products-- like the hyaluronic acid-based Profhilo-- are used for extremely subtle aesthetic changes, like softening, skin creating a "glow" or subtly preventing wrinkles.

And because they're much harder to spot, these products are far, far more common in media than anyone in Hollywood or New York would ever let on. "So many celebs are lying, and it's making people feel less than," says Dr. Jacono to Harper's Bazaar in 2021's "The Return of the Face Lift". They can do it because while "good work flies under the radar, bad work announces itself 25 paces away." And with many of the filters that young women and girls are using as a rule on these various social media apps, replicating the effect of many of these injectables and procedures, the idea that you begin to compare your face not just to the standard of some gorgeous celebrity, but what your own face looks like in the reflection on your phone, becomes a serious issue.

And often the difference between what we think are people who have totally natural faces but have been getting a lot of this work done versus people who clearly have a very uncanny valley look about them, if not outright botched, is the difference between attempting to restore or preserve your own facial features versus changing your own facial features. The latter of which becomes almost inevitable when you're comparing your own face to an artificial reflection of it, which brings us to Part four, The Injectable Class System. Now, the massive uptick in popularity of this specific facial type and the injectables that almost necessitates, as well as their overuse amongst the celebrity and influencer class, has created a huge boom in these practitioners from both the top surgeons and dermatologists to the totally uncertified medspas, or some chick with some needles operating out of her living room.

And when you remember that filler, for example, can cost anywhere from $600 to $2,500 depending on what type is being used per unit, even with wider availability and cheaper options, these procedures are still incredibly cost prohibitive to the average consumer, especially if they're used frequently in combination with each other or for the most subtle customized and individualized results. And a patient can require anywhere from one to two dozen units of filler depending on what look they're aiming to achieve. And a less scrupulous practitioner or someone motivated by money, which unfortunately under capitalism is everyone all the time, might encourage you to go for that upsell on your own face.

And filler and Botox generally last anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the type of the product, your own metabolism, and other factors. But everything from the metabolizing of these injectables to their subsequently fading results to the possible need for correction or removal, in fact, many high end dermatologists will often tell you that a huge percentage of their clients are people coming to them to correct mistakes from unexperienced, unlicensed, or unscrupulous injectors. All of this leads not to just a high initial cost but a huge potential snowballing cost, which many people simply cannot afford.

And this has created a sort of plastic surgery class system where wealthy people can maintain or change their appearance at will with little to no evidence of intervention at earlier ages and long into their retirement. Whereas the poor are left with what nature gave them or more noticeable procedures that they're unable to reverse should they fall out of fashion. Poor people must also contend with having their features begin to change should they ever fall into financial hard times and find themselves unable to maintain treatments, which seems like a bit of salt in the wound.

So what do people do when they can't afford what society and social media all but demands of them? Well, they do what capitalism forces us to do in basically any situation like this, which is charge it, baby. Patients often put elective procedures on their credit card, which is a trap that can push you into debt as you and your face continue to chase youth by racing against the clock and your own bank account for results.

Many providers offer seductive financing options such as care credit, which functions like a specialized credit card specifically for elective medical procedures. These options can obfuscate the true cost of a procedure by breaking them down from thousands and thousands of dollars to simply a few hundred dollars a month over the course of one to 10 years with fees adding substantially to the overall cost. And some medspas have even begun to opt for a subscription-based model that allows patients to either use a certain amount of filler per month, or for a much higher fee opt for what essentially translates to unlimited amounts of product.

These costs can vary from $150 to $2,000 per month, depending on the setting, location, and experience of the injector. And while these costs may look more reasonable and feel much more controlled, they're in fact, just a way for clinics to lower the sticker price on expensive treatments that a customer might think twice about buying in lump sums. And subscription models can also encourage users to use more injectables more frequently, which can distort one's objectivity about their appearance and lead to "filler creep," where people get used to their new appearance and miss the novelty of having more pronounced features. "After facial injections, the brain forgets the previous appearance and our judgment significantly shifts in how we define attractiveness," says Dr.

Kay Durairaj. "The more exposure we have to overly manipulated facial features, the easier it becomes to regard them as what is now attractive." "The Mona Lisa is perceived as beautiful, but show people an augmented version where her lips are 20% more volumized, and more often than not, they like the second version better." And this kind of creeping reality distortion can also lead to body dysmorphia where people lose the ability to be objective about their own appearance and leads often to constant feelings of dissatisfaction, self-hatred, and a whole host of other mental health issues. It should be noted back to the Instagram question that all of these things are heavily worsened by the ubiquity of things like filters, which change your facial features to be more "typically beautiful." And as I mentioned, this is increasingly something that men are not immune from. With the rise of things like superhero movies, the hyper-muscular, ageless, often hairless, and HD perfect vision of the male form has also become a pretty ubiquitous beauty standard with men in their 40s and even 50s regularly having to go through all kinds of regimens and interventions and supplementation's in order to achieve a beauty standard that probably wasn't even realistic for their body when they were 25.

Men are increasingly participating in things like fillers, and Botox, and plastic surgery. They're also regularly getting things like hair transplants, which, like many procedures for women, can be life changing in terms of the confidence that restores and the perception of self it can improve. And all of these things can be good, can be beneficial.

But not when they're based on a beauty standard that was intentionally created to be unachievable, like the one we're constantly seeing on social media. But now that we've seen the class system, it's important to at least touch on Part five, which is the very high cost of going cheap. Now one of the areas where influencers and celebrities are perhaps most culpable in this phenomenon, is the extent to which they are not disclosing how many of these procedures in addition to getting, they're also getting for free.

Before and after photos and the endorsements of social media influencers are basically crucial to the cosmetic procedure business. And many influencers are often getting procedures for free in exchange for posting and raving about the results without explaining things like the risk or cost associated. This is why in addition to never doing sponcon for anything in my personal life, I would never, ever, ever do any kind of free cosmetic procedure or post about it in any kind of sponcon way.

I owe it to myself and to you guys to tell the truth about this mug. So with total obfuscation around what procedures people are actually getting, and beyond that what they cost or if they're being performed entirely for free, it's no wonder that many people are increasingly turning to things like cheap cosmetic tourism and unlicensed practitioners to get these same results, which can be hugely dangerous. Some people are even attempting to perform some of these procedures on themselves at home with products bought from overseas of completely dubious origin.

Plastic surgery tourism in particular has become a rampant trend, with hordes of influencers jetting off for a week to an exotic locale where injectables, plastic surgery, or dental veneers can be acquired on the cheap. And for the average person, everything from MLM participants to people looking to save a little bit of money on a procedure they've been hoping to get are going to countries like Mexico, Turkey, and Thailand to get all kinds of procedures and surgeries for often about half the cost. And this often means that they're sacrificing quality of care, legal protection should you encounter malpractice, any ability to get revision should not be happy with the final result, or your general health at risk by simply traveling while in recovery from a major medical procedure.

And like any medical procedure, injectables like filler come with associated risks and contraindications, all of which are hugely exacerbated in this cheap, cosmetic tourism. Things like acne, scarring, skin necrosis, allergies, vascular compromise, and even blindness can be expensive to treat and have resulted from these dubious injections. In our new podcast debuting a little bit later this year "Too Good To Be True," we have an entire hour long deep dive episode just on cosmetic tourism, which is a much bigger industry than many people think.

And in addition to all the financial woes, have led to many serious health problems, including deaths for people whose desperation for a certain beauty standard sends them to not so great medical practitioners. Now, all of this brings us back to Part six, which is the importance of transparency. As I said in the beginning of this video, I have done some cosmetic skin procedures and probably will continue to do so for, I don't know, the rest of my life.

I don't know, it depends how much money I have. And basically, any time there is some sort of "this celebrity never ages thing" going viral on social media like with Paul Rudd, or recently Anne Hathaway, I always take it upon myself to remind people that if you were an impossibly beautiful and already genetically blessed celebrity with unlimited access to cosmetic dermatologists, and trainers, and nutritionists, and plastic surgeons, and facialists, and everything else these people regularly access, you, too, would look really beautiful. And beyond that, basically everyone in the public eye is getting some kind of procedures, even if it's "just" things like laser treatments and skin resurfacing, which in and of themselves are hugely more impactful than literally years of having a good skin care regimen.

Beyond that, most people with the money to do so and the desire to pursue more subtle improvements are going to be doing a lot of things at once. They'll do microneedling and Thermage and a little Botox and a little Fraxel, and all of these other things which don't neatly fit into "what's your secret." The truth is there are many secrets. And they're usually just a question of money.

And again, for many people, these cosmetic changes can be life changing in terms of self-confidence or even just like [BLEEP] enjoying life. Just this tiny anecdote. But the other day, I was out with this woman who is in like in her early 60s.

I know her through some people. And she had the most beautiful skin. I mean, she definitely looked like an older woman.

But she maybe looked like late 40s, but not at all like nipped and tucked, or whatever. Like, she just looked gorgeous. Like fresh, like just born with that skin.

And I was like, do you mind if I ask like what your skin care routine is? And she was like, oh, girl. She was like Botox here, here, just like once every other year, basically, or once every year, I do like a Fraxel laser once a year, I do like a tretinoin every night.

She like just went down the list of these are the cosmetic procedures I get done or that I do at home, and I [BLEEP] look great. And I was like, bless you. Do you know how many gaslighting [BLEEP] women in your place would be like I just drink a lot of water and I eat a Mediterranean diet.

Transparency is incredible. But transparency isn't just about sharing something over a dinner when someone asks you your skin care routine. It's also things like influencers properly labeling sponcon, or celebrities disclosing when that week they spent out of the public eye was when they were recovering from a mini facelift. "In an era that values authenticity, why not talk about plastic surgery," asked Jancee Dunn in a 2021 piece entitled "The New Plastic Surgery Trend is Bragging About It." Wait, am I trendy?

But beyond transparency with others, it's also important to be transparent with ourselves about what is realistic. The truth is that all of the plastic surgery and good skin care and injectables are not going to stop you from aging and your face and body changing over time. This is just the reality of gravity and human life.

And aging itself is an enormous privilege. And it's not afforded to everyone. So while it is important to be transparent, it's also important to be realistic that all of this is nice to have, not need to have.

And our expectations, if we want to go down this road, should be aligned with looking like a fresh well-rested version of yourself and not like a 23-year-old influencer on Instagram. So in order to manage things like cost, as well as that perception creep we talked about earlier, which can lead to things like body dysmorphia, it's very important to also treat these improvements to physical beauty as mental health treatments, which for many of us they often are. Things like journaling, speaking with a therapist if you can access one, taking regular photos that allow you to see yourself honestly, and really taking note of how your mental health is impacted is incredibly important.

At the end of the day, this should be about how you feel on the inside, not about how someone else looks at you. It's also crucially important to form a budget and stick with it so that even the most dedicated practitioner who's trying to upsell you is not going to be able to convince you to do so once you're already in the room. We also recommend getting things like multiple consultations from different treatment providers so that you can have a few opinions to compare, as well as taking time before committing to a procedure.

At the end of the day, any cosmetic intervention from braces to hair transplants to Botox are up to the person who wants to pursue them. But being honest about these things with each other and about ourselves is one of the best tools we have to fight against this constantly changing and hyper unrealistic version of beauty so many of us are being taught to pursue. And as always, guys, thank you for watching and don't forget to hit the Subscribe button and the Join button and to come back every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for new and awesome videos.