Dismantling the stigma of aesthetic treatments

The power of choice: Sheila Nguyen, Ahmed El Muntstar and Sallie Berkerey dive into the topic of women’s experiences with societal judgements based on their appearance.

The results of a global survey exploring women’s attitudes towards judgement, power and the use of dermal fillers have been released, and make for interesting reading.

Released in March 2023, the survey involved more than 10,000 female-identifying women aged 18 years and older from the UK, Germany, Spain, Mexico, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, indicating that people worldwide face similar judgments.

The survey, conducted by Sinclair Pharma for Maili, revealed that 97% of women believe that they face judgement for the way they look. Sinclair’s #SayNoToJudgement campaign was shaped by the study’s findings, which revealed that all respondents valued appearance autonomy and the freedom from judgement. A significant 90% believed women should have the right to make choices about their appearance.

The study also highlighted the UK population’s heightened concern about others’ opinions regarding cosmetic treatments. At an event held in central London in June, Sinclair convened a panel of medical aesthetic professionals and influential sector commentators and encouraged a room of powerful clinicians to share their expert views and experiences.

Joining forces

Led by Francesca White, the panel included Dr Sheila Nguyen, Dr Ahmed El Muntasar and Sallie Berkerey, who had an open conversation and thought-provoking discussion.

During the discussion, Francesca expressed her belief that despite the alarming statistics revealed by the survey, it is imperative for us to join forces and collectively dismantle the stigma associated with aesthetic presentations to the world. During the panel discussion, she posed a challenging question: ‘What does being a powerful woman mean to you?’

In response, Dr Ngygen said: ‘To me, true power lies in the conversations we engage in with ourselves, the younger generation, our children, and our daughters. It is our ability to continuously reframe the negatives and perceive ourselves in a more positive light, allowing us to radiate a sense of self-confidence and strength.’

Sallie explained that many of her peers were having aesthetic treatments and that it was important to share that information. ‘People are entitled to their privacy to an extent,’ she said. ‘But I think the conversation we’re having today is very much about opening up the dialogue and not being afraid to share that.’

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Dr El Muntasar touched on the concept of beauty and perception from a GP’s point of view. He said: ‘It’s really important to listen to our patients because what one patient’s idea of beauty is maybe completely different from another patient’s.

‘Everyone’s perception of beauty is so different and I think we really need to listen to concerns and expectations. Once you’ve understood the patient’s thoughts about the treatments, ask them what’s their main worry and what is their expectation of that specific appointment?’

Dr Nguyen also suggested that judgement is prevalent within ourselves and projected onto other women. ‘Patients often express fear about receiving treatments due to the perception of judgement,’ she pointed out.

‘However, the desire for these treatments is driven by personal reasons and the need to feel confident. It is not merely about vanity but about enhancing various aspects of one’s personality and empowering individuals to be more assertive and proactive.

‘Understanding patients’ motivations and providing support during consultations is crucial. Patients may seek treatments not solely for beauty, but to age gracefully and receive assistance in the ageing process.’

Crab theory

Dr El Muntasar touched on the ‘crab theory’, a psychological concept wherein some individuals feel the need to bring others down to lift themselves up. ‘This mentality is particularly prevalent in the beauty industry,’ he opined.

‘However, it is important to empower each other instead of pointing out flaws or making comparisons. Social media exacerbates this issue, as people feel entitled to voice negative opinions once someone puts themselves out there. While social media has the potential for education and empowerment, it also exposes individuals to negativity.’

Francesca also commented on the vulnerability of patients and highlighted the paradox between desiring visible transformations from treatments, while also valuing subtle and undetectable changes. She mentioned that sharing before and after photos on social media can subject patients to judgement and criticism, making it challenging to promote treatments with subtle results.

‘As clinicians, it is essential to support patients who bravely share their experiences and stand against negative feedback,’ responded Dr Ngygen. She believes it is crucial to consult patients in a way that respects their individual preferences and does not focus solely on pointing out flaws.

‘This is especially important as patients may already feel vulnerable during the consultation process. Tailoring the conversation to the patient’s unique needs and expectations, regardless of age or desired treatment, is key to fostering confidence and delivering the right message,’ she said.

The educated patient

With so much information readily available nowadays, patients are extremely well-educated and clued-up on procedures and even aesthetic products.

Sallie highlighted the need for education and accurate information in the aesthetic industry and said: ‘The presence of misinformation, particularly on social media, can lead to individuals making incorrect decisions about treatments. The availability of information online allows for quick access to expert opinions, but it also means patients must discern between reliable sources.’

There should be clarity and guidance in seeking treatment, as well as the importance of understanding individual goals and tailoring treatment plans accordingly. Sallie explained that younger patients, in particular, may require more guidance and research to make informed decisions about their desired outcomes. Overall, access to information is beneficial, but it is essential to navigate through the misinformation and rely on reputable sources for accurate guidance.

Dr Ngygen responded that it is essential to understand different patient demographics and job roles in the context of aesthetic treatments. ‘Clinicians need to lead conversations during consultations and consider the specific needs and goals of each patient,’ she said.

Balancing act

The panel also discussed the challenges faced by women in male-dominated fields and the balancing act they experience between their professional and personal lives. They all suggested that supporting and empowering women in their decision-making process is crucial, as well as providing education and guidance tailored to their unique circumstances.

Factors such as background, job role and ethnicity also play a significant role in shaping patients’ preferences and discussions around treatments. ‘It is important for practitioners to have open and honest conversations with patients, even if it means recommending alternative treatments or approaches,’ said Dr El Muntasar.

‘This is not a reflection of the practitioner’s abilities, but rather a thoughtful assessment of what would be most effective for the patient’s specific needs. Building trust through these discussions is crucial, and patients should feel comfortable seeking practitioners who prioritise their best interests.

‘It is equally important for practitioners to be willing to say “no” when necessary, as it demonstrates integrity and a genuine commitment to patient care.’

Dr Nguyen echoed his views, saying: ‘Refusing certain treatments or taking a holistic approach to patient care can lead to better outcomes and stronger patient support. It’s important for practitioners to assess each patient individually, considering their health, values, and desired outcomes.’

She stated that by providing comprehensive education and options, practitioners empower patients to make informed decisions about their own treatment. This collaborative approach may involve referring patients to other specialists or guiding them through different stages of their healthcare journey.

‘Patients appreciate practitioners who prioritise their wellbeing and respect their choices, even if it means being referred to another professional,’ she added.

Strength and resilience

Francesca closed the panel discussion with a poignant statement: ‘I believe today’s discussions have shed light on important and relevant points that resonate with the current state of our society.

‘With advancements and changes happening rapidly, it can be challenging to keep up, but the insights shared by our speakers have provided valuable guidance.’

She expressed her gratitude to the exceptional panellists for their wisdom and valuable insights and concluded by saying: ‘They have shown us how to find strength and resilience within ourselves and pass that on to our patients, which holds great significance.’

This article first appeared in Private Dentistry magazine. Read the August issue here!

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