Once upon a simpler time, beauty treatments were limited to things like facials, nail extensions, and hair colouring. Anything involving needles or surgery seemed extreme, and reserved for shallow, wealthy, Beverly Hills-types. But all cultural phenomena got their start as a trend in a niche community. What seemed extreme one generation ago barely raises an eyebrow now. As technology evolved to fuel our narcissism, faces became currency and people realised beauty can be bought. Dental work like whitening and veneers can take your look from small-town to Hollywood. Peels and lasers for the face can make skin even and taut. Botox freezes your wrinkle-free skin into place, and lip filler can be transformative (see Kylie Jenner).

You can increase the arch in your eyebrows, remove the fat from your cheeks, change an Asian monolid to a double eyelid, remove a bump in your nose…the list goes on.

Over the last three decades these practices have trickled down from the ultra wealthy to the masses. It was fascinating to watch plastic surgery go from something people treated as private, hush-hush personal business to influencers vlogging their procedures, holding up a camera as needles enter their face, getting the treatment for free in return for promoting it on their social media. Now, nothing is off limits, and girlfriends discuss botox and filler in the same category as gel manicures and hair extensions.

As a beauty and glamour aficionado, I have tried some of these treatments myself and have mixed feelings about the results. That’s why I want to discuss the pros and cons of some of the more popular, less invasive ones, especially as they are now widely available in Chennai.

Eyelash Extensions

Look at Betty Boop for proof that long, dramatic lashes have always been a hallmark of traditional feminine beauty; batting your eyelashes flirtatiously is not very effective if there is nothing to flutter! The first tools we have to lengthen lashes are mascara and an eyelash curler, an awesome duo that helps the girl who is blessed with good lashes and only needs a little boost to make them pop. The next level is false eyelashes, or “falsies”. These can be a full strip or individual clusters of lashes, applied with glue or a magnetic liner. Falsies have a dramatic impact, especially on a full face of makeup, and this impact is most obvious in photos. Once a person gets used to how they look with false lashes, they may feel their makeup looks bare or incomplete without them. However they can be a challenge to apply, as they are for me in spite of many attempts over the years, and they can come off easily in humid climates like ours. Ironically, the “put-together” effect of falsies gets totally wiped out when one starts to come off, and that freely dangling end suddenly makes you look like a hot mess!

This is why eyelash extensions opened up a new world of possibilities, and why it has become hugely popular, a regular part of many women’s beauty routine just like getting a manicure.

Eyelash Extensions – Pros and Cons

For many of us, the goal is to look fresh and put together without having to spend too much time in front of the makeup mirror. Eyelash extensions help you achieve this by giving you long, voluminous lashes that you don’t have to apply or remove. The appointment may take an hour or longer, during which the technician meticulously affixes one lash at a time to your natural lashes. You can select from different lengths and textures depending on what you want: length vs. volume, natural vs. dramatic. They will last up to a month, as our lashes have a natural shedding cycle, so you’ll lose the lash when your natural lash sheds. You can return for maintenance or “fill-in” appointments if you want to keep the extensions going.

The main plus point of this beauty procedure is that you can look prettier and more awake without having to apply a single coat of mascara, which we all know takes twice as long to remove as it does to apply, and which can stain the undereye area. Many women get eyelash extensions before a beach holiday, so they don’t have to worry about mascara running down their face after a swim. It is also a popular choice for women who are about to deliver a baby, because while no new mother has time for primping, many of them benefit psychologically from anything that helps them look and feel better during the challenging postpartum period (plus, it is one of the few treatments that are safe for pregnant women). When I had them, both my husband and mother remarked that I was looking extra pretty but they couldn’t put their finger on why–in other words, a success! However, there are some downsides to consider.

Eyelash extensions are expensive, both the initial application and maintenance treatments. The application process can be uncomfortable, especially for people like myself with sensitive eyes. They tape down your lids in such a way that your eye is mostly closed, so you may have to focus on your breathing to get yourself to relax into the position. The glue can be an irritant; I remember feeling like it was seeping into my eyes when going to bed at night. There is also a risk of infection–my friend whose family runs an eye hospital refuses to get them as they see many such patients. Finally, while technicians insist up and down that they do not damage your natural lashes, I certainly felt that my lashes looked shorter and almost broken after getting my extensions removed. They say that this is an illusion caused by the comparison of your long, full extensions with your shorter, sparser, naturals, but I still believe that it took a long time for my lashes to go back to normal. Skin doctors agree, and that is why they advise getting this done only for special occasions, rather than year-round.

If you are confused about whether or not to try them, start by meeting a couple of service providers. They may advise you to go with a lash perm instead, where they lift and curl your natural lashes and apply a chemical to keep it in that position for a month or so. Or go ahead with the extensions for a special occasion or holiday, and don’t be alarmed if you feel your lashes are weaker afterwards because they will grow back!

Filler (lips and face) Pros and Cons

Just like long lashes, a plump, full pout is considered to be another desirable feature. And as the number of makeup lines and products has increased exponentially, it became obvious that all the gorgeous lip products available in every conceivable colour and finish look best when applied onto a larger canvas! For example, liquid lipstick that dries to a matte finish can look striking and also lasts forever. But the liquid can also settle into natural lines and cracks in the lip, giving an uneven, dry appearance. If you ever wonder why these lipsticks look so much better on beauty bloggers, that is because lip filler has made their lips into the perfect smooth canvas.

Filler can also be injected into other areas of the face, to restore a youthful look. I used to struggle with using concealer to cover up my under eye circles and bags, but even the most expert application cannot give the look of volume where there isn’t. So I bit the bullet and got tear-trough (under eye) filler, and I was thrilled with the results! Now after putting on concealer, the entire area looked smooth without any shadows or dips. That said, I have decided against repeating the procedure, and my reasoning is aligned with the downside of filler in general.

If your lips are very thin to the point where you are insecure about them, and you wish you could enjoy wearing lipstick more, then this procedure may definitely be worthwhile for you. But the main con about filler is that it is not guaranteed to stay in place. Lip filler migration occurs when the filler moves up past the lip line, resulting in a sort of fleshy moustache. This can be dissolved by the same doctor, but dissolving lip filler is painful. The tendency of filler to move around or lump up is why I am not repeating the tear trough procedure. It took me 3 visits to get the look I wanted initially–first I felt there was not enough injected, then after adding more I felt it was too much, and finally had to dissolve a little to get it just right. I may have been happy with the result after that, but 3 trips to the skin clinic was a little too Beverly Hills for me! Furthermore, I noticed that the filler formed a lump after some time, so I had to keep massaging it to flatten it out. Finally, a friend confessed that she had done the same procedure but was horrified to see that it puffed up the area too much and caused some indentations to appear near the nasolabial fold. This information, plus my waning interest in looking as perfect as possible for glamorous selfies, clinched my decision.

Another con about filler is that there is a tendency to lose sight of what natural looks like. Being bombarded with edited images on social media has skewed perception, and many filler devotees confess that they keep wanting to add more and more. You love how you look initially, but then you think you can look even better with a little more! It is a slippery slope that can quickly lead to the dreaded duck pout, except the one wearing it doesn’t see it. Many celebrities have already talked about dissolving all the filler in their face, showing us that beauty standards will never stay the same for long.

As you can see, there are so many options for ways to freshen up your look, but much to consider before going for it. It comes down to what is worthwhile to you for the confidence boost it may give. Just remember to do your research, and most importantly, that this is all merely window dressing that serves to enhance the beautiful person you already are!