AUSTRALIANS are getting cosmetic surgery and Anti Wrinkle injections in order to give themselves an edge against younger co-workers.
People who are worried about being discriminated against at work because of their age are having facial procedures to appear more “fresh” and “energetic”.
But body image experts warn the practice is dangerous and it is creating an impression that good looks and youth are necessary to be seen as successful.
Linda Ayles, 43, first had Anti Wrinkle injections when she was 32 to increase her confidence in her professional life. “I was getting there really bad crows feet in my 30s and it was affecting my confidence at work,” Ms Ayles said.
“In a guy they say ‘that adds character’, same with grey hair, but on a female in her 30s you just look tired.
“People start thinking ‘Is she capable of being in high pressure roles?'”
Ms Ayles has worked in sales and marketing for more than 20 years in “male-dominated” industries like manufacturing, aerospace and fast-moving consumer goods.
“Looks are important – it’s an old boys’ club. You do get treated differently.”
In addition to getting Anti Wrinkle injections since her 30s, Ms Ayles most recently had a facial slimming procedure, including injections into her masseters (chewing muscles) and dermal fillers in her cheeks.
“I recommend it to my friends, I’m not ashamed or embarrassed. I see it as an advantage,” she said.
“I have gone for promotions and other roles that I might have not actually looked at if I didn’t feel so confident.”
Ms Ayles said she thinks women start being overlooked in favour of younger staff as early as when they are in their thirties.
“I was looking at my mid-thirties thinking ‘Do I want to be considered as young and fresh and vital?'” she said.
“It is linked to succession planning in organisations – when people look as though they’ve got energy, drive and passion they’re considered in the company’s plans.”
Cosmetic surgeon Dr Ashley Granot, director of medicine at the Me Clinic @ The Ashley Centre where Ms Ayles is a patient, said 80 per cent of his patients had cosmetic surgery because they lacked confidence, and about one half of these people say it affects them at work or when job hunting.
“It doesn’t just apply to women, it applies to men as well. They want to look younger in order to impress,” Dr Granot said.
“The more vital, the more spirited you look, that opens the doors. What you do afterwards depends what your brain says but the first impression is how you look.”
Dr Granot said there were instances where looks didn’t matter “but in most cases they do”.
“It’s very nice for the purists to say ‘It doesn’t matter how you look and we’re all equal’,” he said. “This has nothing to do with whether it’s nice or not nice, moral or not moral, cheap or expensive, who’s making money and who’s not making money.
“This is a question of people’s working life and their ability to earn money for themselves and for their family, and whatever is available for them to increase their chances is what they will go for.”
Clinical psychologist Louise Adams, who specialises in body image, said we were at a “dangerous” point in society where cosmetic surgery was getting normalised as a solution to poor self-esteem.
“We have to remember aging is normal it’s not something to be corrected,” she said.
“At what point are we allowed to age? Do we all have to appear 20-something in order to be perceived as powerful?”
Ms Adams said surgery was not necessary to feel confident.
“If we’re looking at confidence in your career, what about the career skill?” Ms Adams said. “How many careers actually depend on what we look like?”
Ms Adams added that people often got addicted to cosmetic surgery once they started.
“You obviously develop a relationship with a surgeon who keeps suggesting things and you get good feedback from people,” she said.
“The more you do it the more you buy into the idea that it’s making you better.” Ms Adams said that cosmetic surgery was irreversible and could lead to a “slippery slope” of trying to correct surgery that has gone wrong.
“There is a huge industry in cosmetic surgeons and the people they promote as happy customers,” she said. “I see the other side, the ones who are not happy, the ones who surgeons are not promoting.”