Preserving Privacy in the Age of Aesthetic Openness

Preserving Privacy in the Age of Aesthetic Openness

When whispers turn into open conversations and secrecy gives way to sharing, the landscape of aesthetic treatments is undeniably altered. Once a taboo subject, aesthetic enhancements have emerged as the norm, largely due to the images and constant dialogue on social media of “Has she, hasn’t he”. Yet, this transformation sparks a compelling debate: At what point does the pendulum swing too far, from privacy to public scrutiny? As an aesthetic practitioner with two decades of experience, I’ve witnessed this evolution first-hand and feel compelled to examine its implications for our industry and the delicate balance of privacy we strive to maintain.

My musings here are drawn from personal experiences and observations within the aesthetic industry. While they lack statistical backing, they resonate with a growing sentiment among my patients.

In the early days of my practice, the discreteness surrounding aesthetic procedures was paramount. Fast forward twenty years and the secrecy has dissolved into open dialogues among friends, family, and across social media. Whereas previously, I rarely had patient referrals, now word-of-mouth is my main source of new enquiries, as patients confidently share their journeys. However, with the advent of social media, have we now gone too far in the other direction? There’s an increasing casualness to querying about someone’s aesthetic choices, even when they prefer discretion. It’s a trend that troubles me; the fear of ‘being outed’ for a personal choice could deter individuals from seeking treatments.

Crossing the Line from Interest to Intrusion

The notion of privacy erosion intensifies as I observe some fellow practitioners speculate about celebrities’ potential treatments online. While educational in intent, having public figures as case studies, without their consent, feels intrusive to me. Celebrities, after all, are not mere subjects for discussion; they deserve the same confidentiality as our patients. I’ve experienced discomfort when seeing the media dissect a celebrity’s appearance, and I’m concerned this attitude is permeating everyday interactions, leading to unsolicited comments about personal aesthetic choices. It’s a practice I find uncomfortable; despite the educational value, as I feel it strips individuals of their right to privacy. This isn’t limited to celebrities—the ripple effects are felt by everyday patients. I recall the words of Arthur Ashe: “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”1 This rings especially true here; our role is not to take away by exposing but to give by respecting and maintaining the confidentiality of others.

Finding the Balance Between Educate and Expose

Some may argue that such openness demystifies aesthetic procedures, fostering an environment where informed decisions and destigmatising can thrive. They believe discussing celebrities’ aesthetic choices helps normalise the conversation around self-care and body autonomy. There’s merit to this view – openness can indeed be empowering and educational. However, there’s an overlooked aspect to these discussions: the trend of negative comments that often follow. This kind of discourse can be harmful, affecting not only the subjects of such speculation but also deterring others from pursuing their own aesthetic choices for fear of judgment. The question then arises, when does this transparency infringe upon individual rights to privacy? When do we cross the line from educating to exposing?

The solution isn’t to revert to not discussing aesthetic procedures, and I don’t feel that there should be any shame around it, but I do feel it’s important to establish a new ethos of respect and consent. We, as practitioners, must tread this fine line with care; we can educate without speculating and share without exposing. Highlighting the negative feedback loop that can ensue serves as a stark reminder that consent should be the cornerstone of any discussion involving a patient’s treatment, even more so when it pertains to a public figure. This consent-driven approach allows for educational opportunities that respect individual privacy and shields against the unintended consequences of social scrutiny.

Fostering a Culture of Respectful Curiosity

I feel we should encourage a culture where pointing out perceived changes in one’s appearance is not the norm unless it’s invited. As professionals, we must check our impulses to diagnose publicly or use others’ choices as a means of gaining followers for potential treatments. A more honourable path exists—one that educates with dignity and respects the personal narratives entwined with every single patient’s aesthetic decision.

As the discourse on aesthetic enhancements treads the line between public interest and private matters, it becomes clear that the aesthetic industry is navigating the ideas of transparency and discretion. Maya Angelou’s words encapsulate this beautifully, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,”2 let this serve as a guiding principle for us in the aesthetic field to not make patients feel uncomfortable with their aesthetic choices. As aesthetic practitioners, we must uphold the trust placed in us by our patients—be they celebrities or not. This discussion goes beyond the confines of our clinics and into the broader societal context, reflecting on how we, as a collective, value privacy in an age of overexposure. Let us advocate for a culture that embraces education and empowerment without compromising the privacy that every individual rightfully deserves. The essence of true beauty, as Coco Chanel would have it, lies in dignity and respect. We must strive to treat our patients in this way, providing them with the confidence to feel beautiful, not just in appearance but in how they feel.

Originally published in https://aestheticsjournal.com/journal/the-aesthetics-journal-july-2024/ 

References

1 – https://arthurashe.ucla.edu/black-history-month-2014-2009-in-his-words/

2 – https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/28/maya-angelou-in-fifteen-quotes

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