There was a time when Goldie Hawn circa The First Wives Club, Nicole Kidman (since always; she hasn't aged since Moulin Rouge) were something society made fun of.
Typified by lips bee-stung with collagen, cheeks plumped up with dermal fillers, and foreheads Botoxed to the gods, this "overly surprised" look used to be a tell-tale sign of getting "too much work done" and would cause sniggers from your friends, who didn't know how to tell you to lay off the doctor's visits.
Things are now changing and some – particularly a younger generation who definitely don't need cosmetic facial alterations yet – are proudly telling the world about the plastic they're getting their faces filled with.
It's common to see social media influencers in their late 20s or early 30s like Claire Guentz and Nick Champa post about the Botox and fillers they're having injected – Champa actually does several Instagram stories every time he visits the doctor's office.
My assumption is that mid-level influencers are doing this so the cosmetic work is free. Just look for hashtags like #ad or #sponsored and you'll see that plastic filler probably came at no cost to them.
I suppose the fact they're being honest about their cosmetic enhancement is a good thing; it helps create transparency in an anxiety-riddled world where we have a new level of physical "perfection" to live up to.
Yet I think young people who are filling their faces with plastic may be doing so for different reasons than the Hawn and Kidman-era generations. While that group got Botox and plastic surgery in their 40s and 50s to look like they were still in their 30s, this millennial cohort aren't trying to look like teenagers. They do not want to look 18 when they're really 28.
Instead, as Huffington Post puts it social media influencers now have a "look"; they're clones of one another. They have pouty, matte lips, perfectly sculpted eyebrows, and chisel-cut cheek contours. Let's call it "Instagram Face"; which can be achieved via Facetune, or, if you want your digital image to come through in real life, with a few visits to your cosmetic skin clinic.
Why on earth would all young people want to look the same? Let's not pretend Instagram Face is another new phenomenon. In the 1970s people cloned themselves for the Farrah Fawcett look, in the 1980s it was Olivia Newton-John and Jane Fonda, and today it's a taut yoga-pants model from the Gold Coast who has already made a few hundred bucks before their first matcha latte of the morning.
I agree with beauty historian Rachel Weingarten on why Instagram Face is so prolific: "People are no longer clearly defined by their ethnicity, their race, even their gender," she told Huffington Post. "So, there's this weird conformity where it used to be if you were Asian or Caucasian, that limited your beauty. If you had African-American hair, that made you look a certain way. You don't have to do that anymore. What we have now is a sort of aggressive version of what the ultimate in multicultural beauty could look like."
This Instagram Face ― the cat eyes, big matte lips and the superbly-plucked brows ― could theoretically look good on someone from any nationality or with any skin colour. "In that sense, the look is accessible, which is perhaps why so many people online conform to it."
There's the argument. Young people are filling themselves with plastic in order to look like each other, regardless of ethnicity. Cultural norms have fallen away in our interconnected global world; all you have to do is look at the Kardashian/Jenner family to see the new beauty is "kind of Caucasian, sort of African-American, with a large hint of exotic", as well as "healthy, happy, and rich".
But does a person really appear healthier or wealthier with a face full of fillers? I think they certainly do on social media when they've found their light and applied the perfect filter.
As for real life: it's more gauche than glamour, don't you think? Nothing about it says "relaxed". A more comfortable look is – at least to me – the only real tell-tale sign that your life (and face) is where you want it to be.