Muscle-relaxing injections such as Botox have proved to be recession-proof, with doctors reporting that demand has increased despite the economic downturn. .
The uses for Botox are growing, patients are becoming younger and cosmetic companies are researching non-injectable alternatives. Botox has bucked the economic trend, but in a bid to save money, some people are seeking dangerous substitutes
During previous eras of economic uncertainty, economists observed a phenomenon known as the 'lipstick effect', a term coined by Leonard Lauder, of cosmetic company Estee Lauder, who noticed that when an economy goes into depression, the sales of small luxuries such as lipstick, particularly red lipstick, increase.
The theory goes that women will forsake expensive luxuries -- the designer handbag, the red-carpet shoes -- for inexpensive alternatives.
The phenomenon was last observed after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and, sure enough, the major beauty houses reported sales increases of lipstick in the past two years, in line with the global recession.
A slick of lipstick boosts the mood without breaking the bank. It satisfies the desire to change the appearance while keeping the purse strings tightly pinched.
Lipstick sales are indeed surging, but the beauty industry is in a bold new era. With advancements in technology come new demands from consumers. A modern economic indicator for the beauty market has emerged, a new lipstick effect: Botox. Botox, or rather the results that it gives, have proved to be addictive. After experiencing a wrinkle-free visage, many are loath to give it up, even with crippling mortgage payments and reduced pay packets. For regular users, it has become an essential rather than a discretionary expenditure. According to Aesthetic Surgery Ireland (ASI), while spending on cosmetic surgery procedures has dropped, the demand for Botox and dermal fillers rose by 20pc last year. Chief executive, Dermot Kelly, estimates that 20,000 Botox treatments were performed in 2009, with men making up 10pc of the market.
"Looking at the Botox and [dermal] filler market, fundamentally, the whole area of cosmetic intervention is becoming more widely accepted," Kelly explains. "People will use non-cosmetic treatments to tide them over whereas before they may have considered a neck lift or a face lift.
"Also, the job environment is much more competitive and they feel they need to present themselves in the best possible way."
Women are eschewing permanent cosmetic surgeries for temporary, relatively inexpensive alternatives. They may no longer be able to afford a face lift but they can afford Botox twice a year. And the women who can no longer finance their six-monthly hit? A rare few are injecting it themselves. A worrying new trend -- DIY Botox -- is emerging. Patients can buy kits from as little as €100 and administer their own Botox at home. Only qualified doctors can inject the solution in Ireland, but a person with no medical credentials can buy it online.
I was able to find a kit with ease after a short search online. It included one vial (100 units) of Botulinum, saline, alcohol prep pads, three syringes and a reference DVD with demonstration for approx €150.
It's unlikely that this website will continue to trade for much longer, though, as a string of DIY Botox e-tailers have recently been shut down, notably Discount Medspa, a site which referred to its Botulinum toxin-derivative as 'The Freeze'.
A Texan woman, Laurie D'Alleva, performed Botox treatments on herself in self-made videos posted on the site, designed to show customers how apparently easy it is.
"I don't imagine it's a massive movement because anyone who does this would have to be absolutely crazy," says surgeon Mark Hamilton.
"I don't know what kind of person would do this. A: you're inflicting pain on yourself. B: You're performing it in a mirror. People with common sense would not do it.
"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Obviously, they've seen it done by a doctor and thought, 'this is really easy; I can do it myself'."
Hamilton also warns that customers have no recompense should they take the DIY route. "I have people in all my clinics telling me about bad results they've had: the droopy eyelid; the droopy eyebrow. That goes some way to explaining that even when done by good people who are trained and qualified, it can still go wrong.
"There is no antidote. More Botox often makes the problem worse. There is no way of reversing it." Elsewhere, a string of brands have introduced 'Botox in a Bottle' creams and lotions. These wrinkle-eradicating, muscle-relaxing treatments promise to mimic the effects of Botox without a needle, but the results have yet to be proven as effective as injections.
"There are companies looking at FDA-licenced creams that contain a type of Botox to relax wrinkles. However, the technology has to improve significantly. A cream applied to the face isn't as accurate as a needle directly in the muscle. The cream has a lot of hard work to do."
Hamilton, has been working in facial aesthetics for seven years. He has been selected as a spokesperson for several leading cosmetic companies. You'll often hear his name uttered in hushed, reverential tones by the ladies-who-lunch brigade. "I like to show off my work. It was the face that interested me because it's the one place that you cannot hide so it's critical to get it right.
"Although I'm qualified as a surgeon, I personally see the non-surgical, non-invasive market as the big market. That is the one that I can see 100pc of people at some stage embracing."
Another recent trend that Hamilton has observed is that his patients are becoming younger. They are starting to opt for Botox as prevention rather than cure.
"While I'm happy to take people who want to tackle the problem when it arises, more and more people want to deal with the problem before it arises and I think that's the way young people are thinking and I think that's the way it will continue to go."
For more information, contact the Hamilton Face Clinic @ Cosmedico. 1 850 342 434