“This is going to hurt just a little bit,” my doctor says, brandishing a needle and a syringe.
I brace myself, squeezing my thumb to divert some attention from the incoming pain, as she pricks my skin. There is some pressure and discomfort, as she squeezes the syringe to dispense hyaluronic acid to fill in the sunken space under my eye.
She pulls back, and I let out the breath I have been holding. She holds up a handheld mirror for me to check out my face. The fillers I have just gotten have smoothed out my eye bags. I look more awake and a little more alive.
“Looks good, yeah,” my doctor tells me. “Not so sleepy-looking anymore.”
I agree, then pay and leave.
In-and-out in under an hour
From the minute I walk through the door to having a quick consultation, going through with the procedure, and paying, the entire process takes 45 minutes. I still have just enough time – 15 minutes – to grab a bite to eat before my lunch hour is over and I head back to the office to carry on working.
This is just one of the appeals of lunchtime procedures, so called because these are aesthetic procedures that do not take more than a usual lunch hour (give or take 1-2 hours), and require no downtime or recovery period away from the office.
For me, I can start the day off an average looking woman, but by the end of lunch, I am maybe (a humbling) five per cent more appealing, just in time for a date or an important event like a birthday celebration.
Another appeal of lunchtime procedures is the sheer number of aesthetic treatments that can be done within a lunch hour, says Dr Low Chai Ling, founder of SW1 Clinic in Paragon. But, some of the more popular ones at her clinic include Botox fixes and no downtime laser treatments like her BBL Forever Young, which brightens skin instantly, while helping to reduce blemishes and dark spots over time.
Fillers and thread lifts are also popular treatments that can help alter and enhance appearances within a one- to two-hour timeslot. However, these are usually temporary, but can be a plus point for the many women who go for them.
For example, Singapore’s top female DJ, Jade Rasif, said in an online talk show that “[since] it is all temporary fillers, I don’t have to commit…. It makes me feel happy that I can change my appearance, but if I don’t like it, I can always go back”.
It’s not just for women
And it isn’t just women who are going for such procedures. While SW1 Clinic does see a majority women clientele, Dr Low says its 20 per cent male segment has been growing steadily year on year.
Brian, for example, is one such male who has been getting lunchtime procedures in the past year. The 32-year-old started going for basic facials at the recommendation of his girlfriend, but then moved on to laser treatments at a medical aesthetics clinic to fix issues that needed treating from deep within the dermis layer.
“My girlfriend commented that I was getting some dark spots, and I haven’t been happy with the texture of my skin because of some acne scarring,” he said.
And, Brian does not plan on stopping at just laser treatments. “I’m quite sure I will need some sort of Botox in the future; it is only a matter of time.”
Brian does not feel that going for such treatments is in any way emasculating. “It is acceptable for men to put in effort for their looks now, so I can see why there is a growing increase in men going for these treatments,” he said.
Beauty standards by way of social media
Is it acceptable now because of changing beauty standards? It seems so, as social media overtakes how we consume information. It does not add to the cause that the standards of beauty on social media have been warped through the likes of beautifying apps that contort face and body into highly idealistic and unrealistic proportions.
But oddly enough, media and advertising have been pushing out messages of body positivity as well. It started out with the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004, then other brands started taking on the same messaging when promoting their products geared at enhancing beauty.
Lyvian Dao, a graphic design artist in Las Vegas, commented that the polarising messages feed on insecurities, which could be a driving factor for many to take on plastic surgery – lunchtime procedure or otherwise.
“It’s like we’re all stuck in a strange purgatory halfway between body positivity and body dysmorphia,” she said.
She clarifies that she is not against plastic surgery, however. She herself has gotten breast augmentation in addition to fillers and thread lifts twice a year. But where she does feel strongly is the way beauty standards have been pushed out to the masses.
“What I do think is wrong is a society that incessantly pushes the feminine beauty ideal and purposely distorts the way people view themselves,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “I love my new boobs, but I need to remember that I would have been just as beautiful without them.”
Positivity for both body and aesthetic treatments
Even Dr Low understands that it can be hard to reconcile being body positive while also promoting aesthetic procedures. “I always say the most important thing is loving yourself and accepting certain things about your face and body that you cannot change, like your height for example,” she said.
“As for the things you can change, then you should be empowered enough to make that decision for yourself. With that balanced mindset, you will achieve your own brand of beauty without sacrificing your identity.”
As an extension of that, Dr Low does review the procedures patients ask for before making her recommendations and asks for them to be realistic in their expectations. “When patients have unrealistic expectations of what a procedure can achieve, we usually turn them down,” she explained.
In one case, Dr Low had to turn down a patient who expected to look 40 years younger within a single laser session, even after explaining that it was not a realistic expectation. The clinic decided they would rather not treat her than to underdeliver on her expectations.
The unrealistic expectations can be dangerous and could point towards a deeper psychological issue like body dysmorphic disorder. Dr Low says there is a difference in seeking to enhance your appearance and wanting to be a completely different person. “If you are seeking to drastically alter your entire appearance or if the pursuit of beauty has taken over your entire life, then it is time to step back and re-evaluate your priorities,” she said.
As with everything in life, what is most important is understanding what motivates you. In this case, what is motivating you to go for an aesthetic procedure? In the pursuit of beauty, Dr Low encourages her patients to remember the sacredness of their face and body.
“By having this mindset, you will be guided to make decisions that impact your beauty in a positive manner, she said. “There is nothing wrong with being empowered to becoming the best versions of yourselves.”