Fiona MacCallum on Advertisements for Cosmetic Surgery and Beauty Practices

Fiona MacCallum
Fiona MacCallum
This is the seventh in a series of posts about whether advertisements for cosmetic surgery and other beauty practices should be banned. Here Fiona MacCallum, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick, and Co-Investigator of the Beauty Demands project, gives her thoughts. If you would like to contribute to this discussion please email your response to Jan Kandiyali.

Would you be in favour of banning all advertisements for non-invasive beauty treatments and/or cosmetic surgery? If you are not in favour of banning all advertisements would you be in favour of banning some - for instance for certain types of procedures? If so can you explain why for some and not all and how you would determine which should be advertised?Would you differentiate depending on where adverts were placed; for instance would you accept adverts in women's magazines where the intended audience is adult women, but not in public places where they would be seen by children?Alternatively do you think that any banning advertisements would be wrong and why?

Before taking the drastic measure of banning all advertisements for these procedures, I would look at some data on the possible effects of this. In France, publicity of any kind for cosmetic surgery clinics was banned under the Kouchner law in 2002, so my question would be what the consequences of this have been. Has it lead to a reduction in the number of procedures? Figures from the Economist in 2013 show France actually having a high number of procedures per capita than the UK which suggests to me that advertising is not key. Regulation may be more important, particularly in relation to qualification of practitioners, and to ensuring informed consent as far as possible. For example, those approaching clinics for treatment should be offered sessions with an independent counsellor before proceeding. Having said this, I do think there are grounds to restrict adverts to “adult” spaces, much as the advertising of alcohol is allowed only in certain situations, and is proscribed as to what it can claim.


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