Public awareness about new medical procedures or treatments to correct physical conditions affecting a person’s wellbeing is usually a virtuous thing. However, Perth hair restoration physician Dr Jennifer Martinick reminds that, as with all good things, there can be a downside to greater public awareness about new cosmetic procedures.
Dr Martinick said an example of this was the widespread media interest in a new eyelash transplantation technique that she shared with 40 international hair restoration physicians in Los Angeles in October 2006. The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) workshop invited Dr Martinick to showcase the surgical technique, which promises to restore eyelashes more quickly and effectively than earlier procedures.
It attracted widespread media attention throughout the western world with some media outlets dubbing it as the next “must have” cosmetic procedure. Dr Martinick said while the media coverage resulted in a flood of enquiries to hair restoration physicians about the procedure, she did not believe it should be entered into lightly. Her main motivation to develop the procedure was to help burns victims and people who had lost their eyelashes through chemotherapy, radiotherapy, genetic problems, an accident, or other trauma.
Those who had the eyelash transplant procedure must be committed to a lifetime grooming regimen which consisted of daily curling and monthly trimming of the eyelashes.
“I would not advise anyone to consider the procedure lightly,” Dr Martinick said. “People who have lost their eyelashes through trauma or a medical condition are usually more motivated to stick to the meticulous grooming regime to keep the lashes in optimum condition.”
Dr Martinick said she was concerned that greater public awareness of the eyelash transplant procedure would prompt a lot of enquiries from people suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). She said BDD – a mental disorder associated with a preoccupation with a slight or imagined physical anomaly – was present in just one per cent of the general population.
However, the occurrence of BDD was greater among cosmetic surgery patients with an estimated 20 per cent of these patients. As a consequence, she carefully screened all hair loss patients to ensure she did not treat people with BDD.
Patients with BDD tended to focus on the tiniest imperfection and were unlikely to be happy with the treatment they received. She said all patients who attended the clinics she consulted to were asked to complete an extensive questionnaire that enquired if they exercised or checked their appearance excessively, dieted unnecessarily, or spent extended periods grooming themselves.
“Prospective patients are asked if they’ve had a previous cosmetic procedure and been disappointed with the results or if they’ve had multiple surgeries and are always hoping the problem will be finally fixed with the next procedure,” Dr Martinick said.
“I will not treat people with suspected BDD because I don’t believe I, or any other physician, can meet their expectations of perfection.”