Botox sans frontiers

Once minor aesthetic procedures, such as Botox injections and “fillers”, had to be administered by a medical specialist: now my GP does them in between flu jabs.

With increasingly safe procedures aimed at defying, among other throat-slashing conditions, the outward signs of ageing, patient demand for cosmetic enhancement looks set to become more common than the cold. Many general practitioners, and some dentists, now offer such services.

I’ve been going to my GP—let’s call her Dr C—for a series of acid peels which are reputed to smooth over everything from sun damage to acne scars.

I regularly skip off to the surgery to get the top layer of my face burned off in the interests of managing what’s known in the beauty biz as “premature ageing”.

Considering I’m 48, I don’t know what’s premature about it, but the people who package glycolic acid are very kind and extremely sales-oriented.

In administering acid peels GPs sit somewhere between dermatologists and beauticians. Although not authorised to give such high doses as their specialist colleagues, they are qualified to use much more “burn” than beauty therapists.

GPs don’t play whale music or offer you herbal infusions while-u-wait; on the other hand, mine charges little more than a routine consultation fee to perform a peel. At R300 it’s a snap compared with a salon treatment.

Dr C’s partner in practice, Dr N, says fillers are his favourite.

Fillers are the cosmetic equivalent of Polyfiller—the stuff house painters use to plug wall cracks. In the case of the face they are used to plump up sagging “naso-labial folds”, says Dr N. Slightly less disgustingly, “naso-labial folds” can be described as those twin grooves that run like tramlines between nose and lip. I call the effect “Homer Simpson mouth’‘.

But, true to his calling, Dr N isn’t squeamish. “The results are instantaneous, it takes 10 years off your face — fillers are just fabulous.”

Though he’s not quite so crazy about the aesthetic effects of Botox, believing its freeze-frame effect to diminish the natural character of one’s features, this procedure is in high demand too.

Dr N has offered Botox, fillers and peels to patients for the past three years—partly in response to demand; partly, and more surprisingly perhaps, because the “traditional GP practice is dying out”.

“People with a flu infection often find it more convenient to go to ­casualty on their way to work than to make an appointment to see a doctor,” he says.

A glance at the notice board in Dr N’s waiting-room shows the modern GP’s practice has become as much about managing health and lifestyle as it is about curing illness. Flyers for kiddie exercise classes to get baby couch potatoes moving jostle for attention with advice to “speak to your doctor” about quitting smoking or managing diabetes.

One unexpected side benefit for Dr N and Dr C of offering cosmetic procedures is that they get to see patients who want to visit them.

Says Dr N: “It’s nice to see people who want to be here, instead of having to be here because they feel ill.”

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