Botox and blush obsession seen as cause for alarm

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - America’s obsession with beauty is posing serious problems for the health and economic well-being of women and young girls, according to a report on Monday on the pursuit of physical perfection and the rise in cosmetic surgery.

A doctor uses a gauze patch to dab blood from the forehead of a patient after administering an injection of Botox at a walk-in Botox salon in New York July 17, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The nonprofit YWCA in the United States said women and girls are spending increasing amounts of money in their bid to look like idealized, air-brushed magazine models.

The report, Beauty at any Cost, noted U.S. women spent some $7 billion a year, or an average of about $100 each, on cosmetics and beauty products.

That $100 a month, if saved and invested for five years, would pay for a full year of tuition and fees at a public college, the report calculated.

“We believe that the obsession with idealized beauty and body image is a lifelong burden that takes a terrible toll on all young girls and women in this country,” said YWCA USA Chief Executive, Dr. Lorraine Cole.

“What’s really new here is the sheer extent to which women and girls are now willing to be ‘beautiful,’ according to standards perpetuated by a youth-obsessed media culture with literally thousands of messages, 24 hours a day,” she said.

Nearly 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2007 -- a 446 percent increase in 10 years, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Surgery.

Botox injections and liposuction are the most popular nonsurgical and surgical procedures.

The report cites other research linking smoking to attempts by women and girls to control their weight. It notes that some ingredients in U.S. cosmetics, such as hair sprays and nail polishes, contain phthalates that have been shown to cause liver and reproductive system damage in animals.

The YWCA teamed up with the makers of a new documentary on the issue, “America the Beautiful”, in a bid to alert the 2.5 million women and girls the YWCA serves in the United States.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte