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Science, aesthetics, the body, and the concerns they attach to, such as gender, ‘race’, class, age and consumer culture, are key objects of sociological investigation. These discourses have been reignited in recent years by changes in the availability, accessibility and affordability of medicalised cosmetic procedures. The most popular of these procedures are non-surgical ‘tweakments’ to the shape and/or appearance of the face, usually through use of ‘injectables’ such as Botox and dermal fillers. This shift in focus from surgical procedures to minimally invasive injections has led more practitioners to join the market of potential providers and a wider variety of consumers to seek them out. This has been accompanied by panic about the risks to bodies and aesthetic standards if stewardship of beauty should fall into the wrong hands. We trace the history of medicalised cosmetic practices and academic discourses on the body, particularly how cosmetic practices are understood to produce the body as gendered and racialised. We then suggest future approaches for exploring the sociological significance of new cosmetic practices. We encourage researchers to explore how imaginaries of (un)desirable bodies shape debates about appropriate use of non-surgical cosmetic procedures, alongside investigation of the situated intersections of identity that are inscribed on bodies.

Original publication




Journal article


Sociology Compass

Publication Date