Latinx People Place Emphasis on Vanity, so Why Are "Tweakments" Still Taboo?
Cuban-American Cessie Cerrato was in her late 30s when she first decided to broach the subject of Botox and dermal fillers with her dermatologist. Cerrato, who is the founder of NYC-based publicity company Cessie C. Communications, represents clients in the beauty and lifestyle space, but she hadn't considered journeying into the world of injectables until right before her wedding.
Eight months before her big day, Cerrato started getting cosmetic laser treatments to help erase her dark spots and melasma as well as routine facials to help soften her fine lines. The only problem? No amount of lasers, facials, or creams would remove her crow's feet and forehead wrinkles. For her, Botox seemed like the only remaining option to help her feel confident on her wedding day.
"I don't need Botox to feel empowered, but after learning about the benefits of Botox, and how it can help prevent fine lines before they form by freezing the muscle, it's a great way to slow down the aging process," Cerrato tells POPSUGAR. "My mom has been getting Botox for a while now, but my abuela did tell me that it was a waste of money and asked me why I was doing it. In her mind, it seemed like something unnecessary, and she didn't think I needed it."
Older generations of Latinas, like Cerrato's abuela, may see injectables as a way for older women with deep wrinkles to turn back time, but Cerrato asserts that it's the opposite. She cites her continued use of Botox four years later as a "great way to prevent wrinkles from forming in the first place." She credits her dermatologist, Vivian Chin, MD, who works at Koru Wellness Aesthetics, for taking the time to educate and support her throughout her journey with injectables.
Cerrato is part of a new generation of Latinas fighting back against the double standards of vanity in the Latinx community. While there has historically been a major emphasis on dressing to impress (yes, even during sala season) and being done up in public, there's still a stigma around injectables, including procedures like Botox and dermal fillers. Often, people associate patients of these treatments with personal insecurity and a lack of confidence. But according to Leyda Elizabeth Bowes, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, that's not always the case.
"The stigma about using Botox and fillers to improve our facial appearance often comes from the fact that women are expected to maintain their natural beauty and attractiveness, without the use of more involved or 'artificial' procedures, other than good skin care, sun protection, and good nutrition," Dr. Bowes explains. She cites the increase of women in the workforce and a desire to be successful and maintain one's image of youthfulness as one reason clients may seek injectable treatments: "We live in a highly visual society where people tend to judge based on personal appearance, grooming, and overall attractiveness."
For centuries, Eurocentric beauty standards have influenced Latinx (as well as other BIPOC) communities, placing an emphasis on straight hair, thin bodies, sharper facial features, and lighter skin. Even now, as the beauty industry and trends may be shifting away from this Westernized model of attractiveness in favor of nonwhite features, natural hair, fuller bodies, and an inclusion of ancestral ingredients in certain products, there's a limit to the self-love revolution. There's empowerment in the revelation that you can be beautiful exactly as you are, but as true as that may be, there's still a sense that anyone who seeks to enhance their natural features with injectables must be insecure.
"Even though Hispanic women are known to take excellent care of their skin and be proactive with their antiaging skin care, they may not be as open in sharing their interest in other means of cosmetic care, which may involve specific procedures or surgeries," Dr. Bowes says. "This may be the result of the high standards of beauty that are inherently attributed to the Hispanic woman in general, leading them to openly discuss their vast expertise and consistent use of skincare, but be more restrained to discussing their interest in cosmetic surgery."
"It's a bit hypocritical because Latinas, in general, grow up in a culture of always looking their best at all times, but I think it stems from a lack of knowledge about [Botox]."
In the Latinx community, there's also a strong emphasis on "natural" beauty, which creates both an internal and external conflict when it comes to the acceptance of cosmetic enhancements like Botox and dermal fillers. In addition to having a good skin-care routine, a healthy diet, and a dedicated sunscreen schedule, older generations don't quite understand the need for invasive procedures or cosmetic surgery. But a lot of that has to do with framing; just as one may choose to color their grays to make themselves feel confident, so too are people choosing to participate in cosmetic enhancements. You don't have to feel insecure or disempowered in your own features to want to dye your hair or experiment with Botox. In fact, more and more Latinas are starting to approach this subject unapologetically, advocating for their choice to do what empowers them.
"It's a bit hypocritical actually because Latinas, in general, grow up in a culture of always looking their best at all times, but I think it stems from a lack of knowledge about [Botox]," Cerrato says. "Truthfully, it's no different than wanting to always look your best with manicures, hairstyles, nice clothing, and accessories." She also believes that some people see Botox as unnecessary and are quick to criticize others for spending money on a so-called "vain luxury."
While it is true injections can range into the hundreds per vial, recent population data shows that young Latina women have the fastest-growing purchasing power compared to any other group in the United States. According to Dr. Bowes, this growth allows for more access to cosmetic treatments without shame or guilt. In fact, she says, it should allow for more Latinas to feel a greater sense of independence and empowerment. "The key is in education and a commitment to the freedom to choose our aesthetics," she says. However, this doesn't take away from the fact that Latinas also have one of the highest wage gaps in the country. Latinas in the United States are typically paid just 54 cents for every dollar paid to white non-Hispanic men.
Cerrato echoes the need for more education about injectables. But at the same time, she says, people should be free to choose cosmetic procedures without shame or stigma.
As she puts it: "Let us normalize doing whatever we want that makes us feel and look our best, without judging."