The Obsession With Love Island Before And After Photos Needs To Stop

Cosmetic surgery might have been a big topic of debate on last night's show, but you still do not need to Google 'before' pictures of Sharon or Faye.

sharon gaffka

by Bonnie McLaren |
Updated on

The Love Island villa erupted last night over a heated debate on fillers and cosmetic surgery. During a challenge, Hugo Hammond said that his biggest turn off was girls being ‘fake’ – looks-wise and personality-wise. When he kept on stressing the word ‘fake’ during the challenge, he attracted the ire of Sharon Gaffka and Faye Winter, who have both had cosmetic surgery done. In fact, it was highly questionable why Hugo thought it was a good idea to call out being ‘fake’, when moments before the men in the villa had to guess what - if any - cosmetic procedures their partners have had done.

While Hugo did not name drop anyone, it was Sharon and Faye who took the most offense to his comments, which he repeatedly stressed he didn’t mean maliciously. Because of this, the pair explained to Hugo why they thought what he said was wrong, the negative connotations of the word, and explained why some women feel compelled to get work done. Faye told her own story, saying how she would cry most days because she felt underdeveloped growing up, and that her parents got her a boob job for her 18th. (However, as many viewers noted, what Sharon said, comparing not wanting to date someone because they have filler, to not wanting to date someone because of their race, was a ridiculous comparison.) In the end, the trio all made up, and most viewers agreed that Hugo didn’t mean what he said to be offensive.

Whether you love it or loathe the show, it’s undeniable that Love Island is almost synonymous with cosmetic surgery. The show has helped popularisethe ‘Love Island’ face - many women on the show have procedures like breast enlargement, Botox, or other facial filler. To be honest, it does feel like you have more chance of getting on the show if you have cosmetic work done.

However, whether you’re a contestant on a dating show or not, your decision to get work is your decision - and your business. You are not indebted to the public, and you do not have to explain your surgery to the press, or justify why you have had it done. Women – reality TV stars or not - are allowed to get work done for whatever reason they choose.

But what’s not OK is how - every year - people dig up photos of Love Island contestants before their time on the show, usually to make catty comments about ‘what they looked like before’ and how different they looked without the work. (Sometimes, for certain news sites, these photos turn into articles.) This happens without fail every year, regardless of whether there’s a huge debate about it on the show. According to Google, the search terms for 'before and after' - relating to surgery or facial and fitness treatments - historically spikes when Love Island airs. This is certainly the case for 2019, when the search term ‘Amy Love Island Teeth’ went up by 400 per cent, ‘Maura Love Island Before and After’ increased by 350 per cent and ‘Amber Love Island surgery’ was a breakout term. Predictably, this year, we are seeing breakout terms surrounding Faye and Sharon's appearance.

Megan Barton Hanson– a contestant on the show in 2018 –also faced negative comments about her appearance. One newspaper drew up a diagram of all the plastic surgeries that the model had undergone, pointing out how much each had cost. When she left the villa, she spoke to Grazia about the unprecedented levels of abuse. ‘I didn’t expect that people would pick me apart for having surgery - the hate and negativity did shock me,’ she told us. ‘Loads of people have had surgery,’ she continued. ‘With reality shows like Towie, Geordie Shore, Made In Chelsea and the Kardashians, it’s more common to have surgery than not have surgery – that was the most shocking thing.’

The incessant need to look at ‘before/after’ pictures are, according to Dr Sophie Woodward of Manchester University, a way to bring people down. ‘There’s this process; people find these "before" pictures themselves and say ‘"ook she’s not really that beautiful,"' says Sophie. ‘It’s a process of bringing people down but also of identification – of realising that these people look like you.’ After you learn that the contestant’s beauty is technically not ‘real’, there is a sense of relief that the women does not ‘naturally’ look the way they do. Instead of feeling superior about our ‘natural’ faces and bodies, we should be looking at the reason behind society’s insatiable need for plastic surgery: if culture perpetuates unrealistic beauty ideals, then it’s unsurprising that so many women decide to accentuate certain features.

‘Women are constantly made to feel inadequate and consumer culture presents us with a supposed solution to that,’ says Dr Sophie Woodward, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Manchester University. ‘There’s a contradiction that women are expected to be perfect but when they achieve that perceived perfection – they are criticised. Women are offered the tools to achieve ‘perfection’ through plastic surgery, fashion and advertising, but then if they use those things they are criticised for being fake and for having invested money in achieving that.’

The criticisms online and in print largely focus on the ‘fakeness’ of the female contestants. Something which Hugo’s opinion - and repeat usage of the word - reflected last night. Despite the reality that plastic surgery is now ubiquitous in our culture, women are still unjustly seen as ‘untrustworthy’ if they pay to alter their appearance. A woman’s decision to go ‘under the knife’ has no bearing on her moral compass. What a woman decides to do with her body – whether it be getting lip fillers or a breast implants - is ultimately her prerogative. So maybe you should think twice, the next time you decide to Google a before/after picture.

READ MORE: How The £2.5k 'Love Island Face' Went Mainstream

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