Botox injections, a method for ridding the face of wrinkles by temporarily paralyzing the muscles underneath them, have increased by 878% since 2000. In fact, 2019 saw more than 7.6 million injections of Botox or similar type A botulinum toxins, though that number has since risen, especially during the pandemic, when people were displeased with how they looked on Zoom and had more time at home to recuperate from face work. Though the number of these injections continues increasing each year, Botox still hasn’t outrun the stigma that surrounds it. Pictures and stories of botched Botox jobs circle the internet, and women and men in the limelight are scorned and praised in equal measure for leveraging modern medicine to help them achieve more youthful looks.
So, is Botox Bo-utiful, or Bo-toxic? Here are three reasons in support of and against Botox.
Arguments for Botox
Skincare is but one small appeal of Botox’s healing potential
The use of Botox as a cosmetic agent is just one way Botox helps people to care for their bodies. It helps MS patients overcome overactive bladder muscles; it can be used to treat muscle spasms associated with cerebral palsy, eye muscle disorders, and even migraines. Over the years, Botox has been increasingly used to help improve people’s health. Doctors are prescribing Botox to combat a myriad of ailments, including depression, excessive sweating, and even heart problems.
It lengthens the lease on youth
It’s no secret that youth is revered in cultures near and far. Centuries of society’s preoccupation with youth argue that this trend is unlikely to change, and Botox helps people to gain a competitive edge in a youth-driven society while they age. Moreover, psychologists have shown most people harbor a cognitive bias called the Halo Effect, which induces them to believe that attractive people have other positive personality traits, like intelligence and kindness. If society deems youth attractive and equates attractiveness to goodness, then using Botox to achieve a youthful look isn’t vain – it’s prudent.
There is even a growing trend among Millennials today to use Botox as a preventative measure to ward off aging before it even sets in. Given the rise of social media, Millennials may feel more pressured than previous generations to constantly look selfie-worthy – and this is where Botox can help. In fact, such preventative Botox procedures among 20-29-year-olds have increased 28% since 2010.
It leads to higher self-esteem and better overall health
The link between positive body image and high self-esteem is well established, and a recent Botox study showed a correlation to improved self-esteem and better overall health. Of 100 participants, half were selected at random to receive Botox injections, and the other half were administered a placebo treatment. Both Botox-treated patients and those who only received placebos reported improved body image, self-esteem, and overall physical health. This lends weight to the argument that the proactive nature of Botox treatments leads to better overall self-care, which promotes overall wellness.
Arguments against Botox
Claims that it prevents wrinkles are dubious
Botox deters the appearance of wrinkles by relaxing muscles that crease the skin when you make facial expressions. Some doctors contend that Botox can be used to prevent wrinkles if a patient starts young because muscles that do not move cannot create age lines. However, there can be side effects in the form of other wrinkles. The face wishes to fulfill its design, and move. Physicians concede that by relaxing some of the facial muscles, others overcompensate, creating wrinkles elsewhere on the face.
It undermines the principles of equal opportunity and merit
Botox’s promise to keep consumers looking young and beautiful contributes to aesthetic favoritism, wherein beauty and youth are favored over traits like intelligence and experience. The aforementioned Halo Effect (the brain’s proclivity to mistakenly correlate attractiveness to other desirable qualities) figures into this scenario as well. Whereas attractive people are assigned positive traits (perhaps undeservingly), people deemed unattractive are erroneously assigned negative traits and are consistently judged as less intelligent, good, or likable. In this way, beauty treatments like Botox promote the devaluation of merits that are unrelated to appearance. It also furthers inequality, as not everyone can afford Botox.
It contributes to the objectification of women and girls
Ninety-four percent of Botox treatments are administered to women. This data by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reflects a deep imbalance in societal expectations upon aging women to appear young. Over the years, Hollywood has gone from criticizing to accepting those who get Botox without addressing the product’s primary assumption – that it is important for women to be young-looking. It is this assumption that entangles women in unrealistic standards that can often form into an unhealthy preoccupation with the body.
Doctors and patients alike report the addictive nature of Botox treatments. Patients show up younger and younger for injections, complain more frequently about wrinkles, and, unsatisfied with their results, are more likely to seek more aggressive remedies to combat aging, including surgery. Aging women are not the only victims. Over one-third of girls report dissatisfaction with their bodies from age five. Many social science experts have located the uptick in depression, eating disorders, and self-harm in society’s obsession with aesthetic perfection – of which Botox may only serve as a quick, temporary fix.
The Bottom Line: Botox gives a boost of youth and confidence, but it also reinforces ageist attitudes which hold that young is more beautiful than old. The countless beauty and self-improvement products on the market beg the question of whether it is merely a symptom of the human desire to hold onto youth, or if it is becoming an underlying cause. What do you think?