Botox injections, a method for ridding the face of wrinkles by temporarily paralyzing the muscles underneath them, have increased by 759% since 2000. With Botox procedures increasing each year, it 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?
Skincare is but one small application of Botox’s tremendous potential to improve human health.
Botox helps MS patients to overcome overactive bladder muscles; it can be used to treat muscles spasms associated with cerebral palsy, eye muscle disorders, and even migraines. Use of Botox as a cosmetic agent is just one way Botox helps people to care for their bodies.
Botox 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 argues that this trend is unlikely to change, and Botox helps people to gain a competitive edge in 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.
Botox use can contribute 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 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. Botox treated and Botox naïve patients alike reported improved body image, self-esteem, and overall physical health, lending weight to the argument that the proactive nature of Botox treatments leads to better overall self-care, promoting overall wellness.
Claims that Botox 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. While this is true, lo and behold, 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.
Botox 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 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.
Botox contributes to the objectification of women and girls.
90% of Botox treatments are administered to women. This data reflects deep imbalance in societal expectations upon aging women to appear young. Interestingly, Hollywood’s Botox backlash, saw actresses like Julia Roberts and Salma Hayek criticized the face-freezing results of the drug, but said nothing against 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 earlier and earlier for injections, complain more frequently about wrinkles, and, unsatisfied with their results, are more likely 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.
Like any technology, Botox has advantages and disadvantages for the individuals who use it, as well as for society at large. On the one hand, it gives boost of youth and confidence, and on the other hand, it 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 Botox is merely a symptom of the human desire to hold onto youth, or if it is becoming an underlying cause.