A frozen face is not a happy face

13th September 2014
Botox injections for facial rejuvenation, now questions are being asked about the psychological implications.

When I worked in Dentistry I remember completing a tricky front bridge to improve a smile. What was noticeable was  prior to years of an unsightly gap between the patients teeth, the lips had dipped in slightly. My colleague, a forward thinker, injected botox into the lip to tighten it slightly and give a more balanced and beautiful appearance. One delighted patient.

This was in 1999 and much has changed in the use of Botox since then, as has my career direction. The idea that wrinkles are in someway unattractive is very much up to the individual and how they perceive aging or retaining youth. But what Botox is potentially doing is covering up a critical part of non verbal communication which makes upwards of 50-90% of our communication behaviour. A recent article on the BBC website covers a recent report from Journal of Aesthetic Nursing that stated that botox injections in people under the age of 25 may stunt emotional growth.

Read the full article

By injecting Botox into muscles of the face the effect is literally freezing them and with that a blank and less expressive face appears in emotional situations. You may say this has some advantages for card players and those who wish to not let anyone know what they are feeling. However, part of  human emotional development is the ability to read the feelings of others to gain better understanding of how others feel. We may or may not be aware we are doing it  but this is a ruthless reality. We need to understand each other better and by masking the very real automatic emotional expressions around the eyes, eye brows and fore head in particularly we are shutting off something that helps build empathy, rapport and trust. Without the development of understanding to these cues and the emotional growth that arises from it many people could find engagement, relationships, parenting,community more difficult and could end up more and more detached from each other. Community matters in 2014, and if you are looking for a physical sign we benefit from it consider evolutionary theory into how our eyes have developed. This states that the increased whites of our eyes are signs to show others inclusion and attention.

The Facial Feedback Hypothesis

In the case of younger people, the facial feedback hypothesis  states that people learn through mimicking the facial expressions of others. If these expressions are not being triggered, there is the potential for people to miss out a crucial part of emotional development.

So what does this mean to older people?

I have met with many people who have had some kind of Botox treatment and the impact varies. Some have had skilled aesthetic surgeons how have subtly enhanced the face and have considered the reliable muscles of the forehead. Others look like automatons with little to no human expression. I feel uncomfortable with these people, they appear closed, disengaged even if they want to be. I do not rely purely on words and subtext when in conversation with people and if there is an incongruence between what they say and what their face displays, or not in this case I find engagement far more difficult.

I cannot be alone in this.

Best wishes


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