Botox and the price of vanity

You’ve probably noticed that those who receive Botox treatments seem to have trouble moving their… uh… faces. Well, according to ScienceBlogs, new research is suggesting that the popular procedure may affect not only the ability to express emotion physically, but also to feel emotion.

Each year, millions of people use Botox to diminish wrinkles and frown lines. The injection — botulism, mostly — works by paralyzing the muscles involved in producing facial expressions. The journal Psychological Science will soon publish a study that suggests Botox “impairs the ability to process the emotional content of language, and may diminish the quality of emotional experiences.”

The reseachers found that botox slowed the reading of the sentences containing sad emotional content, which, as the earlier work showed, would normally cause the frown muscle to contract. The reading time for the happy and neutral sentence was the same in both sessions. The researchers assume that the increase in reading time means that paralysis of the frown muscles hindered the participants’ understanding of the emotional content of the sad sentences. They also argue that their findings support the hypothesis that feedback from the muscles involved in producing facial expressions is critical in regulating emotional experiences.

While more research needs to be done, the study’s conclusion is significant: “Botox may actually diminish the experience of emotion in those who use it.” Since 4.6 million people reportedly received Botox in 2008 (according to the American Society for Plastic Surgeons), that’s a lot of people who may be sacrificing a full emotional life for a little vanity.



Zoe Romanowsky is writer, consultant, and coach. Her articles have appeared in "Catholic Digest," "Faith & Family," "National Catholic Register," "Our Sunday Visitor," "Urbanite," "Baltimore Eats," and Zo

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