I JOINED THE BOTOX CLUB TODAY AND IT GOT ME THINKING.
So I did it. I finally became an official hypocrite. Up until probably two years ago I used to think and say vicious things about women who got Botox. And I’d absolutely spit venom when my mom got it. For me, it was so painfully obvious when women had had the ol’ Botulinum toxin—so obvious!—that I hated seeing my mom fall into the category of mid-40/50-year-old women who are insecure about their age. I hated seeing Mom become a stereotype.
In this clichéd group of Debbies and Suzannes, they’d overdo it. They’d get the tell-tale bunny nose crease, it’d look like they had a slight eyebrow lift, and then there was the characteristic Botox sheen across their foreheads. I hated that Botox because to me, it was visible insecurity, and you’re meant to keep that shit inside! (Jk.)
But then I grew up — I got older, too. I saw the furrow between my eyebrows deepen, courtesy of years’ worth of intense studying and writing. It had become a permanent fixture on my face, even when I was relaxed. I didn’t mind so much the fine lines across my forehead and the paper-thin skin that caused them, but my perma-furrow, my ‘buttbrow’ as I so fondly deemed it, was always something I secretly want to get rid of. Because who wants to look cross when they’re not?
I started to realize that women entertain the idea of cosmetic surgery not necessarily because of insecurities about their appearance, but due to a desire to present what they think is the best version of themselves. Obviously I knew that getting Botox wouldn’t suddenly give me ageless beauty or the carefree life my line-free forehead would suggest, but I was curious to see how it would affect me, outside and possibly inside.
Well, feast your eyes:
These are 100% unaltered pics I took pre- and post-Bo. Prom. No filtering, none of that Facetune-ing shit, only the same amount of makeup I wear every day. This is what swallowing your pride looks like. After finally not being a stubborn prick and showing my mom some empathy, I asked her about her various Botox experiences. Needless to say, shortly following our chat I scheduled my own appointment. Then the reality set in: At a just-turned-27, I, too, would become a member of the Botox Club.
Cut to me in the waiting room a few days later, I was trying to remain calm and re-convince myself I’d not become the stereotype I despised. All the while fearing I’d open Pandora’s Box of Beauty Enhancement and do a Kylie Jenner. As I was in this thought loop of, “I’m fine. This is fine. It won’t have any psychological impact. It’s fine. I’m fine,” a beautiful, 40-something Spanish woman came out of her procedure room and beelined to the hanging mirror. Pawing her slightly red face she was saying to herself, “Ohhh, God, it’s awful. Bleurgh, oh, it’s awful,” as she continued to examine the few blemishes on her skin and tut disapprovingly. It was then, in this exact moment, this exact moment, that I truly learned what self-love is.
I completely appreciate the utter irony of the situation, but the terrible things she was telling herself in the few seconds she was in front of me, made me horrified to think of what she said in her head, all day, every day. I physically hurt from this stunning woman’s self-loathing, and it genuinely saddened me to think of all of the other women who have a similar internal monologue. Because thoughts become feelings and feelings become thoughts.
Although women flagellating themselves with negative self-talk is nothing new to me; I’ve been working in the industry notorious for its unrealistic standards of beauty for the past seven years. Yet it’s one thing to have a 20-something colleague whine, “Oh, I shouldn’t have had that Prêt croissant,” versus a non-fashion world woman berate herself right in front of you and not be fishing for compliments.
Naturally right as I was peak freaked out, I was called into the procedure room. Feigning calm and trying to forget I was now slightly ashamed for getting Botox, my therapist’s waiver waving and icing of my forehead distracted me. A couple of jabs here and a couple more there, and I was done. Furrow begone!
I thought this would be the end of the story, important beauty lesson learned, but nope! Aside from the weird, tingly feelings I had in my forehead for a solid week post stabby-stab (it felt like my forehead muscles were fatigued from forming new synaptic connections now that their default pathways were paralyzed), I instantly noticed how my emotional response was equally frozen.
Because I was so sensitive to every movement, I was acutely cognizant of every emotion expressed on my face. This awareness then made me more perceptive to my emotional reactions: I was almost a little tentative to frown or raise my eyebrows because it felt weird, and I didn’t want to be reminded that I’d elected to temporarily paralyze my forehead muscles. Even if I was internally upset or annoyed by something, I’d try to stop myself before I showed it.
In turn I found I was self-regulating not just my external responses, but my internal ones as a consequence. I didn’t feel as stressed for as long as I used to when I could frown freely — and most of the time not even realize I was doing it. Then, from deep within my hippocampus, a memory surfaced: I’d learned during an entry level psych course that facial expression affects mood, something first proposed by old mate Charles Darwin and later examined by Strack et al.
Not long after, Zajonc, Murphy and Inglehart in 1989 investigated the same phenomena, creating a study on the vascular theory of emotional efference (VTEE). These bebes found correlations between facial expression and emotion by manipulating arterial blood supply temperatures via the cavernous sinus. According to them, positive facial expressions decrease blood flow to the cavernous sinus, which cools the temperature of the arterial blood supply and this elicits a ‘pleasant’ emotional response.
A bunch of folks then extra-fied the facial expression feedback loop theory and wondered if Botox could affect mood, much like I’d been finding it was mine. Hombres Michael Lewis and Patrick Bowler in 2009 , and Lewis again in 2012 (tsh, overachiever) found in their experiments that use of Botulinum toxin on facial muscles correlates with a more positive mood, as it restricts the ability to frown and generate a negative emotional response.
So simple, but so amazing. I know what you’re now wondering: some more science kids did geek out to see whether Botox could be used as an effective depression and anxiety treatment. So far, it’s all pretty encouraging — and pretty mind-blowing — but research is still fairly controversial, understandably. But hey, nothin’ wrong with a lil’ rebellion…
As I’m still wrapping my head around the life line-free, it’s still rather bamboozling to have gained an understanding of self-love through the most paradoxical of experiences. Hell yeah I’ll probs get Botox again, but now I’ve scratched the itch, it won’t be for a while because it’s just not necessary at my age.
But my final revelation? Well, after this whole process I’m fairly certain my theory, the things we think we hate are actually the thing we want the most, has got some mighty fine legs to stand on. But das a whollleee other enchilada for a whole other day! Stay tuned.