The U.S. is the number one consumer of prescription drugs and medical devices across the globe. Though there are plenty of uses of medications and devices, using these items to enhance appearance has significantly increased in popularity over the last few years. Plastic surgery is a surgical specialty involving the restoration, reconstruction, or alteration of the human body. Plastic surgery can be divided into two categories: reconstructive surgery and cosmetic (aesthetic) surgery. Reconstructive surgery includes hand surgery, microsurgery, and craniofacial surgery.
Rather than aiming to reconstruct a part of the body or improve its functioning, cosmetic surgery is used across the world to improve the overall appearance of a body part — especially the face. Nearly 74% of adults feel an unattractive smile can hurt their career success, which one of the reasons people are turning to cosmetic treatments.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the use of Botox and other neuromodulators has increased by 819% since 2000, with more than 7 million treatments in the U.S. in 2017 alone.
Botox is a nonsurgical procedure that reduces facial wrinkles, primarily in the uppermost third of the face. Botulinum toxin injections can help with muscle relaxation and can soothe overlying skin. The number of cosmetic procedure recipients has gotten significantly younger in recent years, as well. Last year, 72% of members of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reported seeing an uptick in patients under 30 years old.
Unfortunately, Botox recipients need to be careful about potential emotional concerns. According to The New York Times, though Botox and other cosmetic surgeries can certainly improve overall appearance, it could hinder emotional recognition and connection.
“People these days are constantly rearranging their facial appearance in ways that prevent engaging in facial mimicry, having no idea how much we use our faces to coordinate and manage social interactions,” said Paula Niedenthal, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has published several studies on facial mimicry and its social and emotional importance.
In addition to the over 800% increase in Botox injections, many people have turned to “mini-facelifts,” involving ocular, forehead, chin, and cheek enhancements.
However, researchers have found that when the ability to make facial expressions has been hindered, individuals are less able to interpret other facial experiences and experience related emotions. Unfortunately, Botox injections lead to less activation in areas of the brain that are used to interpret and modulate emotional states.
“Muscle movements in the face sustain interactions between people, and if you take that out, you’re working with a blank slate,” added Jeffrey Cohn, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. “That’s not an effective way of maintaining rapport or establishing connection.”
Conversely, due to Botox’s ability to decrease the intensity of negative emotional experiences, it can effectively be used as a treatment for depression.
If you’re considering Botox or any other cosmetic (or reconstructive) procedure, it’s best to do plenty of research and consult with a professional.