Everyone has been abuzz about Nicole Kidman and her passion for Botox. In fact, Sharon Osbourne quipped that Kidman's forehead “looks like a flat screen TV”. That little Nicole is no doubt a beauty but at what price?
New research published in Discover Magazine says that the long term effect of using Botox to freeze muscles also freezes emotions.
Botox was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000 and has become a multi-million dollar business. The way it works is that a lab-created botulinum toxin is injected into the muscle. These dynamic muscles are like the ones between the eyebrows that get exercise from laughing, scowling and squinting. Proponents of Botox contend that there is very little risk, citing that distant toxin spread happens infrequently (less than 10,000 patients). This spread is described as the movement of the toxin beyond the targeted muscle.
The long term effect is that muscles have a memory, so repeated Botox treatment of particular dynamic muscles train the muscle to relax thereby giving the impression of fewer lines and wrinkles. This may sound like good new but what also becomes reduced is expression. The new research reported that over the long term, the face loses its vitality and activity.
"They're going to probably develop things like depression, social anxiety disorders and things that are really going to affect their health in the long term," said Dr. Mark Williams, cognitive neuroscientist at Macquarie University in Canada.
What is lost with the expression is our animal instinct to read communications signals. Facial expression is key to understanding and experiencing the emotion of others. If the face freezes emotional cues, communication is effected. Williams said, “when you actually take away the ability to make a facial expression then you are not going to be able to portray that to others so others aren't going to be able to understand if you are sad or if you are happy."
He said Botox users don't have the same highs and lows of emotions and can't recognize them in others. His theory is that we have an automatic response; if a person smiles at us we smile back. As humans, we mimic even if it is for a second.
"There's a lot of evidence that what we do is mimic what the other person is doing and we get the same physiological response that they get, so we are 'yeah you are happy because I'm feeling happy' or 'you are sad because I'm feeling sad'," said Williams.
The act of smiling or frowning or grimacing literally triggers a response in our brains you can see. Williams claims that Botox reduces emotion. “Paralyze your expression…paralyze your relationships.”
Kidman’s doctor, Dr. Mary Dingley from the Australian College of Cosmetic Surgery disagrees. She contends that treatment actually improves well-being and helps with depression, especially those who have deep frown lines.
She feels that Botox has the reverse effect that Williams is suggesting in his report. People who feel that they look better interact more effectively with people and they are not feeling isolated. "So if you're walking around like a thundercloud all the time, people will think that you are very cranky even if you're not. So a lot people with Botox can relax that frown and people find you more approachable," said Dingley.
Dingley stated that smile muscles are unaffected by Botox so people can smile perfectly naturally. “And you can still show surprise, you can still show affection, all of those sorts of things," added Dingley.
These are polarized points of view on the effect of long term Botox treatment. Since extended usage of Botox is relatively new, researchers will continue to track patient emotional health.