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Should you get Botox?

Posted by Julie Hafer on

Well, first let me remind you the name of this blog is "Far BE it from Me" and that's definitely how you should take this post. I do my best to weave in science to support my opinions, but in the end my blog posts are just that--opinions. Feel free to be like, "Julie, I do not agree." That's okay. Because this is a tricky one. I know lots and lots of people get Botox and I don't want to make a blanket statement about its being great or terrible because I don't even feel that way. That said, these are the things I want people to consider two things about it:

#1 YOU MAY NOT "NEED" IT

In the sense that you may not have tried a very important thing first--working on your habitual facial expressions. Yeah, it's hard. Quite hard. But it's actually the most effective thing you can do for the long-term appearance of your face. I started this project years ago when I noticed lines starting to pop up here and there. It's aging, that's how it goes. But I noticed where the lines were manifesting. Mostly around my mouth, because I'm a frowner (I have what is referred to as "RBF," which I dislike as a term because it's super sexist but I cannot deny I exhibit it). I am also a generally pessimistic person prone to sarcasm and also making "doubting" faces so my left brow has an overdeveloped muscle up there from the constant raising. This is my default personality and that's...cool. 

But wait! No, it's not cool. Because I'm actually someone who also enjoys the idea of personal GROWTH. I don't even like my pessimism! It's not nuanced enough. I'd rather be a joyful yet grounded "realist" (whatever the hell that means, I'm working on it;) The problem is, if I don't stop making all these doubty mean faces they will eventually etch themselves in permanently and then whether I've grown as a person or not, they'll still be around reminding me and others that I'm a pessimist, even if I fix that about myself.

So, what I've done over the years is deliberately feel my face more. I mean that literally! I will touch my face (with clean hands, obviously) when I feel it tensing up. I will give myself an admonitory yet gentle slappy slappy on the forehead when it's furrowing, a little massage around my mouth when I'm frowny. And it just relaxes my face and reminds me to stop holding so much tension there. You know when it's really tough? When I'm reading articles online (the news, ohhh the news!!!) or on my phone, or even texting. I will make so many faces! But, like posture, it's something you can work on. 

To that point, why are people so generally accepting that they can work on their posture (even ifit's actually quite difficult), or go to physical therapy and fix issues with their shoulders and knees, but when I say "Fix your face with self-awareness!" they're like "um, no, you are crazy. That's IMPOSSIBLE and unreasonable." Or they admit it's reasonable but then they make an appointment for Botox the next damn day. I swear, something about the way I explain things I think scares people and makes them want to defy me haha. 

I think maybe because it's overwhelming? It does feel so so hard. It's hard to change, period. Whether it's what you're used to eating every day, meditating, starting a new workout routine--it's hard. And yeah, it's super hard to change your face. Maybe it's the hardest thing because, unlike diet and exercise, you don't read articles literally every day about it (at least not what I'm describing), and there aren't support groups and clubs and face gyms. Actually, face gyms do exist!! But the ones I've heard of have programs that sound quite counterproductive. Guess what, moving your face around a lot isn't going to make you look younger!! it just creates more lines!! What I'm proposing is learning to relax your face more.

Oh, and not just relax it, but switch up the expression to one you'd like to see stick around. My replacement expression can best be described as my attempt at a "beatific smile." Because I don't want to walk around all blank-faced, that's weird. And unrealistic. When I have tense face, I notice it, calm it, and replace it with "beatific face." It makes me happier and calmer immediately (but maybe you don't want to walk around all the time with a dumb smile on your face like a doped-up hippie, consider the animal photo above. Those are some INTENSE GAZES. But notice they're not furrowing. I like a good intense gaze, and I have practiced it with great effect I think--ask my spouse)! 

And I'm sure you've heard of how there's a feedback loop, right? Between you (aka your brain) and your face? You feel bad, so you make a bad face, but you also can feel bad BY making a bad face. There's a two-way communication thing happening between your brain and your face, just like with your posture and your self-confidence. Plus, research suggests the lines you get from smiling genuinely (I don't like the term "crows feet" but that's what they are) make people judge you as more attractive and intelligent. So there you go. No need to be expressionless, surely!!!

[ASIDE: before all the psychology nerds out there start in on me about the replication crisis and how maybe those studies don't necessarily hold up I say okay fine! Let's just work with anecdotal evidence. Try slumping and frowning. Feel good about yourself? Now try standing up straight and smiling. Feel better? Okay then. It's hard to design experiments, so I'm thinking those theories will get back up on their feet someday and we can get back to doing what we know works--teaching our bodies and brains that we feel good by faking it til we make it.]

#2 You definitely don't need as much as some doctors are willing to give you

If you do decide to try Botox, just like you might decide to get cortisone injections in your knee or whatever (sometimes things have just moved way too far in a bad direction to be overcome through sheer force of will and exercises), consider getting the absolute lowest possible dose. Over-doing it looks terrible. And studies show it can actually lower your empathy for others if you can't make expressions of concern! That goes back to the feedback loop thing I described. 

Your face is sending you messages about how you feel. This is why I believe Real Housewives throw tables at one another. They literally cannot feel empathy anymore! Except for themselves, and that's why they cry a lot (or rather, tears come out of their frozen faces--like a waterfall), but only in acknowledgement of their own pain! A Real Housewife-specific study should be done!

That said, that same blocking of emotion could also work for you if you're an overly empathetic person. And also if you're an overly stressy person! I know one client, very young (early 20's) who had severe anxiety and migraines and when she got Botox it was a huge relief. The relaxation in her face translated into a near elimination of her headaches and a generally more positive outlook on life. It was amazing. Sometimes problems really are so bad that you need to take extreme measures.

And I guess that's what I'm trying to say. Botox is kind of an extreme measure. It's not a decision to be taken lightly. There are other things you COULD try first. But I didn't want this article to be a Botox-shaming article, because, again, "Far BE it from Me," and also because you already know the obvious risks (it's botulism, duh, and there's some evidence Botox affects the central nervous system but it doesn't seem to pose a real issue; and you know how uncanny valley frozen foreheads can look, I don't need to harp on that). But there are certainly some potential benefits for some people. 

So, anyway. Those are my opinions about Botox. I get asked a lot and that's what I say (yeah, I go on a diatribe, which is why I wrote this today so I can just refer people to it haha).  If your followup questions are about fillers and facelifts and other procedures, I have things to say about those as well, but none are quite as detailed as the above because I haven't thought about them as much. 

The overall "thing" at BE is promoting self-confidence, and I don't think "perfection"-seeking in your face or body is good and even if it were possible to look "perfect" I don't believe it would make you feel truly confident, or even attractive. Because youth is not synonymous with beauty and personality is what's awesome in a face! The rub comes when the personality showing up in your face isn't the one you're striving for. I believe in doing something about it. If I didn't, why would I even be in this business? Botox could be a part of that "something." But don't go there first, is my point? What a long-winded point haha...thank you for reading :) <-----(that's a beatific smile)

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