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When 27-year-old Emma Bradley, from Gloucester, tried Botox for the first time a few years ago, she didn’t realise what an impact the anti-ageing treatment would have on her emotional wellness. ‘I first became interested in Botox because I wanted to get rid of the fine lines around my eyes and forehead,’ she said. ‘I was modelling at the time and felt I needed to look my best.’ However, the Botox made Emma respond differently to the demands of her busy job. She noted, ‘I’m far less emotional than I used to be, and because nothing else in my life has changed, I can only think that it’s down to the Botox.’
At a conference earlier this month, psychologist Dr Michael Lewis of Cardiff University presented research that showed many women who have Botox don’t only get rid of their laughter lines, but also the laughter itself. Dr Lewis found that many women’s emotional wellbeing is affected by depression, because the Botox prevents them from smiling properly, or, like Emma, feeling as they used to in certain situations.
Dr Lewis argues that the crux of the problem is that many women blithely choose to have these injections without knowing that it could be having an impact on their feelings. He, and many wellness experts, believes that more research needs to be done in this area, and that we need to understand the important role that wrinkle-creating facial expressions play in our lives. Is changing your personality a price worth paying for the sake of smoothing out a few wrinkles?
‘The expressions we make on our face affect the emotions we feel. We smile because we’re happy, but the act of smiling itself also makes us happy,’ Dr Lewis explains. ‘Lines are formed by emotions and emotions are important because they guide us. In some cases, preventing an excess of sadness could be a good thing, but anyone who is having Botox needs to be aware of the potential psychological effect.’
Professor Nichola Rumsey, co-director of the Centre For Appearance Research at the University of the West of England, adds ‘There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that if the face is less mobile, whether from Botox or facial palsy, people can’t use non-verbal communication – the most powerful kind of communication – appropriately. This is likely to negatively affect their interactions with others and the quality of communication for both parties.’