Botox is widely known as the cosmetic procedure for turning back the clock. We mostly associate it with middle-aged celebrities and high society women who are so obsessed with erasing lines and wrinkles that they take their treatments too far and end up looking more plastic than human. It is these extreme images of botched botox jobs or botox obsessions that have sparked the stigma that surrounds botox, mainly that it’s vain or unnatural. However, in a global botox market that is projected to reach $2.9 billion by 2018, it’s hard to believe that everyone who uses botox for its wrinkle-reducing results is a walking advertisement for why we should all avoid it. When done correctly, botox can look completely natural.
In a society that is obsessed with looking younger and acting the age you want to feel, the stigma surrounding botox seems a tad contradictory. Why is it vain for someone to want to reduce wrinkles, to limit the signs of aging? And what is so unnatural about it if you can’t even tell someone has had the procedure? Aging used to be a natural process, but growing older isn’t what it used to be. People are living longer and doing things later in life than in any other period in history: people are living well into their nineties, working through their sixties. If we’re going to live long, full, healthy lives, then why shouldn’t we look healthy while living them? The way we live our lives has changed so drastically that we can’t just accept aging as a perfectly natural process anymore; the natural thing to do is to take steps to ensure we’re healthy, to ensure that we look and feel good. Today, young people and older people are not only working together more and more, but they are often competing. A 45-year-old woman I met at a networking event who worked in PR for twenty years told me how she was being booted out of a company in order to bring in more twenty somethings because her ideas were considered dated, wrinkled, if you will. Age is a factor in the quality of our ideas as it is in the quality of our skin, and it seems unfair that something so out of our control should be used to determine our value.
Botox isn’t an unnatural procedure. If anything, it is one of the ways we level the playing field to limit instances of ageism and allow people of different ages to compete. A study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences found that older adults had a more positive attitude toward people who use anti-aging techniques to reduce the signs of aging than younger adults. Alison Chasteen, the lead author of the study and an associate professor at the University of Toronto, says that this finding is important because “despite the emphasis on looking younger in society, there are possible negative social consequences to fighting the signs of aging by engaging in cosmetic age concealment.” These social consequences to fighting the signs of aging exist, I think, because society emphasizes ‘being’ younger not ‘looking’ younger. Being and looking are two different things: to try and look younger when you’re not is considered a lie, to be fooling people and fooling yourself. Both young adults and older adults who participated in Chasteen’s study stated that they viewed mild methods of anti-aging more favorably than procedures like botox. Methods like sun avoidance and facial creams were considered to be more natural and, therefore, appropriate for reducing the signs of aging. Exposure to UV rays accounts for 90 percent of the symptoms of photoaging (premature aging of skin), but even the slightest bit of exposure to the sun’s UV rays can trigger the processes that cause these premature symptoms of aging. This means that in order for sun avoidance to be effective you need to kiss your summers at the beach goodbye.
“Some people get wrinkles at a young age because they are genetically predisposed to do so, and some are looking to get rid of something, like a scar, that they’ve had since they were a kid,” Dr. Castelluber says, “but most young people look to use botox in order to prevent wrinkles.” The growing number of women in their twenties using botox to prevent aging seems to fit the necessity our society feels to ‘be’ young. It’s an attempt to not even allow aging to occur.
To age, to become dated, to wrinkle, implies a kind of obsolescence, a reason to be left behind by a ‘young’ society, or at least one that tries to remain relevant and current. Whether it’s deemed natural or unnatural, botox and treatments like it are methods we use to stay current, to update ourselves in a rapidly and constantly changing world. It’s true that people are living longer and doing things later in life than they ever did in any other period of history, but it requires not ‘being’ older, not ‘being’ the age you actually are.
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