Botulinum toxin is a protein and neurotoxin produced by the bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. Botulinum toxin can cause botulism, a serious and life-threatening illness in humans and animals. Popularly known by one of its trade names – Botox – it is used for various cosmetic and medical procedures.
Some Side Effects of Botox
A side effect of having Botox procedures on the face for cosmetic purposes is the inability to fully express emotions, with research revealing this can include the inability to fully feel emotions* as well as dulling the ability to detect emotions**. Eric Finzi writes; “William Shakespeare famously wrote that ‘a face is like a book,’ and common wisdom has it that our faces reveal our deep-seated emotions. But what if the reverse were also true? What if our facial expressions set our moods instead of revealing them? What if there was actual scientific evidence to support the phrase, ‘smile, be happy?'”
Botox and Facial Emblems
Raising the eyebrows can indicate signs of interest, and is often used in normal conversations (along with the eyebrows) as punctuators and to emphasize points. These tend to be absent with individuals who have been Botoxed, which also alters the appearance of emotions (lack of raised eyebrows can alter how fear and surprise appear).
Lowering the brows (also absent with many Botox patients) by themselves can be a subtle sign of anger, however it can also display deep thinking, disapproval, or something as simple as shading the eyes from a bright light or the sun.
“I want my kids to know when I’m pissed, when I’m happy and when I’m confounded. Your face tells a story and it shouldn’t be a story about your drive to the doctor’s office.” – Julia Roberts
Botox and Parenting
“Botox does likely limit and distort parent-infant communication, possibly making the parent look ‘flat’ emotionally,” says Dr. Ed Tronick, associate professor of paediatrics and psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts. “Facial expressions for parents and young children are really critical ways in which we communicate our intentions or whether we’re angry or sad, and that involves this very complex array of all the muscles that go into making facial expressions. So if you limit that range of expression, especially with very young children who are really attuned to reading facial expressions, then you limit the amount of information, the amount of emotion that you communicate using a facial expression.”
Botox and the False Fear Smile
Dr. G. Jack Brown suggests another interesting side effect on facial expressions and Botox – the “false fear” smile. This is a smile where the upper eyelids will “over-compensate” and raise to make up for the lack of forehead movement, creating what can be described as an alarming smile.