Botox Effects are More than Skin Deep
Study finds that having Botox treatment not only makes your face difficult to read, but also impairs your ability to read the emotions of others.
Botox is a popular cosmetic treatment where Botulin toxin-A injections paralyse your facial muscles, which relaxes smile lines and makes your skin appear younger. In comedies, it is often joked about for giving patients frozen expressions.
But now, researchers say it can also reduce your ability to understand other people's emotions.
According to the theory of embodiment, in order to process an emotion, one is required to mimic that emotion.
When we see our friend smile, our face automatically smiles a little as well.
Although this smile may be imperceptible, this action aids in our understanding of our friend's emotional expression.
However, if your facial muscles are paralysed by Botox, you cannot copy your friend's expression, and, therefore, you will have difficulty understanding how they are feeling.
In the study, the team analysed the emotional understanding of participants before Botox and two weeks after the Botox treatment. This data was also compared to participants who did not undergo the procedure.
The results showed that there was a tendency for the post-Botox subjects to marginally underperform when observing overt expressions, but the negative effects of Botox were most apparent when participants were trying to decode subtle expressions.
"When the emotion is very strong, we may not actually need this feedback, since we have our brain and other cognitive resources that are enough for us understand, for example, whether a crying kid is sad or not [...]. But if someone is just slightly sadly (sic) looking, it might be important for us to consider all the resources our body and brain gives us", explains lead researcher Dr. Jenny Baumeister.
Humans do much of their communication through facial expressions and a failure to pick up on emotional nuances can cause unintentional miscommunication.
However, it's not all bad news. Thankfully, this newly discovered side-effect is believed to wear off after several weeks, when the Botox wears off, and patients are expected to regain their ability to respond to emotional stimuli.
In addition, this research has one surprisingly positive implication. Botox can diminish your ability to recognise antagonistic emotions. For those with depression, decreasing one's ability to process negative emotions can be a good thing. Perhaps a little Botox can be good for your mental health.