Do we look happy because we feel happy? Or is it the other way around?
Patients who come to a board-certified dermatologist—such Dr. Derek Jones in Beverly Hills—for Botox® treatments may be seeking a change to their appearance, but they might also find an improvement to their mood, according to recent research conducted by two doctors studying the relationship of Botox® and emotions.
The idea behind the study was a simple one: Our facial expressions actually convey information to our own brains. If we feel ourselves frowning or see a sad, worried expression in the mirror, we can actually start to feel worse about ourselves. In other words, the sadder we look, the sadder we feel.
Drs. Eric Finzi and Norman E. Rosenthal explored the concept of using Botox® to effectively short circuit that internal loop. Their study involved administering Botox® to people suffering from moderate to severe depression. Since Botox® acts to relax muscles and thereby prevent frown and forehead lines, the subjects would not feel or see themselves wearing an expression that appeared uninviting, worried, or gloomy.
The study results were ultimately positive: More than half of the subjects who received a Botox® injection between their eyes were found to enjoy relief from their depression. Of the subjects who received an injection of a saline placebo, only 15 percent were found to experience that relief.
The doctors published their findings in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in May.
How could such results be possible? The study authors theorized that sad expressions could impact the way people perceive themselves, both in terms of seeing their own reflection and in seeing how other people react to them. A smoother, unlined forehead thanks to Botox® could prompt passersby, friends, and family members alike to respond more favorably than they would if they were met by a glowering expression. A more positive reaction in others can lead to a happier, healthier self-outlook.
The doctors also proposed that the act of frowning can itself contribute to depression. “Thus,” they wrote, “reduction in frowning my be in an of itself therapeutic.”
To be clear, Botox® is a cosmetic procedure. It is intended to improve a patient’s appearance by treating a number of facial lines, including forehead creases, crow’s feet, and even wrinkles at the corners of the mouth. The effects of a 15-minute treatment session can last up to four months, during which time the muscles that create such wrinkles by repeated contraction are relaxed. Patients can still make a range of expressions, but the creases that fold up and convey severe—often unintended—negative emotions are inhibited. Think of the short, vertical lines that form an “11” between some people’s eyebrows. Their appearance can lead others to believe that a person is worried or concerned.
Dr. Jones, who has administered Botox® for patients in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and far beyond, is one of the top providers of this prescription cosmetic in the United States. He has performed more than 70,000 Botox® procedures and has been awarded the Black Diamond Status designation, which is given to only the top 1 percent of Botox® providers in the nation.
Dr. Jones emphasizes that Botox® does not generate a “frozen” look. Rather, it allows for a refreshed appearance. The reduction of the appearance of forehead and other facial lines and wrinkles can also contribute to a more youthful look, since the creases that develop over time tend to become more prominent and permanent as we age.
A New York Times article about the recent Botox® study noted several similar prior studies that all seem to confirm what the two researchers found. That article concluded: “Whether Botox will prove to be an effective and useful antidepressant is as yet unclear. If it does prove effective, however, it will raise the intriguing epidemiological question of whether in administering Botox to vast numbers of people for cosmetic reasons, we might have serendipitously treated or prevented depression in a large number of them.”
That is an interesting thought. Still, as scientists, researchers, and doctors continue to debate the role of our expressions in our emotions, there is no question that Botox® does what it is intended to do: offer a fast, virtually painless means of revitalizing an aged-looking face.
Dr. Derek Jones is an internationally recognized aesthetic dermatologist who served as an investigator for Botox® when used to treat crow’s feet. He received the coveted Black Diamond Status from Allergan Pharmaceuticals, which places him among the top 1 percent Botox® and Juvéderm® providers in the United States. Dr. Jones created the Facial Harmonics™ approach to give his Los Angeles-area patients the most natural-looking results possible. Learn more about his Skin Care and Laser Physicians of Beverly Hills by visiting skincareandlaser.com or calling 310-246-0495.