Around 100,000 Botulinum Toxin (or BOTOX) injections are carried out each year, most commonly for fine lines and wrinkles but now the neurotoxin is being explored for other avenues.
By paralysing the facial muscles used for frowning, Botulinum Toxin A prevents people from physically displaying expressions of negative emotion. This builds on previous research suggesting that facial expressions not only reflect but also influence our moods, and Botox treatment may lighten people's moods by literally wiping the frowns off their faces.
The most common area I inject is the forehead but I also regularly treat the masseter muscles at the rear of the cheeks to alleviate tension caused by teeth grinding at night, as well as the armpits and scalp to reduce sweating.
According to the WHO (World Health Organisation) around 300million people suffer from depression. Could anti-wrinkle injections help to reduce feelings of sadness and isolation?
A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology followed 25 cosmetic-surgery patients, 12 of them received injections of Botulinum Toxin A or similar neurotoxins, the others had fillers, peels or other cosmetic treatments for wrinkles.
Two weeks after they had the treatment, the patients filled out a Hospital Anxiety and Depression test — a self-screening questionnaire for depression and anxiety.
They also spoke about how they felt.
According to Professor Lewis who conducted the study at the University of Cardiff, the Botox group of patients scored much lower on measures of depression, anxiety and irritability.
So could our facial expressions influence our brain activity?
Another study in 2006 looked at how Botox injected around the mouth and frown lines of ten depressed women affected their symptoms. The treatment was found to completely eliminate feelings of depression in nine out of the ten study subjects, and the tenth reported that her symptoms were improved. We often mimic other people's facial expressions during interactions, and this study also suggests that if people are unable to frown, others would be less likely to mirror this, breaking the cycle. It's really true what they say - 'let your smile change the world.'
We already know about the ‘look good, feel good’ theory. The confidence which getting a fresh blow dry or having our nails done brings, so does this go one step further? Can our motion affect our emotion? Whilst there is no substitute for seeing your GP, the evidence for treating depression and anxiety cosmetically is now undergoing further research by Harvard University and the FDA.