If you see an expressive face as emotive and human, then muscle-paralysing Botox (sometimes marketed as Vistabel in the UK) might not appeal. Since it has been safely administered for medical purposes for the past two decades and licensed for cosmetic treatments since 2006, most of us will have witnessed the spectrum of results – some aesthetically appealing, some startling – produced by botulinum toxin A.
‘Some women do request a doll-like appearance and want every wrinkle frozen, but I tell them that it will look unnatural,’ explains Lynette Yong, a Harley Street cosmetic doctor, ‘since by restricting movement in multiple facial sites you simply cause lines to occur elsewhere: muscles are designed to be flexible.
More often than not, women just want to look good for their age and less tired.’ ‘There is no single “type” of client that comes for Botox treatments,’ says plastic surgeon Rajiv Grover, whose clients are office cleaners, school teachers, City high-fliers and everyone in between. ‘What many want is a confidence boost. Beyond reducing lines and wrinkles, the treatment has the benefit of subtly altering facial features so if you have a frown or low brows that make you appear sad or angry, it can have a positive visual effect.’
For every woman who is happy with the results of her Botox injections, there will be others who encounter side effects or aren’t comfortable with a diminished range of facial movement. One writer who tried Botox didn’t like the reduced facial expression and has decided not to use it again. ‘It didn’t occur to me that a seemingly routine treatment could affect my confidence so badly,’ she says. ‘Expression is such an important part of human interaction – study after scientific study proves it – that I would rather accept my frown lines than have them be a barrier to communication.’
‘Treatment has to be personalised for each patient,’ says Yong. ‘I look not only at superficial lines and wrinkles but at the way a client appears when they are animated to achieve a natural, balanced result.’ ‘I found Botox boosted my confidence because it lifted the frown lines that made me look permanently cross,’ says Florence Anderson. ‘But I did worry about becoming psychologically dependent on it, so I stopped having my top-ups. Now I’m quite enjoying the full range of surprise and scepticism that brows can express.’