What are Fillers?
Botulinum toxin A, or Botox by brand name, is a neurotoxin that is used as injection therapy in the treatment of many disorders. It is a highly studied subject that has over a 100 year history, and was given the go ahead by the FDA in 1989. The toxin blocks the nerves from receiving signals, therefore the muscle is unable to move, creating paralysis.
Botox is an extremely interesting subject to me. I read the research and am impressed at what it is capable of, as well as have to wonder if it is worth it. I believe when most of us think of fillers/Botox we are thinking about the injections done by skin care clinics and spas that remove wrinkles and the ability to authentically smile. It is this subject I would like to speak to. However, there is a whole world of Botox that is being used medically for the treatment of cervical dystonia, spastic cerebral palsy, hemifacial spasms, migraines, etc. Although, the very fiber of my being writhes in agony when I think about people putting a neurotoxin into their bodies (one of the most deadly on earth), I also understand that there is a give and take in those situations. Those are the moments that must be weighed and measured to determine if the risks are worth the benefits. Those are the difficult decisions to make in life, and I have compassion for anyone who is put in that situation.
There are also some people with severe depression that might benefit from Botox, and the reason is that it takes away the ability to emote. It decreases a person’s ability to make the faces of negative emotions which decreases the experience of negativity in SEVERE depression. (Severe being the key word if you didn’t get the indication.) That being said, you may have reasoned out that the opposite is true as well, it also stunts the ability to have positive emotions.
I need to mention that the studies are limited on long term use, however some side effects do occur. My issues with Botox stem mostly from the emotional aspect of what it does to a person.
What does it do emotionally?
Why is this important? We all know there is a segment of population that is choosing to put this substance into fine lines and wrinkles in order to create an appearance of youth. Yes, youth is nice, however so is gaining wisdom, intelligence and a lifetime of experience. Did you know that in order to gain those things you have to go through experiences that elicit emotion? Studies show if you are unable to make facial expressions it takes away your ability to deeply feel as well decreases compassion. A study done via the University of Southern California and Duke showed a significantly decreased ability in women with Botox to discern other people’s emotions. This affects your communication, compassion, and experience.
Let’s look at an example. If you have Botox around your mouth or eyes and your 4 year old comes up to and tells you a funny story, your ability to comprehend and share that moment are stifled. Your 4 year old, perceives that did not bring the intended joy, you do not register that they are disappointed, and you miss a small yet powerful moment of connection.
Chinese Medicine approach to wrinkles and lines
Chinese medicine has roots in Toaism, among other things, and over thousands of years develop the concept of face reading. Face reading allows the observer to comprehend and understand the experiences and character of the person they are looking at. The overall picture can provide an abundant amount of information on life struggles, experiences, lessons, and approaches to life. It allows the knowledge to be used to create growth and balance. From this perspective an underlying reason we have lines and features that we do is because we have experiences that we have faced that:
1) Were so profound the emotions stuck with us. Yes your mom was right when she said your face will freeze that way.
2) There is frozen emotion on your face because you haven’t fully faced and processed the emotion and experience that formed it.
When you look at the function of lines and features this way it changes how we perceive ourselves. If we can look at ourselves as a culmination of all these beautiful and profound experiences both joyful and sad, perhaps we can see the amazing work of art that these lines create.
Botox and fillers that change the lines and stop the emotions thus stunting the experiences that we have. From the small moments of disappointing a child, to not being able to fully express and feel the joy of falling in love, or welcoming life into this world it blunts the fullness of our lives.
Having worked with people that choose to have their lines minimized in this way I have seen firsthand the effects of this product. I have watched people suffer from the inability to feel their joy. I have watched people walk through life with indifference because they were unable smile or laugh something off. To me it feels as though you are looking at someone in a mask. Have you noticed? I personally would rather see and interact with the authentic face of another person. I would rather see genuine smile or pain, if that were the case. I would rather know someone to their core than to see them walk through life like a masquerade ball.
As I have said, I can understand some tough choices exist of getting a filler for some medical purposes. However, I struggle with the choice of having this foreign substance injected into a body to create the false appearance of youth. Why not embrace the beauty of the wisdom that paints the beautiful canvas of our face over time? Why not embrace the fullness of the emotions that can allow our lives to be more amazing than we can possibly imagine? Be it joy or sorrow, grief or love, emotions create a depth and breadth to life that connects humanity. I propose we face and fully embrace our humanity together. That we age with grace and resiliency, that we show the world our shared experiences mean something in our smiles, in our tears, in our frustrations. In order to be fully and authentically ourselves we need to be able to show and feel our emotions.
May you be able to experience your emotions in a way that allows to learn and grow, that you feel the freedom to be able to do so. If you struggle with emotions, or even moving through life and leaving your youth behind one of the most powerful therapies I know of is Guided Imagery Therapy. It’s a non-invasive therapy that can help with emotional, mental, and physical issues. If you are looking for a non-toxic treatment for lines and wrinkles that also helps you process emotions facial acupuncture is a wonderful alternative. Happy healing and aging.
Photo credit for face/hands is due to Elijah Hiett