At the start of the millennium, cosmetic procedures and aesthetic treatments were an exclusive realm, open only to the rich and famous. Almost 20 years on and the powers of aesthetic medicine are no longer reserved for the financial elite, as procedures become more widely available, affordable – and accepted as the social norm. In 2019, a visit to your aesthetic clinic is as mundane as a doctor or dentist appointment.
Aesthetic medicines proliferation into everyday life has coincided with the rise of the self-care and mental-health awareness movement, and experts are taking notice. As a result, the psychological motivations and side-effects of aesthetic treatments are at the forefront of new research, and the results might surprise you…
‘People choose minimally invasive cosmetic procedures to look and feel good,’
From a study of 500 patients who underwent aesthetic procedures in 2017, more than 70% were said to be motivated by psychological wellbeing and an increased self-confidence, over physical appearance. The study found that unlike the out-dated and clichéd stigma of vanity and self-obsession, those who underwent aesthetic treatments were generally normal, sensible people with individual stories and concerns. Their motivations were varied, complex and usually independent of spousal or peer influence. In other words, they were having the procedure for them and them alone. Self-perceived physical ‘imperfections’ can stem from deep rooted beliefs, and a good practitioner knows that ‘a patients motivations should never be considered trivial.’
Whilst a problematic relationship with your physical appearance can be targeted through long intensive counselling, it is understandable why many patients would rather alleviate their distress with a quick 30-minute procedure. In fact, many of the study’s participants reported ‘a better quality of life’ and feelings of ‘sustained wellbeing’ following treatment.
Botox – the New Antidepressant?
It’s not just the psychology of aesthetics that’s proving beneficial to mental health. Botulinum Toxin (Botox) is currently undergoing clinical assessment for its potential use in the treatment of symptoms of depression. A small scale 2017 clinical trial reported that, when administered as a complementary treatment alongside traditional therapy, patients reported an ‘improved quality of life’ and a reduction in intense depressive symptoms.
Whilst the exact scientific reason behind these results is still uncertain, the trial scientists believe that it has something to do with a disruption to the ‘facial feedback mechanism.’ When we make different facial expressions, the muscle movement transmits a message to the brain that signals a corresponding emotion. The contraction of the forehead and frown-line is translated by the brain as requiring a negative emotional response and activity in this area is often significantly increased in depressed patients. Administering Botox to the (glabellar) frown line and forehead helps decrease movement in these areas and limit the negative signals sent to the brain!
As a professional aesthetic practitioner, it is important to assess patients individually and thoroughly evaluate their physical and mental health before any medical procedure, yet whilst still in its’ early research stage, these findings suggest a bold step forward in the treatment of depression and a significant shift in the understanding and application of aesthetic medicine.