Do teens really need to undergo a procedure that has not been proven to prevent wrinkles, and should doctors be using Botox on young people who have no wrinkles?
What is Botox?
Botox has been around for years and was used to treat wrinkles starting in 1989. Prior to its use for wrinkles, Botox was used to treat certain eye conditions. Since then, it has become a popular treatment for wrinkles for those wanting to avoid more invasive cosmetic surgery. Botox is a protein which is produced by the Clostridium Botulinum bacteria. It is a potent neurotoxin and causes paralysis of the muscles in which it is injected. When Botox is injected into frown lines and wrinkles, it causes a relaxation of the muscles and erases wrinkles. Unfortunately, its effects wear off and Botox injections must be repeated.
Botox in Teens on the Rise
In 2009, more than 12,000 Botox or Dysport (a similar product to Botox) injections were provided to teens under the age of 18, according to ASAPS (American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. This number has grown from around 8,000 injections the previous year. Almost 12,000 of these injections were given to teens between the ages of 13 and 19, a number that has increased. (Note: these figures do not differentiate among teens who received the injections for cosmetic reasons versus those who were given the injections for medical reasons, such as migraine prophylaxis; however, a large proportion of the increase in Botox injections is thought to be for cosmetic reasons).
Teens, their self-esteem, and Botox alternatives
Teens are under a lot of pressure these days as far as appearance goes. While appearance has always been important to teens, today’s teens are inundated with images of perfection everywhere they look. Television, the movies and the Internet all contribute to an unhealthy obsession with looks. Botox has gained popularity among the adult population as it is easy to obtain (think Botox parties) and is relatively inexpensive in comparison to other plastic surgery techniques to wipe out wrinkles. It is no wonder that teens are attracted to Botox. The difference is that adults have wrinkles to be treated, while teens only have the promise of someday developing wrinkles, and there is no scientific evidence that Botox can prevent wrinkles from ever occurring.
One issue with Botox that many teens fail to consider is that the body grows resistant to Botox the more it is used, requiring the user to increase the dose of Botox to achieve the same result as previously. Increasing the amount of Botox injected can be dangerous, as fatal reactions can occur. Using Botox at such a young age virtually precludes its use in later years when wrinkles actually present themselves. Therefore, there is little use in using Botox when you are young and don’t have wrinkles- save it for when wrinkles are a real problem!
What should parents do when their teen begs for Botox? Parents can emphasize the fact that Botox will not prevent wrinkles from occurring and that it is meant to treat wrinkles which have already occurred. Explain to your teen that the effects of aging, such as wrinkles, are best fought by a proper diet, drinking plenty of water, avoidance of the sun and a good skin care regimen. Help your teen choose a good skin care program based on their personal skin issues that also provides plenty of moisturizer. Caring for your skin as you age is the best prevention against wrinkles. If your teen is very concerned about their appearance, try to get to the bottom of what the true issue is: are they self-conscious about a particular issue, such as acne? Are they being bullied at school? Perhaps there is something else at work that your teen believes Botox will cure.
Other, less risky procedures as alternative to Botox
If your teen is looking for a boost to their self-esteem and a way to feel good about their appearance, there are other procedures that are less risky and do not need to be repeated as often as Botox does. Consider the following:
Book a full facial and skin care consultation- have a professional assess your teen’s skin care issues and needs and offer advice on skin care. Your teen will enjoy the pampering and may come away from their facial with a healthy glow, some great products and feeling good about their appearance.
Sunless spray tanning- sunless spray tanning offers the advantage of a natural-looking tan without exposure to harmful rays thatcan increase the risk of skin cancer and cause wrinkles. Sunless spray tanning is affordable, safe and your teen may love theirhealthy appearance.
Microdermabrasion- microdermabrasion provides a minor resurfacing of the skin, removing any dead skin cells and leaving behind a healthy glow. It may be done in a cosmetic surgery clinic and you will want to make sure the person doing the procedure is fully licensed. Microdermabrasion uses gentle abrasion via a hand-held wand that lightly abrades the skin to remove dead skin cells.
The skin is sometimes red for a day or so. It is painless and can be used to treat mild acne scarring and areas of hyperpigmentation, as well as clogged pores.
These days teens are under more pressure than ever to achieve the unachievable: perfection. They are under a lot of pressure from their peers and society, and this pressure may cause them to engage in behaviors that may not be healthy for them, such as Botox. Botox, however, is not without risks and teens should be made aware that Botox has not been approved for the use that teens use it for, to prevent wrinkles. There are far safer alternatives to preventing wrinkles, such as consuming a well-balanced diet, avoiding the sun, staying well hydrated and caring for their skin with quality skin care products.