Beauty Industry Bulletins

Botox can affect the ability to feel emotions

June 23, 2010 – Botox injections can do more than smooth your wrinkles and limit your facial expressions. These popular injections can also dampen your ability to feel emotions. The study results appear in the journal Emotions.

Botox injections were the No. 1 non-surgical cosmetic procedure in 2009, according to statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

“At least for some emotions, when you take away some of the expression on your face, you take away some of the emotional experience,” says researcher Joshua Ian Davis, PhD, a semester assistant professor in the psychology department at Barnard College in New York City.

“Whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage depends on your goals,” he says.

Botox dampens emotions

Botox injections smooth out wrinkles by paralyzing the underlying muscles that are causing the wrinkles. In the new study, participants who received botox injections reported being less emotional on some emotional video clips and therefore not feeling their emotions quite as deeply as their counterparts who received treatment with a wrinkle filler called Restylane did not paralyze muscles. Instead, Restylane gives volume back to facial wrinkles and fine lines.

This subdued emotional response was only related to slightly emotional clips, suggesting that the strength of the emotional impulse might make a difference.

However, those who received botox reacted to video clips after the injection as they did before the injection.

The new research aimed to prove the facial feedback hypothesis. This hypothesis suggests that our facial expressions can influence our emotional experience. The hypothesis seems to have some value when comparing the effects of Botox with the effects of Restylane.

More research is needed to validate and expand on this work, Davis told WebMD.

“We didn’t have the opportunity to specifically isolate each muscle group and determine how it relates to certain emotions,” he says of certain muscles such as frowns, crow’s feet, and smile lines. “


Second opinion

“It’s interesting, but very preliminary, and I wouldn’t draw any significant conclusions from this data,” said Steven H. Dayan, MD, clinical assistant professor of facial plastic surgery at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“People who get botox or other injections feel better and can make a better first impression,” he says. “There is evidence that a slight adjustment of the face like lifting the brow with botox makes a person look friendlier, happier, or nicer, and when people look friendlier, happier, or nicer, they probably feel that way too.”

Botox maker Allergan Inc. says media coverage of the new study has so far been incorrect.

“This study examined the facial feedback hypothesis, which assumes that creating a facial expression increases the intensity of the emotional experience and, conversely, that preventing a facial expression decreases the emotional experience,” Allergan spokeswoman Kellie Lao told Lao in an email WebMD. “There is no conclusive evidence in the medical literature to support the hypothesis that preventing a facial expression diminishes the emotional experience, and the results of this study do not support the theory that facial expression is necessary to trigger an emotional experience.”



Davis, J. Emotions, 2010; Vol. 10: pp. 433-440.

Joshua Ian Davis, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Barnard College, New York.

Steven H. Dayan, MD, assistant clinical professor of facial plastic surgery, University of Illinois, Chicago.

Kellie Lao, Allergan spokesperson.

© 2010 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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