source: Elle Magazine
Like so many of us, I’ve spent the pandemic gazing into the computerized glaze of my own bedraggled face. And while I’ve used Botox since my mid-20s, thanks to the early-onset brow creases that run in my family, I felt a new urgency around getting those injections as the world around me crumbled. The truth is, I would like to look better. I would like to feel better. I would like to believe looking better will make me feel better. And, it turns out, there might be something to my theory that adjusting my appearance might adjust my mood. The facial feedback hypothesis posits that by treating the wrinkles or sagging that make us feel tired and sad, we appear less tired and sad to others, and in turn, feel less tired and sad ourselves. Not only that, but a survey conducted earlier this year found that not only were dermatologists seeing an increase in mid-pandemic cosmetic consultations but that 86 percent of those doctors said patients referenced video conferencing as the reason they made the appointment.
Dermatologist Dr. Suchismita Paul says she’s noticed that trend in her own practice. “Normally, in regular life, people don’t see their expressions all the time — whether it’s things like smiling or frowning,” she explained. “But in Zoom, because you have that small window, you see your face when you’re frowning or smiling, and the lines are more prominent.”
Video chat also tends to distort the facial features, making the jaw and lower face look more prominent or heavy, or making what Dr. Paul calls “Resting Frown Face” — the intent look many of us take on when we’re thinking or listening carefully — seem like our face’s baseline expression. And, she points out, pandemic cosmetic surgery interest hasn’t just grown among remote office workers; she’s also seeing essential workers whose new normal is spending all day in a mask express more concern about the appearance of their upper faces: foreheads and eyes.
If baby Botox is the entryway to injectables, after more than a decade going under the needle, I’ve probably graduated to toddler Botox. And I’ve come to a place of comfort admitting this aspect of my cosmetic routine, at least among friends, acknowledging the privilege it reveals. The truth is that I am at an age, where, if I were to achieve something great (which appears increasingly unlikely the less-young I get) no one would remark on how impressive it was, considering my youth. I am also at an age where, if I were to die, people would shake their heads and sigh and agree that, yes, I was far too young to die.
But I still question my own motivations; am I failed feminist to care about abortion rights and dismantling structural misogyny and body neutrality when I do not feel neutral about my own body, but instead, prefer that portions of it are dominated by expensive toxins? If it is my body and my choice, but I choose to make my body bend itself to some ideal it cannot achieve on its own, am I making a real choice? I can’t decide.