Botox, Instagram And Where We Draw The Line
I’ve never had Botox.
But I’ve also never said “I’ll never have Botox.” Like, I’d say there’s a good chance I’ll do it. I just don’t know if it will be anytime soon and I don’t know where on my face I’ll put the needle. Judge me if you’d like, but that’s where my thinking on the matter currently stands.
And as it turns out, I’m not alone. According to Bloomberg, Botox makes up 70 percent of the $1 billion US injectables market, with Botox provider Allergan bringing in $907 million last year. Not to point out the obvious but that’s… a lot of money. The number of wrinkle-reducing procedures in the US increased by 3 percent in 2018, which doesn’t sound like much, but that totalled 7.4 million procedures in a single year. And I’d argue that at least half of those appointments were made by millennial women, with the Business of Fashion declaring last week, “The battle for the anti-wrinkle market is being waged on Instagram, where Botox and its new competitors are fighting for the attention of millennial women.”
It’s no secret that our “attention” is a hot commodity right now, and brands will do just about anything to grab it. But where should those brands draw the line (or erase it with muscle-relaxer)? Surely it isn’t kosher for a magazine editor to celebrate Mother’s Day by posting a photo to Instagram of herself lovingly kissing the forehead of a diaper-clad newborn (it was her baby don’t worry I checked), accompanied by a caption boasting the benefits of Botox? Well, apparently it is! Cosmopolitan’s Beauty Director Carly Cardellino advised her followers that her “go-to” self-care treatment at the moment is the temporary injection that smoothes wrinkles. The post was marked as an #ad and accompanied by a lengthy medical disclosure that said, in part, “It is not known if Botox Cosmetic passes into breast milk.” No shade, but the post didn’t exactly scream “Happy Mother’s Day”.
Advertising medical treatments on social media is risky, obviously. For one thing, no matter how in-depth the disclosures are about potential side effects, allergic reactions and risks associated with a treatment, our generation is so time-poor and impatient that we simply don’t read Instagram captions longer than a few sentences – a reality born out of the instant gratification social media has afforded us. We don’t need to walk to the letterbox in the morning to collect a newspaper when we’ve already read the headlines of six different newspapers online, and no, we’re not reading the list of seventy-two potential side effects your lawyers have demanded you mention on Instagram. With that in mind, should cosmetic companies really be allowed to push their services on fast-food apps (quick, cheap, dangerous to health when consumed in high volumes) like Instagram?
Side note: American company Botox Cosmetic has over 865,000 followers on Instagram, with one of their most recent captions reading: “Work hard, play hard #OwnYourLook”. It’s unclear whether the “work” or “play” part was referring to the Botox. Idk.
And let’s not ignore the elephant in the room: the increasing demand for cosmetic procedures like Botox is almost directly correlated with the rise in photo-editing apps like Facetune where consumers can blur out the appearance of wrinkles, pores, discolouration, freckles and pigmentation completely. We’re so unaccustomed to seeing lines on foreheads, crows feet and frown lines online that we now meet our own reflection with a level of pure shock when our skin starts to crease in ways it didn’t a few years ago.
The other problem of course being that Botox isn’t well-suited to everyone, and yet it’s praised on Instagram in the same universal way celery juice has. Personally, I’m inclined to think of Botox more like getting a fringe: lovely on some, transformative on a few, almost unnoticeable on some, and a down right disaster on a couple. I will never tell you that you shouldn’t want Botox “because you should love the skin you’re in”, because while that sentiment is well-intentioned, it’s become clear to me that there is a huge amount of shame heaped onto those who choose to undergo cosmetic surgery, working in direct contrast to the message peddled by those same women who claim to be feminists. The idea of shaming a woman for wanting breast implants or lip filler is far more anti-feminist than the procedures themselves.
So how about I do my thing and you do yours. Maybe I’ll freeze my forehead in my thirties and maybe you’ll leave yours to its own devices, and neither of us will do any spon-con about it. Capeesh?