Every so often, I open an E-mail that makes me cringe. This week a press release titled "How Botox can help you get a new job" brought out those frown lines. It detailed a study published in the June issue of the journal Dermatologic Surgery in which 300 volunteers rated "before" or "after" photos of 17 women who had had Botox injections in their brow, forehead, and eye wrinkles. The volunteers gave higher scores to the "after" photos for attractiveness, dating appeal, and athletic ability—all qualities that improve the first impressions people make when meeting a potential boss, argues the study's author.
But when I looked at a couple of the photos—which you can do below—I couldn't see much difference between the two images.
True, her forehead wrinkles are smoothed out. But is that really enough to make a difference to a boss? Study leader Steven Dayan, a clinical assistant professor of surgery at the University of Illinois in Chicago, thinks that the subtler changes make her more appealing, which could well influence someone who's hiring. "Botox raises the eyebrows a bit, opens the eyes, and spreads the width between them to make a person look friendlier," he says. "Those first impressions that tell us whom we like better may be determined subconsciously in a primitive part of the brain called the amygdala." Also, he theorizes, people may exude a look of confidence—a selling point in a job interview—when they feel better about the way they look. (Dayan has taken speaking fees from Botox maker Allergan and used an educational grant from the company to finance his study.)
Still, the study didn't ask the participants to specifically rate a person's potential to land a job. And it didn't find a statistical difference in ratings of before and after shots on the ability to succeed financially or in the workplace. However, the smiling faces—before and after—got better ratings in these two areas. So maybe a smile could work better than Botox in a job interview.
I'm certainly not against Botox to diminish signs of aging if that's what a woman wants. Heck, I use a retinol eye cream every night for my own fine lines. And a growing number of women as well as men—as my colleague Adam Voiland previously blogged—are turning to cosmetic procedures to remain competitive in the workplace. What I am against are the scare tactics that bully women into thinking that they've got to cosmetically alter their appearance if they want to succeed professionally. Yes, research has shown that thin, attractive, tall folks make more money than their fatter, plainer, shorter counterparts. But do we really need to buy into the must-not-age-at-any-cost mentality?
"If you're really good at what you do, you'll be competitive in the work force whether you have wrinkles or not," says Ann Kearney-Cooke, director of the Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute and author of Change Your Mind, Change Your Body: Feeling Good Again About Your Body and Self After 40. She says she worries about her female patients in their 30s who have already made Botox part of their beauty regimen, taking their fear of growing older to an extreme. What's more, she objects to them putting their beauty in someone else's needle-wielding hands instead of taking charge of it themselves by eating nutritious foods, exercising, and developing their passions. "I have to be honest—I can't say I'll never get Botox," the 52-year-old psychologist confides to me. "But I also know my signature strengths, both mentally and physically, and know that I can be attractive at any age." Plus, her patients don't care if she has wrinkles—in fact, many may view them as a sign of experience.
On that note, I think I'll take my inspiration from the actress Cate Blanchett, the 39-year-old mother of three who said last month that she's proud of her imperfections and would never consider having plastic surgery to fix them. She tells Britain's Glamour magazine, "I see someone's face, someone's body who has had children, and I think they're the song lines of your experience, and why would you want to eradicate that?" See her gorgeous song lines here.