Usually, I don’t really like to write about myself in an article, but next week it’s my birthday and I am reaching the grand old age of 22. Obviously I’m excited (who isn’t about their birthday?), but it got me thinking about the future and the fact that I, like everyone else, will age. So many people try to slow the advance of time by using creams and lotions to help them look youthful, but what about those that take it a step further? Do they really know what they are letting themselves in for?

Botox, for example, is widely used in beauty treatments in order to prevent wrinkles, but itcan also be used medically to treat conditions such as hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) and those suffering from upper motor neuron syndrome. Botox is merely a trade name for botulism toxin, a neurotoxin produced by bacterium Clostridium botulinus. Botulism poisoning (named after the Latin word for ‘sausage’ due to the high number of poisonings from improperly-stored meat products) causes minor paralysis,and, in large doses, can cause death by respiratory failure. In cosmetic use however, Botox is used in non-lethal doses and works by effectively paralysing the facial muscles. It is only a temporary procedure, lasting up to 8 months. It can also have side effects such as migraines and more seriously, drooping eyelids and double vision (although these are only temporary). Administration of Botox is also important, as bruising can occur at the site if it is injected improperly.

Think injecting yourself with poison was bad enough? How about putting acid onto your face to smoothen out any imperfections? Chemical peels, like Botox, are often considered popular choices due to their non-invasive nature, although they can have equally damaging results. The procedure is fairly obvious from the name itself; a chemical solution is applied which causes the outer layers of the skin to peel off, leaving skin smooth and less wrinkled.

Although many peels are ‘mild’ in that lower concentrations of acid are used, those at higher levels (which are used for moderate to deep peels) such as those involving the use of trichloroacetic acid can take days to heal, and, if used at improper concentrations, can cause permanent scarring. Phenol peels (the strongest type of peel available) may require increased protection from the sun for the rest of one’s life.

Many people turn to lip enhancements in order to combat the effects that aging has on the lips i.e. thinner lips and wrinkles around the lip area. Although newer techniques and types of filler have since come along, in the 1980’s collagen was used in order to plump up and enhance the lips. The downside: collagen is animal fat, taken from the hides of (in this case) cows. More recently however, treatments include the injection of non-animal substances as well as the transfer of fat from the patient’s own body, a procedure which usually involves a general anaesthetic.Lip enhancements can also end up having unnatural results – actress Leslie Ash(star ofTV comedy Men Behaving Badly) ended up the media after a poorly done lip enhancement went badly wrong-giving rise to the term ‘trout pout’.

Overall, is it really worth putting your body through things it was never designed to be put throughjust in order to look youthful and therefore ‘beautiful’? At the end of the day, it is up to the individual as to what they choose to do with their face and their body, and many of the techniques have been refined to make sure that the desired effect is created without any adverse side effects. However, it’s a shame that as a society, we cannot learn to accept that we are all beautiful as we are, regardless of age.

Katie Henderson

Image: EverJean on Flickr