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The Shocking New Way to Use Botox

Asian-Americans are turning to Botox—but not for the reasons you might think. 

Until recently, I thought of Botox as the preferred procedure of the wrinkle-averse. But I just learned about a new use for Botox that I had never thought about: some Asian-Americans are using it to narrow the appearance of their jawline—and arguably to appear more Caucasian in the process. How does it work? According to Dr. Eric Schweiger of Schweiger Dermatology, one of the dermatologists who performs the procedure, Botox “doesn’t change the shape of the bones, but relaxes the jaw muscles that can cause a widened appearance of the jaw.” With multiple treatments, Dr. Schweiger adds, “these muscles can atrophy over time and the jaw can permanently narrow.”

Getting Botox injections in the jaw area is generally safe—the most common side effect is temporary bruising—and it’s already been used for years to treat patients with TMJ disorders. Still, I can’t help but think about the broader implications of Asian-Americans using Botox in this untraditional way. Clinical psychologist Laura Feder of Clear Clinic says, “Using Botox to change one’s facial shape can lead to or reinforce efforts to minimize cultural differences.” On the other hand, Feder adds, it can also be a tool to “empower patients to change aspects of their appearance that are displeasing to them.” 

As a Chinese-American, I know firsthand what it’s like to face pressures to conform to the dominant (i.e. Caucasian) standards of beauty. And yes, there have been times when I’ve wished my round, wide face had more clearly defined cheekbones and a narrower shape. Though I’ve never considered turning to cosmetic procedures to alter my appearance, I certainly wouldn’t condemn anyone who opts to do so. 

What do you think of using Botox to change your face shape: is it a troubling reflection of our national beauty norms or an individual decision that’s ultimately no big deal?

—Mai

P.S. In case you were wondering, I add definition to my cheekbones by adding a few swipes of highlighter.

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