Young people are increasingly turning to anti-ageing procedures, including Botox. ANU psychiatrist Neil Jeyasingam says the reasoning goes beyond the superficial.

It only takes a few minutes scrolling through TikTok for the obsession with looking youthful to reach your personal orbit — from claims Gen Z are ageing like “old milk” to children as young as 10 buying expensive anti-ageing creams from Sephora.

And that’s before reaching the #age filter, which is trending on the platform. Content using this hashtag filter tends to depict hyper-real distortions of what users might look like when they are older — sagging eyelids, wrinkles, pigmentation and all.

@dermguru

This new aging filter is an accurate representation of the aging process. But you can age more rapdily (or more slowly) depending on what you do to your skin as well as lifestyle choices. #agingfilter #agingfilter😬👵⏰ #antiaging #agewithgrace #dermguru #dermreacts

♬ Ethereal – Txmy

Increasingly, this premature fear of ageing is manifesting offline, with people as young as 18 opting for what’s been coined as ‘Baby Botox’.

The procedure works the same as normal Botox – paralysing the natural movements of one’s face to prevent wrinkles. The difference is that Baby Botox is administered at a lower dose to achieve a more ‘natural’ look. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, this procedure is on the rise, with Botox injections increasing by 28 percent since 2010 amongst 20 to 29-year-olds.

While it may be easy to pin this seeming vanity on social media, Associate Professor Neil Jeyasingam, a psychiatrist from The Australian National University (ANU), says there is another societal factor at play. Trigger warning: it involves the pandemic.  

“In a post-COVID phase, sociologists noted that people were quitting their jobs. The so-called Great Resignation verified that we have changed our behaviours in relation to the pandemic, and this seems to be related to that anxiety,” Jeyasingam says.

“There was also an increase in death anxiety over the COVID pandemic, and with that comes an increased fear of ageing.”

It’s with this fear that the effects of Botox become about something more than surface-deep beautification. Such procedures can be a subconscious attempt to gain control of our biological clock.

“Ageing reminds us of our mortality. In undergoing these procedures, there can be this underlying feeling that you will magically live forever, which is a defence against the distress that everyone faced over the pandemic,” Jeyasingam says.

“Generally, the younger we look, the more reassured we are about our age, and cosmetic procedures make people feel better about themselves. But in terms of the social changes we’re seeing, people seem to be adopting them at a much earlier age.”

@botoxrnandmedspa

We always get asked what the best age to start Botox is?🤔 Our recommendation is early to mid 20s to get ahead of the game🥰 #botox #antiaging #texas

♬ Sitting around doing NISH lp24s – LPEE

Ironically, one of the most effective ways to slow down ageing is completely needle and cost free. 

“Exercise is so ridiculously effective that I have prescribed it to almost all of my patients because it seems to fix, prevent and slow down everything,” Jeyasingam says.

“In terms of ageing-related problems, like dementia, or other types of cognitive impairment, and virtually all mental health issues, the best treatment we know of is exercise.”

While countries such as Japan have a long history of respect for their elderly, much of the Western world has experienced a steady increase in ageist thought patterns. This may be because we are simply living longer. Factors including nutrition, better public infrastructure and improved access to medical care have led to an increase in life expectancy.

“One of the bizarre things is actually defining what an old person is. We generally say 65 because of the pension age,” Jeyasingam says.

“An older person is a very different person now to when that concept was first introduced, but we still hold onto 65. We haven’t worked out a consistent societal model around ageing. Although, it seems the older you get, the less people want to see you, which is extremely unfortunate.”

As for how we tackle this age-old crisis? Jeyasingam says the solution begins with visibility. 

“Let’s celebrate older people and have them all front and centre,” he says.

“It would be wonderful if we could have more older role models being present in the media, and there is some evidence of that. Coming back to social media, there are these brilliant TikTok grandmas — they’re fantastic. That’s the sort of thing that is going to potentially change things.

“When people see ageing as a gift rather than something to be afraid of — that is going to make a lot of changes in society for the better.”

As the saying goes, age is just a number, right?

Top image: Female cosmetician injecting Botox. Photo: Vitalij Sova/alamy.com

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