Can Botox help you live longer?

Aesthetic Medicine
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Aesthetic Medicine
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Cosmetic procedures and medicine meet in the millennial-approved waiting rooms of “longevity-focused” clinics

On an upscale stretch of 5th Avenue in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood, flanked by towering Greco-Roman columns, lies a sleek destination for wellness. Situated in a minimalist space with beige-colored walls, a squiggly chrome and powder blue front desk, and lime green curtains, Modern Age bills itself as “the first longevity-focused health clinic.” Founder and CEO Melissa Eamer says in an email that she created the wellness oasis with “the goal of adding millions of years of healthy life expectancy to the world.”

Its rounded walls mirror the contours of the human body; its skylights change color. Modern Age’s calming atmosphere features an artistic blend of textures, gentle variations in lighting, and a meticulously curated palette of materials, all contributing to a medical experience that isn’t meant to look like a typical doctor’s office at all. Scattered within the lounge area, highbrow art books by Agnes Martin and Cindy Sherman are available to peruse, and there’s a section near the entrance foyer to purchase supplements for sleep, stress and sex drive. There’s an obligatory photo booth to make sure you capture it all for TikTok, and a “refresh station” lined with medical-grade skincare products to test out. The space even has an art collection curated by a professional advisory, with pieces specifically chosen “to recontextualize and modernize thoughts around aging.” And it’s conveniently located catty-corner to nearby medical aesthetic hubs like VSPOT, The Well, and Ever/Body.

Fitted out with all the requisite millennial-approved design touches, Modern Age caters to an audience that wants their healthcare facility to be just as curated as their social media. Indeed, if the “millennial aesthetic” has rebranded everything from razors to toothpaste, why should medical aesthetics be any different? With a tagline that reads, “designed to proactively slow down aging both inside and out,” integrative, holistic treatments such as hormonal imbalance tests and fertility screenings are considered as essential to “wellness” as are services for Botox injections.

The link between physical health and cosmetic enhancements is complicated. While injectable services have routinely been offered in clinics that tout “health” from both an interior and exterior perspective, such as dermatologist’s offices and medical spas, Modern Age is unique in the sense that it is one of the first clinics specifically focused on longevity—a process that combines scientific research with what Eamer notes are “evidence-backed treatments to proactively address the most frustrating and underdiagnosed impacts of aging.” Jessica Defino, a beauty critic who has written extensively on the negative effects of beauty culture, says over Zoom, that one reason might be that “the supposed aesthetics of wellness are appealing to younger generations as a stand-in for actual wellness. Our culture is becoming more and more digital, virtual and appearance based.”

“Seventy-five percent of facial plastic surgeons reported a spike in demand from clients under 30, while 79 percent agree that “looking better in selfies” is a trend that continues to rise, according to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.”

Companies like Ever/Body, Peachy, and Alchemy 43 are all part of a growing trend of aesthetically focused clinics that offer wellness treatments such as vitamin shots, alongside Botox—seemingly targeted at younger millennials and Gen Z. Alchemy 43’s website explains that they take “a holistic approach to aesthetics and wellness,” while Peachy’s “curated, modern, studio space” emphasizes “preventative Botox,” urging users to “prevent wrinkles before they form.” Videos on Peachy’s Instagram advise “the earlier, the better” to start treatment.

In the case of Modern Age, the connection between interior and exterior health is linked to what they call “subjective age,”— a marker for how old or young someone feels in relation to their chronological age, with the site stating that lowering it can “lead to a longer, healthier life.” Eamer says that “the research suggests that people who feel younger than they are end up with longer, healthier lifespans.” Generously, the argument could be made that Botox theoretically can help increase your longevity. Dr. Anant Vinjamoori, the chief medical officer of Modern Age, writes in a post online, “our team of specialists and health experts will create the ideal “recipe” of recommendations. For example, we may deliver Botox and dermal fillers to address skin goals, along with a hormone support program.” Tidy packages like these make it far too easy for medical professionals to “prescribe” dermal filler as a solution for skin health. In a TikTok video, their Director of Marketing states that “only 20 percent of how we age is in our genetics. The rest is actually in our control.” The pressure to “take control” then, is greater than ever — and those who don’t are increasingly cast a judgemental eye. Aging, similar to diet and weight loss, has become something of a moral imperative in society.

Nicci Levy, founder of Alchemy 43, says that the company’s branding and messaging came from a mission “to enhance confidence and deliver natural results.” Levy describes the space as one that is “truly inclusive and celebrates this type of personalized self care.” She adds that the impetus for starting the brand was “to fill in the white space of a lack of easily accessible aesthetic services for all.” However, Defino says we should be questioning why anti-aging is so important to culture in the first place. “When I see these clinics pop up, I just am shaking my head like, How are we not making any progress on disentangling these concepts of true health and actual wellness versus aesthetic beauty standards?

According to survey data from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 27 percent of patients receiving Botox were 34 or younger. In fact, Gen Z seems to be defining plastic surgery trends rather than following them. Seventy-five percent of facial plastic surgeons reported a spike in demand from clients under 30, while 79 percent agree that “looking better in selfies” is a trend that continues to rise, according to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS).

Preventative botox, “when done regularly, prevents lines from being etched into the skin,” says Shannan Naiser, an RN and “clinical market trainer” at Alchemy 43. Over time, continued expressions cause lines—Botox relaxes those muscles and prevents deep lines from forming over time. Lily Lazarus, who is 23, gets Botox every four months on her forehead and eleven lines as a preventative measure. Eleven lines (known as glabellar lines) are the two vertical ridges that form between your eyebrows when you scrunch them together. “When I first went into the plastic surgeon’s office, I said, ‘I know I’m 23, I’m pretty young.’ And they go, ‘No, that’s fairly typical.’ And I was taken aback by that.”

“The sleek, millennial-coded clinic that purports holistic wellness and luxurious spa tranquility makes it too easy to slip from the right cultural and aesthetic cues—green juice and yoga, Cindy Sherman and Agnes Martin—into an injection that promotes social media beauty standards.”

When confidence becomes increasingly linked to appearances and what’s reflected on social media, it’s not a far leap to say that preventative Botox can aid in counteracting insecurities around beauty norms. “I wouldn’t classify it on the same level as therapy or doctor’s appointments, but it is one of the optional parts… that has contributed to me living the best life possible,” Lazarus says of her injectables regimen. “It’s definitely part of my wellness routine.”

And “wellness” as an umbrella term has become vaguer than ever—research firm Ypulse found that 73 percent of people aged 13–39 agreed that somebody can work out and eat junk food in one day, both in the name of “wellness.” Botox is just as much a part of that equation as is drinking matcha and posting outfit pics en route to pilates. “Since it is being discussed a lot more, especially in a preventative sense, I believe it has piqued the interest of a younger demographic,” Naiser says.

However, when it comes to the “aging” conversation, there are two ways to look at it. Defino has written extensively on how the concept of “anti-aging” can perpetuate ageism. The “confluence of physical beauty and healthcare is built into the system,” she says. “The crop of “longevity”-focused clinics popping up are really just using language coded for anti-aging. Botox for aesthetic reasons is not about health at all, but when it’s lumped into something like a yearly skin cancer screening, it sends the message to patients and to doctors that these are both dire health issues that need to be addressed.”

But when did life expectancy become dependent on how many wrinkles we have? Over email, Eamer says, “aging can be a proactive and empowering journey.” Wellness historically meant looking at one’s health from a holistic perspective, targeting elements such as diet, lifestyle, and supplements to achieve a portrait of ideal health. When that notion gets intertwined with cosmetic procedures, the lines can get blurry. It seems that the more “wellness” is watered down on social media, the more we forget that elective aesthetic procedures are not related to essential health. The sleek, millennial-coded clinic that purports holistic wellness and luxurious spa tranquility makes it too easy to slip from the right cultural and aesthetic cues—green juice and yoga, Cindy Sherman and Agnes Martin—into an injection that promotes social media beauty standards. If that’s the case, then Botox is the future of our faces, and wrinkles are becoming more and more passe. But in order to be deemed “healthy,” do we have to be poreless as well?

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