By Marsha Wichers, cosmetic doctor and designer.
Medical technology will bring us more ways to perfect our appearance. Over the past decades, the use of Botox has increased enormously. What started as a drug against muscle spasms and strabismus is now a widespread way of preventing and treating wrinkles in the face, and is becoming part of the beauty ritual of more and more women in the Western world.
In my medical cosmetic practice in the Netherlands I see (mostly) women who come to me for advice. They want to look good for their age, or want to get rid of a tired look. But almost all of them say very explicitly ‘please make sure I will stay looking like me’, or ‘I don’t want to look overtreated and unnatural’.
But what exactly are they referring to? We all have a feeling and an idea what this is about. But to precisely describe what makes a look unnatural, is quite difficult. That is why I decided to research and visualize this phenomenon during my master studies in Design. I called this project ‘Project Face Design’.
With this project I wanted to show how the use of Botox in the face can affect our natural appearance. Botox relaxes muscles in the face, smoothening wrinkles in the overlying skin. But because of the effect on the muscles, our facial expressions are also changing. After all, you need muscle action to create facial expressions. Using too much Botox may inadvertently affect our non-verbal communication.
To visualize this effect I used emotion recognition software (Facereader®). This new technology measures movement in the face and knows which particular emotion is asscociated with which particular movement. The system I have used is based on FACS, a scientific system of emotion classification based on facial expressions. An example of an analysis by this software where you can see how the tightening of the glabellar muscle (used in frowning) is interpreted as anger: