Behind the rise of ‘preventative Botox’ and how it’s changing young women

Young woman receiving a botox injection
Young women are fuelling a rise in Botox treatments, but many people are saying it makes them look older. (Getty Images)

Several Love Island contestants who are participating in the current series have recently sparked conversations around how cosmetic procedures are changing the way young women look – and not necessarily the way they want.

Promo images of contestants including Nicole Samuel, Jess White and Harriet Blackmore have been shared widely across X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram and TikTok, with people being asked to guess how old they are.

Despite all three women being under the age of 26, viewers have guessed them to be much older – some thought they were in their late 30s, while others were shocked to discover they were not in their 40s.

On TikTok, a US plastic surgeon was left almost speechless after he found out the real ages of the three women. The video of Dr Daniel Barrett, who runs a cosmetic clinic in Beverly Hills, guessing the ages and what cosmetic work the women have had done, went viral with more than 11.5 million views.

After being told their real ages, Barrett commented: "This is crazy. I think that plastic surgery and injectables done incorrectly can make you look older."

It comes after a number of content creators on TikTok also faced being told they looked significantly older than they were. Earlier this year, TikToker Shawna Eveler went viral after followers told her she looked like she was in her mid-40s – at the age of 22.

Eveler addressed the comments and said she regularly got filler and Botox as a "personal preference". "I feel like no one should stop you from getting filler because it’s your own face," she said, adding: "But people always told me that I look older and I get it, I look older, I might act older, but 45?"

Cosmetic 'tweakments' such as Botox and filler have been popular for many years. However, there has been an increase in younger people interested in the procedures, thanks to terms like 'preventative' or 'baby Botox'.

New data from global research firm Mintel reveals that a quarter (23%) of young women aged 18 to 34 are interested in having Botox, compared to only one in 10 (10%) of Britons as a whole.

Botox use is also considerably higher among younger people, with one in seven (13%) Brits aged 25 to 34 having had Botox, compared to a national average of 7%.

Botox, a neuromodulator, works by temporarily disrupting nerve signals to the muscles, which stops them from contracting and therefore, reduces the appearance of wrinkles. What young people are hoping to achieve by getting "preventative Botox" is to stop any lines from forming, so as to delay wrinkles for as long as possible.

Young woman gets beauty facial injections in salon�
The popularity of Botox, particularly among women, has risen after the term 'preventative Botox' became a trend. (Getty Images)

But implementing such procedures at too young an age can have a detrimental effect, as it may interfere with natural facial development and affect your appearance, explains Michael Saul, partner at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors.

He tells Yahoo UK: "It is advisable to avoid starting these kinds of procedures before your face has fully developed. This helps to create a balance between preventative measures and maintaining a natural look, as individuals are more mature and capable of making informed decisions about the long-term implications of cosmetic procedures."

The idea of 'preventative Botox' first appeared around the mid-2000s, but gained sharp momentum in 2021. With new selfie filters on social media creating new beauty standards, interest in getting Botox and fillers as a method of 'preventative ageing', instead of slowing the ageing process, began to rise.

In 2023, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons said there had been a cosmetic surgery boom, with procedures rising by 102% between 2021 and 2022. Demand for Botox treatments during that period rose by 124%.

Saul says that a survey conducted by Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors found that nearly half (49%) of the British public have considered getting a non-surgical procedure, adding that the increasing popularity of tweakments can be linked directly to social media.

"That same survey revealed that 89% of respondents believed that social media platforms should make it clear to users when influencers are using filters and other body-altering technology," he says.

"This call for transparency underlines the importance of promoting realistic and healthy body images on social media."

Maddie Malone, Beauty and Personal Care Analyst at Mintel, adds: "Societal pressures, combined with the influence of social media, celebrities and shows like Love Island, are all contributing to the popularity of cosmetic procedures among the young.

"Younger Millennials are a generation that have largely grown up during an era of social media, which is said to foster insecurities. In fact, three quarters (73%) of all Brits say social media has a severe negative impact on mental wellbeing.

"The indications are that surgical procedures could become increasingly common with time. While Gen Zs (aged 13-26) might not currently have the financial means to pay for cosmetic procedures, their generation more than others have grown up during an arguably more social media focused era – which places a high focus on physical appearance.

"As a result, they may be more influenced to undergo these types of procedures."

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Love Islander Harriet Blackmore, along with fellow contestants Nicole Samuel and Jess White, have faced claims that they look older than they actually are. (Getty Images)

Getting Botox to slow the ageing process can help make you appear younger, but can also have the opposite effect if you are getting it in your 20s.

Saul explains that this could be because "excessive application of tweakments can lead to an unnatural, frozen appearance that lacks the natural expressiveness of youth."

"Poor technique or placement can result in exaggerated features that disrupt youthful facial proportions," he continues. "This is especially worrying as there is no need for a licence for practitioners of these kinds of procedures, meaning it can be difficult to find a safe beautician."

While Botox stops muscles from moving, fillers are used to add volume or create contours in the face. But Saul says this can result in too much volume or changes in facial contours that are "more typical of older individuals, making young women appear older than their years".

He does not recommend young people starting cosmetic procedures like Botox or fillers until they are well past their mid-20s and their face has fully developed. Even then, it is crucial to be clear on why you want to change the way you look.

"Once your face is developed, it is also important to examine why you want the procedure and also exactly what you would like from the procedure, and whether this is possible," he says.

"Having decided on which procedure will help you to achieve your goals, it is also essential to ensure that you are using a safe practitioner that will be able to reduce the risks to your health."

Read more about health and wellness:

Botox: Doctor warns parents about teenagers travelling to Wales for treatment (Yahoo Life UK, 4-min read)

Is Botox in your 20's too young? Courteney Cox says it was 'a total waste of time' (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)

How cosmetic surgery can affect your mental health, as Katie Price issues warning. (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)