A common side effect of Botox treatment is the decreased ability to create facial expressions. This frequently observed impediment, though often joked about, can actually give way to much more serious consequences, especially in those under 25. According to a recent study, Botox’s ability to “freeze faces” may restrict the emotional growth of young people who choose to undergo this procedure.

Botox is meant to help smooth the look of wrinkles, which is what makes it strange many young people undergo the procedure. Still, according to Cosmopolitan, the number of teenagers having the procedure done has risen by 800 percent. There are a number of, arguably, moral issues associated with plastic surgery for the young.

A new study published in the Journal of Aesthetic Nursing has presented a slightly more worrying developmental issue with the seemingly harmless procedure. “As a human being, our ability to demonstrate a wide range of emotions is very dependent on facial expressions,” explained Helena Collier, one of the study’s researchers to the BBC. "If you wipe those expressions out, this might stunt [young people’s] emotional and social development," she said.

The link between decreased facial expressions and decreased emotional capacity is purely hypothetical, but it is based on a proven scientific theory. According to the facial feedback hypothesis, the skeletal muscle feedback from facial expressions play a role in regulating emotional experience and behavior. In other words, your mind responds to what your body does, so the simple act of smiling could actually make one happy, while frowning could bring down one’s mood without them realizing. Collier expressed her fear that “a growing generation of blank-faced” young people could result in a future unable to accurately convey their emotions. “Treatment with drugs like Botox prevents the patient from being able to make a particular expression and can therefore have an effect on our learning to feel emotions naturally."

The researchers believe the solution is to decrease the number of young people who seek this type of beauty treatment. On top of the obvious moral issues, Botox on a wrinkle-free face is hardly noticeable and many young people who try the procedure feel that it is a waste of money. “Financially, I probably just should have waited," a 26-year-old Botox user told Cosmo. “It's so expensive. ... I would have been better off waiting until I was at least 30 to have tried it for the first time, like I had originally planned."

Rather than ask doctors to turn down potential customers, Collier feels it may be more useful for therapists to instead help young people feel more confident about the way they look. This may make them less likely to seek cosmetic surgery in the first place, something that the president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons referred to as “morally wrong.”

Source: Collier, H. Too many doctors and nurses have crossed the line in the name of personal gain. Journal of Aesthetic Nursing. 2014.