Open up any celebrity magazine, and you’ll notice that the important players have arched eyebrows, smoothed foreheads, and bee-stung lips. This face used to be a mask common in the over-40 set. Now, reports that this face is becoming common for women not old enough to legally drink. It seems that many teens and early 20-somethings are turning to Botox as way to stave off aging — before it has really begun.

Botox is a neurotoxic protein produced from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. In larger amounts, Clostridium botulinum causes botulism, a disease that triggers paralysis in the face and respiratory system, eventually killing its victim. The affliction was often called “sausage poison” because it was linked to improperly handled meat. In the early 1900s, the mortality rate from botulism was 70 percent. It dropped to 2 percent in the early 1990s due to the use of artificial respirators.

Botox has become a billion-dollar industry that seeks to paralyze wrinkles and slow the aging process. Now it is slowing the aging process on those who have yet to really age. reports that the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery detailed 12,110 Botox or Dysport (a similar drug) procedures performed on 18-year-olds and even younger patients in 2009. The numbers were just as startling for teenagers 13 to 19 who opted for the procedure.

Stephanie Torres of New York explains why she received Botox at the venerable age of 19. “I wanted to be cute, to look cute, but I had these ugly lines in between my eyebrows and on my forehead … So I asked if I could get Botox. My mom paid for it. It was like a little birthday present.” Torres is not alone in her quest to fend off early signs of wrinkles.

These young Botox-ers have sparked a wave of concern from professionals. Roni Cohen-Sandler is a clinical psychologist. As she told, “I don’t know about the medical implications of the long-term use of Botox-like agents, but what disturbs me is the underlying preoccupation with youth and avoiding ‘imperfections'.” Are they so afraid of laugh lines or natural aging?” Cohen-Sandler goes on to point out that our nation’s youth is growing up with the idea that everything can be fixed quickly.

Botox is also used to treat crossed eyes, excessive sweating, migraines and neurological disorders. With such wide-ranging medical benefits, Botox will continue to prosper as a cosmetic procedure. Just how young its recipients will be remains to be seen.

For further reading:

More teens are turning to Botox
Girls as young as 16 are using Botox to fight future fine lines.