Old habits die hard: Barbie is back, and she’s inspiring women to alter their bodies to look more like her.
“Barbie Botox,” or traptox as it’s more traditionally called, has seen a surge in interest on TikTok since the release of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” a summer blockbuster that has surpassed $1 billion at the global box office.
The procedure ― which you could get at your local aesthetician’s office long before “Barbie” ― involves injecting Botox between the neck and shoulder to partially relax the trapezius muscles and relieve tension.
The other benefit is purely aesthetic: Injecting Botox to that area helps achieve a slimmer neckline, a smoother silhouette, and smaller-looking upper body frame, just like the Mattel doll.
So far, the #BarbieBotox hashtag has garnered over 6.7 million TikTok views, with women sharing their before-and-after photos after trying it out.
Isabelle Lux, a beauty and life social media influencer, said she was one of the first to label the procedure “Barbie Botox.” After getting the injection back in mid-June, she said her Botox is now in full effect.
“I got the procedure done because I’ve always had incredible tension, stiffness and aches in my shoulders, neck and upper back,” the 32-year-old from Palm Beach, Florida said. “Admittedly I decided to give it a try for both vanity as part of my wedding prep and to hopefully feel better physically, as well.”
So far, Lux said she’s liking the effect and feeling “so much lighter and looser than before.”
Johnny Franco, a plastic surgeon in Austin, Texas, said he’d done the procedure occasionally in his office, but demand has exploded since it hit TikTok. He also explained how it works.
“Botox used in trapezius muscle has been extremely successful, as the muscle at the base of the neck relaxes showing off more of the neck,” Franco told HuffPost. “The relaxation of these muscles decreases the bulk of the muscle, which gives the neck a longer appearance, i.e., the Barbie appearance. We use about 100 units.”
Generally, Franco said most traptox clients come in for the non-aesthetic benefits.
Jazmine Kwong, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgery physician associate, said that prior to this trend, she was mostly using it to treat migraine patients who dealt with neck tension.
“I’ve been doing this for years now and I see a mix of medically necessary and cosmetic patients for trapezius Botox injections,” Kwong said.
Patients can feel tension relief around one to two weeks after injections, Kwong said.
With large muscles like the trapezius, the idea is to limit the contractions of the muscle with Botox, leading to mild atrophy (or shrinkage) of the muscle. That’s what creates the slimming effect, which Kwong said will generally be visible around the two-month mark.
Experts say the procedure is effective, but costly.
Looking more like Barbie is going to cost you a pretty penny. Anthony M. Rossi, a dermatologist in New York City, said depending on where you go for treatment and how many units are used, it can cost over $1,000 per session. In general, patients will typically undergo Barbie Botox twice a year.
“The effect can last around three months depending on the type of botulinum toxin used, the amount of units used, and the person’s individual metabolism or muscle bulk,” Rossi said.
Many otherwise eager patients are put off by “Barbie Botox” when they hear about the price, said Michelle Balbi, a certified registered nurse practitioner at Meesha Aesthetics in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
“For reference, most women at age 28 will spend about $300 on Botox for their face, whereas Barbie Botox has a starting price of about $1,100,” Balbi said.
Given the feminist messaging of the “Barbie” movie, isn’t it kind of ironic that “Barbie Botox” is trending?
Barbie Botox isn’t the only aesthetic trend tied to the film. #BarbieShoulders and #BarbieArms have been trending as well. Women on TikTok claim the mix of Botox and Cool Sculpting have helped them get leaner, Barbie-like arms.
Do these trends contradict the body-positive (or at least aging-positive) message of the movie? If you’re getting the work done for purely aesthetic reasons, the argument could be made.
But Barbie was never going to be the perfect body-image hero. From the beginning, critics of the doll worried that young girls playing with Barbie might internalize the unrealistic body she promotes. Barbie Botox ― at least hyping it as an aesthetic fix ― carries on that tradition.
In a way, the TikTok trend gets at a core problem (or at least a paradox) of the film: It calls attention to the body-image issues created by Barbie ― but struggles to say much beyond that.
“Despite the movie being well-intentioned, mere exposure to these images can negatively impact body image and increase the drive for thinness,” said Samantha DeCaro, the director of clinical outreach and education at The Renfrew Center, an eating disorder treatment center in Philadelphia.
Jess Sprengle, an eating disorder therapist in Austin, Texas, had a similar view. Though she appreciates the messaging of the “Barbie” movie, especially how it emphasized the unrealistic standards women are forced to meet in today’s world, she wonders if the content and the visuals create some dissonance for viewers.
“I think that some of the movie’s messaging may have gone over folks’ heads and I’d wonder if this has yielded some fixation on this part of the body and/or attempts to ‘fix’ it,” Sprengle said.
That said, Sprengle recognizes that Gerwig and the writers had a considerable balancing act.
“They had to give the public what they want while also trying to align with the values being espoused in the movie,” she said. “I don’t know if it was possible with something like Barbie, but I do appreciate the effort and I appreciate that it was at least named that Barbie has been a catalyst for negative body image in women and girls.”
Catherine Lockhart, another content creator who posted about her experiences getting Barbie Botox last month on TikTok, said she thinks conversations around body image issues and cosmetic procedures are complex. But she noted that so far, most of the videos she’s seen about the procedure have focused on the tension aspect, not the slimming effect.
“I know I really saw an improvement in my shoulder tension,” Lockhart said. “I personally don’t see a drastic slimming effect, but since I didn’t think my traps were particularly large in pre-treatment, I didn’t expect to see a huge difference. My boyfriend, however, did say that he noticed a difference and that my neck looks slimmer and more ‘feminine.’”
Unfortunately, Lockhart did notice that she felt “significantly weaker” at the gym.
“That’s likely because I’m not able to rely on my traps to shoulder weight anymore,” she explained. “That being said, I feel like I am better able to isolate my arm muscles during my workout.”
As Barbie Botox ― and other cosmetic quick fixes ― go viral on TikTok, Lockhart said she’s glad to see more people openly talk about the work they’ve had done.
“When I first saw the Barbie Botox trend, it actually reminded me of a picture of Kim Kardashian in her pool that she was accused of photoshopping out her traps,” Lockhart said. (Last summer, a professional photographer suggested that Kardashian ― no stranger to Photoshop scandal ― had edited her shoulders to look smaller.)
“I love that people are now so much more transparent about the beauty treatments they get and I think this is just another thing like Botox and fillers that someone can choose to get if it’s right for them,” Lockhart said.