Is face tape really the new “natural botox?”
MDlinx Apr 29, 2023
TikTok is full of videos from content creators claiming that face taping has helped them look younger. In fact, videos related to the search term “face tape” have generated an estimated 565 million views on the social media app. The practice has even been referred to as “natural botox” by one social media user, according to a news report.
Face taping involves placing individual pieces of tape over areas such as glabellar lines or the nasolabial folds and then going to sleep with the tape in place. Another method of face taping includes taking two pieces of tape—which have strings attached to them—and placing the taping near your temples. With this method, you’ll pull the strings and tie them behind your head so that your skin is pulled tightly. Enthusiasts report waking up with less prominent wrinkles.
It isn’t just TikTok spreading the idea of face taping. Brands selling face tape claim that it has benefits as well. For example, Kinesiology Sports Tape, a self-described “wellness sports brand,” says that its face tape products offer a “safe, non-invasive anti-aging lifting method used to reduce facial swelling and wrinkles.”
Face taping. Kinesiology Sports Tape.
So, if your patients ask about face taping as a means of staving off the realities of aging, here’s what the evidence and experts say.
What is behind the idea of face taping?
Face taping is nothing new, says Joshua A. Lampert, MD, a board-certified aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon. In fact, face tape may have appeared on the market in 1889, as it was used by stage performers in a bid to hide their wrinkles.
Will taping your face prevent wrinkles? Cosmetic Dermatology | Miami, FL.
Later, during the Golden Age of Hollywood, stars would use face tape to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Traditionally, the tape would be hidden under their wigs or hair.
So does it work? There are no clinical studies confirming the efficacy of face taping. Its effects—if any—are also brief. “It provides only a temporary solution,” Lampert says. In the immediate or very short term, “face taping can be used to block the patient’s ability to animate the facial muscles of expression. This can give the patient a transient resting facial expression, which appears less wrinkled for a short period of time.”
While one study did show that use of lymphatic kinesio face taping improved blood and lymph microcirculation in patients who had undergone orthognathic surgery, this study involved surgical patients, not those who tape their faces before bed or for a few hours.
Lietz-Kijak D, Kijak E, Krajczy M, Bogacz K, Łuniewski J, Szczegielniak J. The impact of the use of kinesio taping method on the reduction of swelling in patients after orthognathic surgery: a pilot study. Med Sci Monit. 2018;24:3736-3743.
Given the relatively short-lived benefits that face taping might offer, experts stress that it’s not a form of “natural botox” and that it cannot make permanent changes to the skin, especially since wrinkles are associated with a variety of factors, including aging, hormones, disease, smoking status, and sun exposure.
Manríquez JJ, Cataldo K, Vera-Kellet C, Harz-Fresno I. Wrinkles. BMJ Clin Evid. 2014;2014:1711. Published 2014 Dec 22.
According to Cameron Rokhsar, MD, FAAD, FAACS, a double board-certified dermatologist and laser and MOHS surgeon, “[Face taping] doesn’t address the underlying cause of wrinkles, which is the breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin over time. Wrinkles caused by muscle movement are known as dynamic wrinkles, [which occur] when the same facial expressions are made repeatedly over time, causing lines to become more deeply etched into the skin,” he says. “Face taping does not prevent this movement and therefore cannot prevent the formation of these types of wrinkles.”
Kinds of tape used in face taping
Content creators across TikTok seem to utilize all sorts of tape, from everyday Scotch tape to Invisitape products specifically designed to offer a ‘face-lift’ effect. Many face taping enthusiasts also use kinesiology tape (KT)—which was created in the 1970s and made to address several health concerns, ranging from musculoskeletal pain to sports injuries.
KT itself is widely used but isn’t necessarily a proven therapeutic tool for many of its medical uses, however. According to a 2021 review in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, which assessed 38 studies and used data from a small survey to assess KT’s therapeutic qualities, the research around the product’s therapeutic efficacy is inconclusive: “Despite the popularity [of kinesiology tape], the research regarding KT therapeutic benefits is inconclusive with many studies reporting inconsistent outcomes,” the authors wrote.
Cheatham SW, Baker RT, Abdenour TE. Kinesiology tape: a descriptive survey of healthcare professionals in the united states. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 16(3):778-796.
Experts suggest patients skip face taping
Your patients should know that there are some risks involved in face taping; Lampert says: “Tape adhesives can lead to rashes and skin allergies and breakouts. Excessive use could potentially result in adhesive-related excoriations, skin injury, blisters, scarring, or melasma, though these are uncommon.”
But beyond avoiding any risks, patients simply have better options, says Rokhsar.
“For moderate wrinkles, non-ablative lasers or photodynamic rejuvenation may be effective. Non-ablative lasers (like Fraxel) work by stimulating collagen production to improve skin elasticity. Photodynamic rejuvenation uses a photosensitizing agent and light therapy to target fine wrinkles caused by sun exposure,” Rokhsar says.
For more severe wrinkles, Rokhsar recommends chemical peels (which remove the outer layer of skin) or CO2 resurfacing (which removes damaged skin cells and promotes collagen production), which may be more appealing for people who seek minimally-invasive procedures.
“For more significant laxity, there is often no alternative equal to surgery with a board-certified plastic surgeon,” Lampert adds.
Talking to patients about social media trends
Rokhsar says that he has seen firsthand the impact that social media has had on patients. “Many come in seeking treatments that they have seen advertised on social media or heard about from influencers without fully understanding the risks and limitations of these procedures. Oftentimes, people who go for quick fixes are disappointed,” he says.
Because of this, he suggests talking openly with patients so that they don’t waste their time or money on procedures that don’t provide the results they’re looking for. Additionally, it's always important to remind patients to consult with a board-certified dermatologist before undergoing any cosmetic treatments or procedures, he says. In experienced hands, he adds, even noninvasive procedures like non-ablative laser resurfacing can lead to permanent scarring.
Lampert agrees. “Social media can be a great educational tool, but it can also lead potential patients down the wrong path,” he says—which is why you should be in open dialogue with your patients about it.
“Having a large number of followers on social media is no substitute for adequate training, experience, credentialing, and certification. [So,] I encourage my patients to discuss any trends and their validity with me,” Lampert stresses.
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