You might have heard the term Barbie Botox floating around a lot lately. Much like the on-the-rise trend of jelly roll Botox, the term has been garnering a lot of social media attention. Barbie Botox was one of the biggest trends of the summer, with millions of views of the hashtag ‘Barbie Botox’ on TikTok. But what does it actually do? Essentially, it aims to relax your trapezius muscles to create the appearance of a longer and 'slimmer' neck.
Truthfully, I was a little concerned when I heard that Barbie Botox (also known as Traptox) was trending. While the recent Barbie film has been praised for its empowering message, Barbie has historically symbolised unrealistic beauty standards, and it felt to me that this trend was simply feeding into the traditional views of Barbie the doll rather than building on what Barbie the brand has achieved for so many.
As someone who literally shops online for a living, I know that there's a plethora of amazing massage guns out there to help ease and relax muscles—and some would say provide very similar effects to Barbie Botox, but for some, the treatment provides a quick and easy fix to alleviate sore traps and create a 'sloping' look.
While I don't agree with the reasons why this trend has gone viral, the journalist in me wanted to get a better understanding of the appeal, so I thought I’d try Barbie Botox out for myself. I reached out to consultant dermatologist Dr Angela Tewari for her expert opinion and treatment.
What does Barbie Botox claim to do?
According to Dr Tewari, Barbie Botox aims to target “bilateral trapezius hypertrophy or otherwise known as thickened neck or short neck”—this often happens as a result of “chronic muscle tension or poor posture, but some people also carry weight here naturally”. A high dose of Botox is administered at the posterior neck to relax the tight muscles and give a 'slimming' effect that is noticed 2 weeks after treatment.
As the Botox relaxes the muscles, the procedure is also meant to help alleviate neck pain—so the results aren’t purely aesthetic. As somebody who spends more time than they’d care to admit hunched over a screen, I have my fair share of neck and shoulder pain, so I was keen to try it out for the muscle relaxation effects alone.
What are the possible side effects of Barbie Botox?
Let's be clear that Barbie Botox isn't without its issues—and this is one of the reasons Dr Tewari doesn't consider herself an advocate for the treatment. The treatment can affect your ability to shrug and lift weights above your head, so if you’re a regular gym-goer be prepared for it to affect your weightlifting performance. While these side effects are temporary (only lasting a few months or so), the same is, of course, true for the neck 'slimming' effects of the procedure itself.
After a consultation with Dr Tewari about the possible side effects and what to expect from the Barbie Botox treatment, I decided to try it out for myself. Dr Tewari made it clear to me she isn't the biggest fan of Barbie Botox (truthfully, any medical expert worth their weight probably won't be in favour of high-dosage Botox administration to key muscles). In fact, she doesn't advise anyone to get the procedure, particularly more than once (and even told me she thinks it's just a hyped-up treatment and hopes the hype will die down). But, in the name of journalistic research, I went ahead.
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My first impressions
Due to the reason stated above, Dr Tewari only administered half the usual dose of Botox for me. The treatment itself was very quick and not too painful—about the same length of time and sharp pinch you feel when you have your blood taken. Immediately after the treatment I felt a bit of muscle ache, but nothing too painful. Dr Tewari advised me to not take part in any strenuous exercise or to massage the treatment area for at least a few days.
You can see the natural shape and slope of my shoulders in the picture above, and I did see a difference in the shape of my neck and shoulders after two weeks (the amount of time it takes for the effects of the Botox to fully kick in), as seen below. But it was the effect the Botox had on my actual muscles that really surprised me.
Interestingly, rather than easing the tension in my trapezius muscles to relax knots and alleviate pain, it actually made my shoulders feel more tired than usual. When carrying heavy bags or walking around for prolonged periods of time, I definitely felt a newer sort of ache in my shoulders.
Honestly? I’m quite divided on the Traptox treatment—especially the idea of it as a Barbie-related, 'slimming' beauty trend, which I don't advocate. I do admit that my shoulders and neck look more defined, but as my ultimate goal wasn’t aesthetic, I’m not sure I would have the treatment again if given the chance. It’s very pricey (costing around £1,000 for a full dose) and the results—no matter how satisfactory—will last a few months at most.
If you do decide you’d like to try Barbie Botox out for yourself, Dr Tewari’s expert advice is to “make sure to see a consultant dermatologist or senior medical aesthetician who can inform you of the side effect profile”. She’d recommend talking to your doctor, doing plenty of your own research beforehand and ideally leaving 24 hours between your consultation and making a final decision for treatment.
She also adds: “As much as the results may look pleasing, if you’re a particularly active person, note that the treatment affects your rotator cuff muscle apparatus and hence can theoretically increase your risk of posterior shoulder dislocation”. So if you’re a particularly active person, it isn't the treatment for you.
If you’re mostly keen on the idea of Barbie Botox for the muscle-relaxing effects, there are plenty of easy (and let’s be honest, far more affordable) ways to ease tension in your neck and shoulders. “Strong massage can soften tight knots in the neck and flatten the look of tight muscles,” states Dr Tewari.
All in all? I can confirm that the Barbie Botox trend isn't for me. I just can't find it in me to overlook the negatives and support an aesthetic trend which feeds into deeply unrealistic beauty standards. I'll stick to massage guns for now...
The best massage guns
In my opinion, this massage gun from Lola can do no wrong. It’s super lightweight and small (the device is about the same size as my iPhone), looks chic thanks to its matte-pastel finish and costs under £80. It also has four head attachments and an automatic turn-off feature when it’s been running too long to prevent overworking my muscles. If you’re after a travel or desk-friendly device to soothe your muscles, this is one of the best massage guns you can buy.
MCUK's Health Editor Ally Head owns and loves this massage gun: "Yes, it's an investment, but if you workout regularly, it's an ideal way to prioritise recovery from home. It's far quieter than other competitors on the market and has a battery life that lasts for ages, too, meaning you're never left with a dead battery when what you wanted was a soothing massage."
Theragun’s Mini model is a great option if you’re after a high-quality device at a slightly lower price point. While it’s still a bit of an investment, you’ll get a lot of the same features as the Theragun Pro model for less. The small size and lightweight design make it perfect for travelling, too.
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Valeza Bakolli is Marie Claire’s Junior Shopping Editor. She previously worked at BuzzFeed, where she honed her skills in all things shopping - from gift guide curation to being first on the scene to feature the latest fashion and beauty drops. She’s made it her mission to encourage people to shop mindfully and with purpose. That’s why she dedicates hours of her time every day to finding the best products online so you don’t have to - from small and sustainable businesses wherever possible, of course.
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