“I’d rather be caught naked than without Botox!” belted my 48-year-old girlfriend as we GALs gabbed over coffee. No one looked surprised. A frozen, wrinkle-free face seems as common as touching-up grays nowadays, with more than 4 million people in the U.S. getting Botox injections every year.
Capitalizing on the cultural pressure for us women to look forever young, the stats dig deeper: Over 90% of these 4 million faces belong to (you guessed it) women. And we Gen Xers, specifically the 40– 54-year-old bracket, comprise the largest group of consumers at 57%.
But what exactly are we pumping into our faces? “BOTOX Cosmetic,” the brand name for botulinum toxin — yes, the same bacteria that causes foodborne botulism — works by blocking nerve signals to the injected muscles, making them unable to contract. No contractions mean no wrinkles. Also in the market as brands Dysport, Jeuveau, and Xeomin, this “miracle poison,” approved by the FDA for cosmetic purposes, costs upwards of $400 every three to four months before it wears off. So, is it worth getting poked?
At my last ‘tox session, I chatted up Anna Grancher, Clinical Director at Chicago’s cosmetic med-spa, SpaDerma, to get her opinion on the popular procedure:
Anna Grancher, Clinical Director, SpaDerma
Lauria: I hear a lot of women say they’re freaked out about the long-term side effects of Botox. Do we know about any neurological damage?
Anna: BOTOX Cosmetic has been around for over 21 years, and prior to that we used it for more mundane medical purposes in fields like ophthalmology and orthopedics. So, we do have long-term safety information because of this. We do know that it weakens muscles over time [from less use] — but that does not translate to a negative aesthetic appearance in the face. There are even studies that show it can decrease depression, which makes sense — when you look good you feel good.
Woah, really? This because people feel happier because they feel more attractive? [Of course, this is a bigger societal issue, but back to the immediate subject.]
Exactly. Plus, frowning plays a key role in depressive symptoms. If your muscles can’t frown, you outwardly appear more positive, and this has a positive impact on your health, resulting in less depression and even less anxiety.
What do you say to people who tell us we should accept our natural looks and aging processes?
I think it’s pro-female to be able to control what you want to do with your body. I don’t need anybody telling me what I should or should not be doing, or what is natural or what isn’t. I also think there’s power in being able to do something that’s going to make you feel just a little bit better about yourself. It’s taking control of what aging looks like to you.
Agreed. But it’s concerning to see Botoxed faces skew younger. When do you think is a good time to start?
I get asked this all the time. I usually say when you start seeing any lines or wrinkles on your face that are sticking around even without contracting your muscles is a good time to start. This is not only influenced by age; genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental factors can influence this, too. When we express, we make lines — but when you see makeup starting to settle into those lines, that’s a good time to start.
Do you think Botox is good for women my age who haven’t tried any procedures yet?
Yes, it’s very low-commitment and the price point is a little more affordable [than other cosmetic procedures]. It’s a great place to start if wrinkles and lines caused by muscle contractions are your concern. But it’s definitely the gateway procedure since everyone always loves the results.
Crow’s feet and Botox: Before and after treatment
While a million before and after photos on the Internet may sway you one way or another, here’s what I personally know about “bo-bo” and what I’ve fact-checked with Anna to share with you:
What areas can be treated with Botox?
The three FDA-approved areas of treatment include moderate to severe forehead lines, lateral canthal lines (Crow’s feet), and glabellar lines (the “elevens” wrinkles between your eyes).
Does Botox hurt?
I have very low pain and blood thresholds — embarrassingly so. But like a dope tattoo, no pain, no gain, right? An injection feels like a sting – albeit several to your face. Sometimes you can see little clotting spots afterward, but they typically disappear by the next day.
When do you see results?
Not day-of. I personally see Botox settling into my muscles around day five. Still, professionals share that final results should appear in 7-10 days — important to know for event-planning purposes.
How long will Botox last?
For better or worse, Botox wears off in about three to four months, when the neurotoxin wears off and muscles start contracting again.
Are there any adverse side effects?
There should be no issues when you go to your licensed injector. If you opt for anything but, like a drunken Botox party, you could run the risks of pain, swelling, or bruising where you were poked; headache; flu-like symptoms; droopy lids, uneven brows, or even a crooked smile.
Is Botox safe?
When you look up this question, the answer is a unanimous “yes” — if it’s administered by a licensed healthcare professional. In fact, “treatment with botulinum toxin is widely viewed as safe, effective and largely devoid of serious side effects,” according to a recent study, published in the National Library of Medicine.
For me, choosing Botox offers control, confidence, and even creativity with my appearance — a desire that developed growing up with chronic cystic acne and its physical and emotional scarring. Like everything regarding our faces and bodies, the now destigmatized decision to Botox is yours and yours alone — no matter what society or your BFF beauty editor says. (My own best friend counters me all the time with “I don’t do needles for fun — or beauty!” as does my mother.) While the concept of aging gracefully obviously varies these days, there’s one constant we can stick to — that bona fide beauty and power stand in staying true to you.
Beauty & Wellness Director. I bring a feminist lens to the articles that I carefully curate — this is my angle. But we’ve come too far to not also have some fun. Along with a personal mission to empower women, I uphold a lifelong love affair with the beauty industry and decades of bylines in beauty, wellness, and women-focused writing.
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