In my high school drama class, we learned how to apply stage makeup. One of the classes was devoted to making ourselves look older. To do it, we scrunched up our faces to see where the lines were, then used dark makeup to enhance the wrinkles. I remember that the deepest lines were between my brows—from squinting brought on by reading books late into the night, probably. Since that fateful day in drama class, I've been cognizant of those lines (11s, as they're known). I still read a lot, and I also spend a lot of time in front of a computer. Basically, there's a lot of squinting going on in my life, which is a cause of wrinkles. But I'd never really considered Botox an option to prevent or treat those lines until a couple of years ago.
Before I began working in beauty and lifestyle editorial, the most I knew about Botox came from the pamphlets at my dermatologist's office. Why would anyone get toxins injected into them, I thought to myself. Because, again, my experience was limited to Botox being the butt of a joke used to convey how vain someone was. So young. So naive. It was a simpler time then.
I had persistent acne in high school, which really messed with my self-confidence. I taught myself how to apply makeup to conceal it and followed a diligent skincare routine. In college, when my acne had mostly cleared, I began to get compliments on my skin. My skin became something I was proud of; something that, no matter how else I felt about myself (I've struggled with my weight and self-esteem, which you can read more about here) I could see as something beautiful. Since then, I've made a point to take really good care of my skin.
As I immersed myself in the world of skincare, I realized two things: 1. Your collagen production—aka the thing that keeps your skin youthful and plump—begins to decrease by one percent each year after you turn 20. 2. In your 20s, your cell turnover—which also helps keep your skin looking young—declines by as much as 28 percent. Basically, I learned that my skin was aging far earlier than I expected it to. I also began hearing about preventative Botox, which, as the name suggests, is used to prevent wrinkles from happening instead of treating wrinkles that have already formed. After lots of research and talking to dermatologists, I knew I would be getting Botox before I turned 30. What I'm trying to say is that getting Botox wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision for me. I'd been planning on it for over two years.
I waited until I began to become aware of any wrinkling between my forehead. I never obsessively looked for wrinkles; I decided that when I began to notice them while not looking for them, that was the time for me to add Botox into my skincare routine. The reason: Once wrinkles form (i.e. they stay put even when you aren't moving your face), you can't prevent them. You can only lessen their appearance. So if you're going to get preventative Botox, it basically has to happen before the lines fully form. Again, the decision to get Botox is intensely personal, but if you want to prevent wrinkles that's what you need to know. Shortly after my 27th birthday, I was checking my eye makeup in my rearview mirror and was struck because I had lines between my eyes. It was time.
That's how I found myself on the business end of a needle at Nassif MD MedSpa in Beverly Hills.
"Preventative Botox is becoming more and more popular amongst millennials. Partially due to the fact that the 20-something generation is highly researched and familiarized with the aging process and learning about how to make it stop," says Dr. Nassif. "In my medical spa, we use non-surgical procedures such as Botox as a preventative measure within the 20-29 age range almost every day."
He says it can be started as soon as mild wrinkles begin to form. It works by preventing the facial muscles from moving, therefore preventing expression lines from forming. "Although every patient varies, preventative Botox can cost approximately $500-1000 per year," he says. So, yeah, it's not cheap.
The nurse had me make a bunch of silly faces to see where my skin wrinkled. I was told to hold an ice pack on my forehead to help numb the area, and then it was time to be injected. It should be noted that I am terrified of needles. But the nurse's enthusiasm got me through. "I was 27 when I got Botox for the first time," she told me conspiratorially.
There's a scene in the critically acclaimed film A Cinderella Story, starring Hilary Duff, where the evil stepmother comes back from a Botox appointment looking downright scary and unable to move her face. This was what was playing on repeat in my head as I was getting my very first Botox injection — not because I was scared that's how I would look—but because I was thinking it's kind of amazing how much our perceptions of injectables have changed. (My perceptions included.)
The overall injection process took less than a minute. It felt like tiny pinpricks, but it wasn't really painful. I had 17 units of Botox injected into my glabella, which is the area between and above your eyebrows. But it will vary from person to person, based on their needs and factors like muscle strength.
I looked in the mirror, and was surprised that my forehead still wrinkled a bit between my brows. It actually takes a few days for the product to settle; I remember that two days later I tried squinting and I couldn't make my forehead move. It was really, really weird.
Two days after my appointment, I woke up with headache concentrated in my forehead. This is actually a pretty common side effect of Botox, and it happens because you're not used to not being able to move the muscles where you got the Botox. It was mild—not pleasant, but not terrible either. I checked in with the office to make sure nothing weird was going on (note: under no circumstances Google your symptoms), and the pain subsided in about a day and a half.
Even with that side effect, I am thrilled with the results and have no regrets. The Botox even had an unexpected positive effect: It's decreased the oil production on my forehead, which has helped clear up an annoyingly persistent breakout I was having.
Here's the thing I want people to know, though: No one needs Botox for wrinkles. Seriously. If someone tries to tell you that, run far, far away. It's a tool, but not a necessity. No one should feel shamed for getting it, and no one should feel shamed for not getting it.
I consider Botox a part of my skincare routine — it's another tool, like retinol or BHAs or sunscreen. I don't see my decision as vain (well, not totally vain). I see it as a thing that helps me feel better about myself. Taking care of my skin is something I pride myself on, and my skin has been something I turn to when I'm feeling self-conscious about other parts of my body. I don't get Botox for anyone but myself. Honestly, it's so subtle I don't think anyone else would really even notice if I didn't tell them. But I do tell them, because getting Botox is nothing to be ashamed of.