I don’t think I need Botox (nor does anyone, for that matter). Although my 30-something face is different from my 20-something face, I’m pretty content with the state of things now. The acne and oily complexion that plagued my college years are long gone; I finally have a solid and thorough skincare routine; I get facials somewhat regularly; and I apply SPF every single day. However, in recent years, I’ve been privy to more and more testimonies of women my age (early 30s) opting for facial injectables for preventative purposes — and I have to admit, I was intrigued.
I was always of the mindset that injectables like Botox and fillers were to be called upon once signs of aging were, in fact, present. But, the two skincare treatments play very different roles. Unlike fillers, which help plump and smooth areas with fine lines, neuromodulators like Botox can slow down their formation in the first place, and are adopted by many people in their 20s and 30s. “The goal of using Botox for prevention is to decrease muscle movement in order to prevent wrinkles at rest,” Laura Fischer, nurse practitioner at the Nassif Medical Spa in Beverly Hills, tells The Zoe Report. “Repetitive movement of muscles is what eventually leads to lines on the face at rest (wrinkles). By decreasing this movement we are able to prevent or at least minimize these lines.”
Fact: Aging cannot be stopped. No matter how regimented my topical skincare routines are or how diligent I am with facial appointments, fine lines and wrinkles will most certainly creep in — as I am a person who smiles, laughs, frowns, and expresses all the emotions that can eventually show on my face. To be honest, a major source of my initial hesitancy toward Botox (and injectables in general) centered around my concern that I might lose some of the expression that made me look like, well, myself. “A common misconception about Botox, especially when used as a preventative measure, is that it will drastically change one’s appearance and be extremely noticeable to others,” says Fischer, who talked me through all my concerns and hesitations during my consultation at the med spa. “The result is typically subtle and natural-looking, a pleasant improvement for the patient but nothing drastic.”
Prevention injectables also don’t require you to jump in feet-first, so to speak. You can definitely dip a toe in here and there, focusing your treatment on areas like laugh lines, crow’s feet, the forehead, or fine lines between the brows. You can also adjust the doses in your unit to make the effects more subtle and natural-looking. “Another misconception is that any Botox will cause the face to look fake or frozen,” Fischer says. “The result of Botox is dose-dependent, and many people prefer to still have a good amount of movement.”
For my first foray into the world of preventative injectables, I decided to focus on my eye area — the outer corners of my eyes to be exact. I smile hard, a trait I love about myself, but I know it means crow’s feet are likely to peek through in a few years — and are fairly prominent when I smile or laugh hard. While it's not exactly something I lose sleep over, I've lately been curious about testing out Botox to keep those lines at bay.
For my first taste of the neurotoxin, I decided to visit Dr. Paul Nassif's office, mainly because of his excellent word of mouth. While Nassif himself did not administer the Botox (Fischer did), he was in the building, as were other physicians, in the event that anything went awry.
Any apprehensions or nerves I had about doing the procedure were quickly diminished, mainly due to Fischer's thoroughness in explaining the ins and outs of the treatment and, of course, possible risks involved. "Bleeding, bruising, and subtle asymmetries are the most common side effects with Botox, as well as under or over correction (needing more or less units than administered)," she says. "More serious side effects, particularly to the eye area, include inability to close the eye completely, which could lead to scratches on the cornea and possible vision problems. This is rare, but would occur if Botox is injected too close to the eye." As scary as the latter of these side effects sounded, I took comfort in knowing that they are, in fact, incredibly uncommon. (It's also why it's so important to find a qualified practitioner with experience administering the treatment you want.)
Because of the asymmetry of my face (and every face, for that matter) the Botox units varied for each outer eye area. "Botox is applied by unit and is reconstituted by the practitioner," board-certified dermatologist and celebrity beauty expert Dr. Anna Guanche tells TZR. "It can be very diluted or can be very concentrated, which is why it is measured by unit, or active ingredient." She adds that treatment of the glabellar region (the area between your eyebrows) usually requires 20 to 30 units of Botox, while full-face treatments can require between 30 to 60 units.
In total, my units added up to about 18, since I was going for smaller coverage areas. Fischer explained that visible changes would be subtle since I was going with smaller dosages, and lines around the area were not very prominent. I would simply see less crinkling around the outer corners of my eyes when I smiled and showed expression. She also explained that these changes would not be fully visible for about five to seven days.
The Botox process itself was speedy — no more than five minutes. In fact, I think the paperwork and consultation took considerably longer, as I had to go over all of my questions and medical history overview. It truly was an in-and-out procedure with little to no downtime, and very little ouch factor (I barely felt the needle!). The pre- and post-treatment instructions felt not only doable, but fairly appealing to someone who prefers a little quiet time lounging on her couch. "It is helpful to reduce alcohol intake and the use of anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, Advil, aspirin) for at least 24 hours prior to treatment to reduce chance of bruising," Fischer says. "Avoid strenuous exercise or sweating for 24 hours after treatment. Avoid any activity where your head is low for 24 hours (gardening, headstands, etc.)." Done and done.
So what exactly did my face look like a week later? Well, just as Fischer predicted, the results of the Botox were subtle to those who didn't know I had the treatment. However, I did notice the crow's feet that usually form around my eyes when I make an expression were softened — dare I say erased. I basically looked like a more bright-eyed, awake version of myself — a result that, in my opinion, made the procedure worth trying again for the foreseeable future. I was officially on board the "Botox for prevention" train.
But there was still the matter of upkeep to address. I assumed, like facials, Botox needed to be a monthly or bi-monthly practice to remain effective. This is not necessarily the case. "For prevention, mini doses of Botox every two to three months should work well," Guanche says.
OK, that doesn't seem overwhelmingly inconvenient, right? But there is also cost to take into consideration. Guanche explains that, like the dosage coverage area, price can vary. "Neurotoxin can range from $5-$15 a unit — pricing depends on the expertise and experience of the injector and clinic," she says. "I wouldn’t use a Groupon for cheap Botox because you often get what you pay for."
My procedure, should I choose to stick to the eye region I originally started with, would average about $90-$270 a session. If done every three months or so, I feel this price range is doable for me. However, if and when I decide to try Botox on other areas of my face, that price could instantly double, if not triple — which is where I might have to put some thought into regular Botox use and consider some non-invasive solutions.
That said, in the grand scheme of things, there's a reason so many people shell out the cash for a regular injectables service. As effective and nourishing as topical skincare solutions can be, they just can't hit the nerves Botox can (literally). "Nothing can replace Botox," Guanche says. "If you spend dollars on expensive creams or prescriptions that claim to reduce wrinkles, it may be more cost-effective to save those funds and apply it toward Botox. Botox gets the job done."