Botox or No-tox?

Botox

Ahh, the age-old question (pun intended) — should I get Botox?

As I entered the last year of my twenties a few weeks ago, I decided to get Botox as my gift to myself. (I have no shame in admitting that I got Botox, or that I got myself a birthday gift.) To be clear, it isn’t because I’m afraid of aging — I am a natural-look-kind-of-gal, and generally prefer taking really, really good care of my skin over injections and plastic surgeries — I just happen to be genetically blessed with pretty deep forehead creases that I personally think I look better without. That said, I’ve always been open about having lip injections, I kinda want to try microblading, and I’m an advocate for doing whatever makes you feel the most confident in your own skin!

Some people swear by it, others swear it off. Let’s take a closer look at the injectable used mostly for making taking a closer look at our skin a little less scary!

What is Botox and is it safe?

First of all, Botox is not a filler; it’s a neurotoxin, meaning it relaxes the muscles forming wrinkles, rather than plumping or filling them. Technically, Botox (or botulinum toxin) is a natural substance. According to Hannah Nichols in Medical News Today, “Botox is used…cosmetically to remove wrinkles by temporarily paralyzing muscles. It is made from a neurotoxin called botulinum toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum [which] is found in many natural settings, including soil, lakes, and forests…Such naturally occurring instances of Clostridium botulinum bacteria and spores are generally harmless…At a certain point, the bacteria begin producing botulinum toxin, the deadly neurotoxin responsible for botulism (an illness [which] can cause respiratory failure and prove deadly)…Although Botox is a powerful poison, when used correctly, it has a number of applications.” According to dermatologist Dr. Karen Stolman, “all FDA-approved neurotoxins…are very diluted, less potent versions of the pure neurotoxins, which is how they can safely relax the muscle they’re injected into, without affecting surrounding muscles.”

What exactly is Botox for?

Fun fact: Botox was originally developed to treat migraines and TMJ, and is also used to treat excessive sweating. However, for cosmetic purposes, Botox is mainly used to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, forehead creases, crows feet, smile lines, bunny lines, and even for eyebrow lifts.

Is it too early (or too late) for me to start getting Botox?

There’s a popular idea being thrown around by women my age and a little younger called “preventative Botox,” which is exactly what it sounds like: getting Botox to prevent wrinkles from happening in the first place, rather than trying to get rid of them after they’ve developed. It’s actually a valid concept, and is most popular not only in the forehead, but also the mouth angles (that allow us to frown), as these areas are much harder to treat after wrinkles have formed. Women as young as 25 have begun preventative Botox, but any younger than that, it probably isn’t worth the money yet. Pretty much whenever you start to notice and become bothered by lines you see in your face, that’s a good time to begin considering treatment.

Will I look like a plastic doll who can’t move her face?

While we’ve learned from watching the Real Housewives franchises that there is such a thing as way too much Botox, the plastic, fake look is more from over-doing the fillers than from too much Botox. Dr. Stolman explains, “Even the muscle into which [Botox] is directly injected will not fully relax or be paralyzed…often, there is still some movement, permitting the treatment to look more natural and help you avoid the frozen look.” Freezing your entire face so that you’re literally incapable of making any expressions would be very intentional (you’d have to really ask for a LOT of it), not to mention expensive…and it wouldn’t last. Which leads to…

How long does it last?

First of all, it takes about a week for Botox to take full effect. Most patients regain full movement of their muscles in as little as three to four months. So if you want to try it out and you hate it, it won’t take long to go back to normal (which was my saving grace when I had bad Botox). And if you try it and love it, you can decide how frequently you want to upkeep the injections, depending on your budget and cosmetic goals.

Are there any side-effects? 

Of course. As with any beauty treatment, less is more. Some Botox users can actually look older. According to Dr. Jody Levine, a dermatologist in NYC, “Overuse of the drug can lead to atrophy of the muscles, which can be particularly noticeable around the eyes, where the face can appear inadvertently aged, despite the lack of wrinkles.” Another common side-effect of getting Botox in the forehead (as I learned the hard way after my first Botox injection a year or two ago), is drooping eyebrows, which can make you look mean and/or make your eyelids sag. This is due to being injected in the wrong place, even by a millimeter, so it’s super important to only work with someone who really knows what they’re doing.

Okay, but how much does it cost?

To that point, Botox is one of those things I HIGHLY recommend spending the extra money on. Do NOT try to find discounted Botox (i.e. do not buy Groupon Botox — that’s how I ended up with bad Botox the first time I got it). There’s a reason it’s discounted, and there’s a reason more expensive Botox is priced at a premium. Generally, good Botox (at least in Nashville) is anywhere from $12-$15 per unit. (The only time I’ll pay for discounted Botox is if my injector is doing some kind of event — ‘Botox and Bubbles’ for instance, for, like $10 per unit). For my forehead lines, it took about 24 units initially, then another 10 or so units to touch up after about two weeks (only because my lines were still deeper than I wanted). Some places have a minimum-units requirement, and I’m not sure how I feel about that, to be honest. Your injector should consult you thoroughly beforehand about what you want (like, still being able to make facial expressions), what you DON’T want (I was very adamant about avoiding droopy eyebrows, even if that meant I still had forehead creases), and let you know the number of units required before injecting, so you’re able to decide if it’s something you want to do, aesthetically and financially.

Are there any healthier, non-injectable alternatives?

If you’re not sure you want to go so far as getting injections, that’s okay! Of course having a solid and consistent skin care regimen, drinking tons of water and maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly to keep your blood pumping and skin glowing, LOTS of sunscreen, and good, natural makeup will all work wonders on your skin, injections or not!

So…should I get Botox?

Ultimately, you do you, boo boo! Like any other aesthetic treatment (or non-treatment), getting Botox is a personal decision. Either way, it’s your body and you should be proud of the decisions you make for yourself!

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