Art: Shawna Huang.
Jennifer Aniston recently told Bobbi Brown in an interview, “I think what I have been witness to is seeing women trying to stay ageless…I am grateful to learn from their mistakes, because I am not injecting shit into my face.” Well, sadly, that’s yet another thing — including impossibly toned biceps and Justin Theroux — that I don’t have in common with Jennifer Aniston.
Hi, my name is Cheryl, and I inject shit into my face. Botox, specifically.
This is the first time I’ve admitted it in public, much less on the Internet. Chances are, if you’ve asked me in the last four years whether or not I get Botox — and it’s amazing how often people do — I’ve flat-out lied to your unwrinkled face. For the record, I’m older-than-Angelina-but-younger-than-Madonna years old. When people find out my age, they sometimes say, “Wow, you look fantastic!” I usually reply, “Thanks! My mom is in her 60s and has basically no wrinkles,” vaguely suggesting that it’s due to my superior genetics. (It’s true about my mom, though, and all she uses is Noxzema.) Or, I gush about my beloved SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic or whatever skin-care regimen I’m trying out at the moment. But, let’s be real: It’s partly because of the neurotoxins.
About four years ago, I noticed that in some pictures I had a fairly deep vertical line on my forehead, between my eyebrows, which made me look mean and angry. During kickboxing class, my instructor would yell at me, “Relax your face!” I thought I was! It became all I noticed every time I looked in the mirror. While I'm indeed sometimes mean and angry, I didn’t want that to be the persona I projected on a regular basis. I’m generally nice, and relatively peaceful.
I had been seeing NYC-based dermatologist Elizabeth Hale, MD, for a while at that point. One day, I sheepishly brought up Botox to her. I’m pretty sure I whispered it, so no one in the office would hear me. She told me that she uses Botox herself, which I never would have guessed because she has some fine lines and doesn’t appear frozen. This reassured me. I also knew that she’d be conservative with the needles, because when I asked about my crow’s feet, she said, “I’m leaving those alone — they’re not that bad.” So, I started going every three months to get my forehead and glabella (the official name for that space between your brows) injected. Lately, I’ve spaced it out to every five months or so, partly due to laziness and partly because I don’t need it as much anymore — the lines have softened nicely.
Art: Shawna Huang.
While I was pleased with how I looked after the 'tox — and I could still raise my brows and scrunch my face in laughter — I felt ashamed of what I’d done. “Aging gracefully,” you see, is a loaded phrase. Ostensibly, I think it’s supposed to mean accepting the process without fighting it, and sporting your grays and wrinkles with a beatific smile while pulling on your elastic-waist pants. In reality, it’s often used to mean “looking great for your age.” As a society, we heap praise on older women who don’t look older, but who also don’t seem to have had work done. Therein lies the secret shame. The idea is: "I don’t want to be seen as so vain that I’m willing to inject a TOXIN into my skin, but I also don’t want to look old before my time."
There's more of a stigma attached to Botox than to other cosmetic procedures. Women walk around with hair colors that definitely don't occur in nature, Instagram pictures of their fake eyelashes, and drop hundreds of dollars on facials. In her interview with Bobbi Brown, Aniston advocated for laser treatments, which are by no means natural — they cause micro-injury by poking tiny holes in your skin. So, why do people view Botox with derision?
Dr. Hale thinks it's because the injectable is derived from a dangerous toxin — even though it's been used for over 30 years and has been proven safe. “I totally understand why people are hesitant to have that injected into themselves,” she said. “But, it’s used in much higher doses in other [medical] fields. The amount we use is so minute that it’s considered completely safe.”
The bigger culprit? The extreme examples we see in Hollywood. Dr. Hale said she had her “Aha!” moment when she appeared on TV a few years ago, in her pre-Botox days. When she watched herself later, she realized that her forehead was the only one of the group with any wrinkles — or movement. “In reality, all the people that look good have [Botox]. Every newscaster on television has it!” she said.
Art: Shawna Huang.
Another reason people get scared off: It can be very obvious when someone has had Botox. “If you eat at a good restaurant, you’re not likely to write a good review — but if you have a terrible meal, you’re more likely to talk about it,” said Dr. Hale. “I think it’s the same thing with Botox. So many people use it. But, when it’s done badly, it looks awful, so I think people fear that.”
To prevent the unnatural look, you should seek out an experienced physician. Dr. Hale warns against things like Botox parties and Groupon medi-spa deals. “You really want someone who understands the muscles of facial expression, because they all interact," she said. "It can be dangerous to follow a cookbook approach. Everyone expresses themselves differently, and everyone has lines in different patterns." You also shouldn’t hop around to different providers or get it more frequently than every three months. “In my opinion, if you’re able to lie about it, then that means your Botox was done the right way. No one should ever say to you, ‘Your Botox looks great!’” she said.
Among her patients, Dr. Hale is starting to see women be more open about their procedures, especially with friends. “One trend I do see is that people are much more likely to tell their friends than their husbands,” she said. “It’s really interesting. They’re still like, ‘My husband CANNOT know.’” Well, my husband knows, but he's not necessarily happy about it. I think he’s afraid that it’s going to be a "gateway drug." Right now, it doesn't look like that'll be the case. But, I never thought I would get Botox, either, so who knows.
I think “aging gracefully” should mean feeling comfortable in your own skin. And, I feel better now that I've come clean about why that skin has fewer wrinkles in it.
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