Girl Talk: Botox Is Worth It (When It’s Free)

A couple of years ago, when I was a freelance writer, I got Botox. I was working on a story for a women’s magazine in the U.K. about “ageorexia” — women in their 20’s and early 30’s who were getting anti-aging treatments and surgeries as a preventative measure rather than as maintenance. While I interviewed a number of women about the subject, I also thought it was a good opportunity to do a little Gonzo-style journalism and get a cosmetic procedure myself. I first went to a “cosmetic spa” for an assessment, under the guise of being a real, live, insecure human being, not a writer working on a story.The Eastern European woman who eyed my face under a huge lamp had a thick accent and a completely immobile face. Clearly, she drank the Botox Kool-Aid. I, myself, had a face that I thought was pretty typical for a 27-year old who had spent many years tanning in the California sunshine, always wore cheap plastic sunglasses, and regularly moisturized. Dr. Svetlana (that wasn’t her real name) seemed to think that equaled something very, very wrong. She recommended a Botox and Restylane cocktail — the Botox to eliminate the deep lines between my eyebrows (“Those we call the ‘number 11′,” she said) and on my forehead, and the Restylane to fill in the creases around my smile.

While procedures like these can cost upwards of $600 per session, I found a highly recommended plastic surgeon who was totally cool with giving me Botox for free, since I would be using him as a source for my piece — many of his clients were my age. I definitely wasn’t down with getting Restylane injections in my cheeks — I really don’t consider signs that I smile a lot a “flaw”.

Getting Botox hurts a little, but sounds really weird. When the needle pricks your skin, you can actually hear the tip penetrating — it sounds like a teeny tiny bag of potato chips is being crushed. The doctor injected a half dozen times in between my brows and on my forehead before he pronounced me done. Pain wise, an eyebrow wax is worse. For two weeks after the .procedure I didn’t notice anything, but after that, it kicked into high gear. My number 11’s vanished and the two lines along my brow were gone. I looked like a slightly more refined and taut ME. That was when I was showing no expression; while my face was at rest.

When I tried to frown, it was another story. Nothing happened. I felt like I was trying really hard to scowl, but my forehead wouldn’t register even the slightly effort. Because Botox stuns the nerves, you can try with all your might to make the facial muscles move, but they can’t. Raising my eyebrows was even weirder — I could not register shock or surprise. A friend of mine said my face was robotic. That’s when I started to realize Botox was not all it was cracked up to be.

For starters, it’s pricey. It doesn’t last (thank goodness, in my case) and return visits need to occur every four months. Sure, they may SAY you’ll look natural, and unless you request “The Nicole Kidman”, you probably will look normal — when you’re not trying to express any serious emotion. Shocked by something someone did? You’ll have to vocalize it, because your eyebrows will refuse to go sky-high. Think about it — when was the last time you saw Joan Rivers look genuinely surprised?

When the Botox had worn off, I realized something. I didn’t regret getting it — it was an interesting experience, especially since it was temporary and free. But would I ever pay for it? No way. For starters, I think the cosmetic surgery industry is pretty evil, but that’s a whole other rant. I also don’t understand such an intense fear of aging — sure, I probably will dye away some gray hairs in the future, but ridding my face of the lines formed by a lifetime of experience? Nah.

Besides — I’ve got bangs now. I don’t even notice my number 11.