I have been a beauty writer for more than a decade, and Botox remains the single treatment I am most asked about. Often this happens in quiet corners, as though someone is asking if I know where they might find an illicit recreational drug.
This, I suspect, is because Botox works to smooth wrinkles and lines. There is nothing any cream, serum, supplement or oil can do that even comes close and yet, although we generally take no issue with dyeing our hair or other temporary aesthetic augmentations, we think Botox is different. It really isn’t.
As I approach my mid-30s, this seems like a good time for me to start — and this timing is what numerous doctors I have spoken with say is appropriate.
After trying Botox in my forehead last year to write about it for a feature, I saw its undeniable effects. My forehead, the area where I’ve always had expression and movement lines that I’ve watched getting a little deeper over the past few years, just looked better.
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I didn’t have it again for more than a year. Then, recently, I went to see the medical director of Fitzgerald Private Clinic, in Dublin. She’s a facial plastic surgeon named Dr Deirdre Fitzgerald. Some people — including me — have foreheads that bunch quite visibly in the glabellar area, between their brows, when they frown. It’s genetic, and no big deal, but I could see this bunching becoming more obvious, and noticed my make-up sitting less well in that area.
For me, getting a small amount of Botox from a highly skilled doctor is a safe, semi-permanent augmentation — as long as it’s conducted by one of the most skilled people I can find after careful, considered research.
Sometimes I encounter women who are open about having injectables but feel the need justify it or to apologise for this apparent affront to feminism. I find this impulse to justify sad. It’s my forehead, not an advertising space for anyone else’s political beliefs, and I’ll do as I please with it. Emotional reactions about others’ aesthetic choices tend to be deeply rooted in one’s own self-image.
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“I start by listening to the client and their specific concerns, whilst studying the face both at rest and in its dynamic state,” Dr Fitzgerald says. “It may be that the client comes to the clinic thinking that it is specifically antiwrinkle injections that will help, or filler, but often they are surprised to hear they have other options, or that I might not advise the treatment that they wanted themselves.”
Tempting as it may be, Botox is never something to seek a discount on. Going to the most qualified doctor possible is essential. They are equipped to deal with every possible issue that may arise.
Like any injectable, Botox can also have side effects, and you should discuss these at length with your doctor. A doctor should be willing to show you the product they are using, should not pressure you into a treatment and, as ethical medical professionals, will not administer Botox to anyone under 18. Unless there is a compelling reason, such as a pronounced asymmetry or clear medical issue, most will not treat anyone in their early 20s, either.
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An expert in facial anatomy will maximise your chances of receiving the result you actually want, and will be able to tell you when the treatment you came in looking for isn’t actually the right route. You want a doctor who will say no if a no is needed.
With Botox, Dr Fitzgerald says, achieving a natural result “is about knowing what effect each injection will have on the specific person’s face, expression, general demeanour, or even any underlying asymmetry that is already there — we are all slightly asymmetric. So for some people it will mean not treating at all, whilst for others they may choose, once fully counselled as to the pros and cons, to go ahead with three or more areas, in order to achieve the freshness they desire.”
Freshness is the word. I had some mild bruising between my eyebrows in the days after my treatment, and a bit of a headache for a couple of hours after it was done. The results need two weeks to take fully effect, and last three or four months. Prices at the clinic start at €300.
I still have plenty of movement in my brows, but the bunching is gone, my eyebrows are a little bit lifted, and the skin on my forehead is smoother and tauter. No one has commented on any change in my face — a sign of good work — but I have had the odd “You look well!” from friends and family. This is the ideal outcome.