In addition to the deepening furrows themselves, I ignored another major warning sign that I was leaving it too late: Several estheticians as well as skincare manufacturers had told me—after I’d asked them, I should point out—that skin care wouldn’t do the trick on these stubborn so-called “11s” anymore and that Botox was pretty much the only solution. Still, I refused to believe them: “Won’t injections fix them completely, no matter how bad they get?,” I thought to myself, as if I knew better than the pros. Not to mention that I couldn’t even decide where to go for my first experience. Several friends had passed along personal recommendations, but that only made it harder to choose: The pressure to pick the perfect place was almost too much.
In the end, it was the invitation to sample a service at Blue Medi Spa in Sherman Oaks, California, that made my decision for me. I knew I’d be in good hands at this well-regarded, cutting-edge facility founded by Ronda Nofal in 1999 as Light Speed Laser. Now the spa has built up nearly 20 years’ experience offering everything from facials and peels to body contouring and laser resurfacing. So, one Saturday in mid-November, my appointment booked, I made my way to the distinctive azure awning of the former La Reina Theatre on Ventura Boulevard.
The friendly receptionists immediately put me at ease when I told them I was a Botox virgin. My assigned nurse practitioner was Jane Darby, a down-to-earth Brit originally from Liverpool. Even at this late stage, I still had my doubts, I confessed to her. So as we went over my completed intake form she talked me through the pros and cons of both Botox (officially BOTOX Cosmetic, and also known as botulinum toxin or onabotulinumtoxinA) and its counterpart, Dysport, and the differences between the two. In short, Botox can target more precise areas, and the effects may take longer to show and be quicker to wear off, especially in people who exercise a lot or have a high metabolism.
Both products are neuromodulators designed to temporarily relax the facial muscles that cause creases in the skin—essentially, moderate to severe frown lines and crow’s feet—due to repeated expression. As with most medical procedures, there’s the potential for life-threatening side effects, in this case difficulty swallowing, speaking or breathing. There’s also a risk of the spread of toxin effects, which can cause everything from blurred vision to drooping eyelids and loss of bladder control. Yikes! But, according to the brand’s official website, there has not been a confirmed serious case of spread of toxin effect reported so far. And we’re talking about an incredibly popular service: Between 2002 and 2014 (the latest data available), nearly 11 million vials were used in the U.S. alone.
As Jane explained, “It’s not up to me to convince people to have Botox or Dysport. If they want information on the history and pros and cons, I’m happy to share that with them. But newbies have to listen to their gut… it’s more about them trusting me.” And I did. I was finally ready to take the plunge.
The actual procedure—in my case, 20 units (a standard first dose)—took barely two minutes; each of the five injections felt like small pinches and left behind tiny specks of redness. And that was that. Although the website says that clients can start to see results in 24 to 48 hours, Jane told me that 10 days was more realistic and that she’d follow up with me around that time. She also said that my lines had been pretty deep and to be aware that they might not disappear completely.
When she called as promised I was ready with my verdict. I was indeed noticing a big difference—which did take the full 10 days to appear—namely, far less furrowing and fewer forehead lines. I told her that I liked how I looked: like myself, but a less-scowly version. I can still frown if I want to, but I no longer look as though I want to punch someone even if I’m just ordering a latte.
When asked about the optimal time for a second treatment, she responded, “Typically three months, but if your forehead still isn’t moving you can wait a bit. Basically, when it’s gone past the point of you liking it you can come in.”
I have to be totally honest: I was slightly disappointed that no one has asked me if I’ve “had anything done” (although, in keeping with my anonymity for the purpose of writing this post I’ll probably say no if they do!).
However, my sister, who I hadn’t seen in months, grilled me the other day on what eye cream I was using as “my eyes look amazing.” And that’s exactly the kind of natural look I wanted all along.