Whenever I hear the word “Botox,” I can’t help but think of Luther (Tim Allen) of Christmas with the Kranks, frozen-faced, Spock-browed, and drooling out his beverage post-neuromodulator treatment. That scene gets me every. freaking. time. No part of me wants a Tim Allen-inspired frozen face, but if you describe a treatment as beneficial for “smoothing fine lines” and “preventing wrinkles,” the beauty guru in me eagerly steps up to the plate, wanting to learn more.
I’m 25 and started taking the skincare game seriously about one year ago. My goals at the time were to not look so tired (my chronic under-eye bags are designer, it’s fine), to brighten my complexion, to treat and prevent acne, and to prevent further skin damage. After a year of trying products and finding what works for me based on my skin needs, I have my skincare routine down to a science. And what do we do when we meet our goals? That’s right, we make new ones.
My new goal for this year is to work on keeping true to my skincare routine and to prevent further wrinkling/damage. According to Cleveland Clinic, wrinkles are made worse by aging, sun damage, smoking, and repetitive facial muscle contractions. While I can help my cause by wearing sunscreen, avoiding tanning, and not smoking, aging is an inevitable privilege that just happens. Repetitive facial muscle contractions seem similarly unavoidable until you take Botox, a neuromodulator that can help minimize those movements, into consideration.
So what exactly is Botox?
Per Medline Plus, Botox is a drug that is used to inactivate chosen muscles through the blocking of specific nerves. Botox is “made from a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum,” the site added. In large doses, you may know it as the toxin responsible for food-poisoning-related botulism. Sounds like something absolutely none of us want, but in small doses, it has proven helpful in reducing wrinkles, severe sweating, chronic migraines, neck spasms, and overactive bladders. Despite popular belief, Botox isn’t the only brand of botulinum toxin on the market. According to Mayo Clinic, other botulinum toxin products (also referred to as neuromodulators because they affect movement at the level of neurons) include Dysport, Xeomin, and Myobloc.
Step 1: Finding an injector
When I decided to take my skincare to the next level (some may call it being extra, I call it being proactive), I did plenty of research to find an injector in my area who was a nurse or doctor, practiced safely, boasted a successful before and after, and had rave reviews. I looked to Yelp and RealSelf (basically a Yelp for plastic surgeries and cosmetic procedures) and decided upon an injector that fit all of my criteria. I realized that for me, having a neuromodulator treatment would be completely elective, so I was in no rush and set aside an ample amount of time to find the perfect injector to fit my needs. I chose an injector who was near me and had rave reviews on the review sites I researched.
Step 2: The consultation
Two weeks later, I found myself bare-faced in my injector’s procedural chair, ready to talk neuromodulators and to find a treatment plan that worked for me. The consultation that I had with her was so valuable and, in my opinion, is not something that should be rushed through. If you show up to your appointment and your injector immediately starts drawing up neuromodulator, I’d take that as a red flag.
We talked about my medical history, aesthetic goals (for me, it was wrinkle prevention and looking refreshed), side effects to consider, what would be required of me post-procedure, what to expect as the drug took effect, and cost. She leveled with me and made sure we were on the same page before we even discussed what areas we would treat. She offered me the option to think about all of her considerations and to schedule a follow-up for the procedure, but after doing a lot of my own research and feeling a connection with the injector, I felt ready to move forward. If I was feeling “on the fence” or more hesitant about the procedure based on my feelings towards the cost, the actual procedure, or the injector herself, it would have been a great opportunity for me to reevaluate my decision.
I asked her professional opinion about what areas would be beneficial to treat. My wrinkles aren’t prominent until I make facial expressions, so there wasn’t one area over another that was a non-negotiable for me to treat. Based on her assessment, she stated that I would most benefit from treating a combination of my forehead and frown lines, which she noticed to be particularly strong in my face. After taking my before photos for my chart and for comparison, she got to work.
Step 3: The treatment
PSA: I’m the biggest baby of all time. If I get my eyebrows threaded, my jaw will be clenched the entire time, I will shed a tear, and I will leave behind an accidental puddle of sweat in the chair. I’m a sensitive little flower whose nervous system is on one. That being said, the actual injecting was exactly what I imagined it to be. The needle they used was super tiny and the Botox solution isn’t very viscous, so I couldn’t feel the medication being injected as I typically do with a flu shot, for instance. On a pain scale of 0-10, I’d say that getting Botox (in my book) was about a 4/10. Take that with a grain of salt. Like I said … I’m sensitive AF.
To treat my forehead and frown lines, she used nine different points of injection and the entire procedure took about three minutes. Afterward, she cleaned up some small droplets of blood on my forehead and gave me post-care instructions which included four hours of activity restrictions (no working out, no lying down, and no massaging the area) to ensure that the product wouldn’t migrate to an area it isn’t supposed to.
Step 4: Recovery
Probably the greatest part of having Botox, for me, was that I could go about my day post-procedure with no downtime at all. Granted, I skipped my workout (tragic, I know) and took my normal Saturday nap sitting upright on my couch (nothing comes between me and my Saturday nap). Other than that, my day was unchanged: I went grocery shopping, cleaned my apartment, and hung out with my friends. All the while, my Botox was kicking into gear.
Did it work?
If you’re considering a neuromodulator treatment or have a consultation with an injector, they’ll likely tell you that it’ll take two weeks for the neuromodulator to take full effect, but allow me to let you in on a little secret—you’ll start feeling the effects much sooner than that. For me, the first signs of muscle relaxation were on day four post-treatment. It’s a weird feeling to describe. My skin wasn’t numb to the touch, but my injected muscles felt numb. I couldn’t frown as forcefully as I normally did and raising my eyebrows was a challenge.
By day six, I’d say that the Botox took full effect. The movement in my brows and forehead was minimal which, while it sounds odd, felt freaking awesome. It didn’t bother me that I couldn’t move the upper part of my face as much as I normally did. It was a little eerie at first, but I got used to the feeling (or lack thereof) quickly. I noticed that I was frowning a lot when I sleep because I could feel my muscles trying and failing to work upon waking. Overall, my face felt more relaxed and strangely, I liked tuning into it because I carry a lot of stress in my face and it was a good reminder to exhale. It was a zen experience.
I realized some natural movement started to come back at the one month mark and then for the next few months, more movement returned. After about four months, I’d say that the effects were 85 percent worn off. AKA, I was ready for more.
Was it worth it?
While I will 10/10 get it done again, I am aware that it is a luxury treatment and not a necessity. I liked my results and love the idea of preventing wrinkles (now I’m way more in tune to how strong my frown is, especially upon waking up in the morning), but going back to my injector for more Botox is far from being my top priority.
The two major pitfalls of getting a neuromodulator treatment, for me, were the cost of the procedure and the longevity of the product. Depending on where you go, what you get done, how many units your injector uses, and what discounts you may have, the price of Botox varies. If I were to go in on a normal day without a discount, the treatment that I got would be $400-$600. While many medspas and injectors offer rewards programs, that’s a large chunk of change for a treatment that offers temporary effects.
My injector warned me of the timeline, but, of course, I wish the effects would have lasted a bit longer based on the price I paid for the service. However, the shorter duration makes it safer for patients if a mistake is made by the injector (i.e., too much product used in one side versus the other) so that you don’t have a permanent deformity. This was partly the reason why I decided I’d give Botox a try: if it’s horrible, I know it’s not permanent.
If you’re thinking about Botox…
If you’re considering a neuromodulator treatment, I think that finding an injector you trust and feel comfortable following up with is the most important part of the experience. It’s helpful to get a vibe for what their goals are. If making money is their top priority as opposed to truly being interested in what’s best for you, you may end up over-treated, and overspend as a result. A good injector should provide contact information (whether it be through their personal platforms or through the office they work for) so that you can comfortably follow up with concerns if issues arise.
I think that Botox is an awesome service that can make a lot of people happy and feel like their best selves, but as with most cosmetic procedures and beauty treatments, they should be considered a luxury and not a necessity. That being said, you bet your bottom dollar I’ll be back once I get to where I want to be financially.