What I Tell Fellow Parents About Getting Botox

For starters, no one should feel peer pressure in either direction. But Parents beauty director shares everything you need to know about Botox.

Kate Sandoval Box
Welcome to my ’Tox Talk. Photo: Davis Factor

Among the chat topics in my mom circle—besides current Netflix watch lists and career-pivot advice—a common question is, "Should I get Botox?" As the beauty director at Parents, my response is that I get it and I love it—and that, of course, it's a personal choice. Then the follow-up questions begin. If you were in my WhatsApp group, here's an edited version of how I would answer.

I thought people started Botox in their 40s. Now I'm seeing 20-year-olds getting it!?

You're not wrong. More women are viewing it as a preventive measure to keep skin smooth over time, and millennials and Gen Z are blazing the path to making it mainstream. A survey conducted by Allergan (the owners of Botox Cosmetics) found that globally, 82 percent of 21-to-35-year-olds believe that injectable treatments are socially acceptable. That said, while Botox may seem ubiquitous on our Instagram feeds, it remains a splurge for most of us. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, only about 6 percent of American women between the ages of 30 and 54 got Botox in 2020. (Botox procedures overall were down by 13 percent­—the pandemic, of course, may have been a factor.)

What exactly do you get done?

I get Botox injected into the vertical lines between my brows—the so-called "11s"—and along my eyes to soften my crow's-feet. My dermatologist, Dendy Engelman, M.D., also dots it across my forehead, distributing with the eye of an artist, stepping back to see my full face and asking me to frown and smile as she works so she can adjust the result. The "baby Botox" micro-droplet technique ensures that I don't look frozen; my expressions are still there and more natural than if she'd put the same amount in one spot. "Years ago, injectors were a lot more heavy-handed and patients could seem too done. Now most doctors use much less with a goal of keeping some facial movement so people still look like themselves," Dr. Engelman says. Other commonly treated areas are "barcode lines" above the lip, a pebbly chin, and the jaw muscle (to slim the face or help with teeth grinding).

So when did you start?

In my early 20s, I noticed the lines between my brows stayed put even when I wasn't frowning, and I began once-a-year injections. (Strange but true: My dad, an oculoplastic surgeon, did them for me.) In my 30s, I reupped to two times a year. Did my desire for Botox skyrocket after having a baby and experiencing extreme lack of sleep? Hard yes—it was my top beauty priority after I finished breastfeeding. I felt as if I'd aged more during new motherhood than in the decades before. Even if I'd had time for an extensive skin routine, that wouldn't have offered a quick improvement. Botox results are pretty impressive: Wrinkles temporarily vanish, pores look smaller, sweat glands are less active, and skin is smoother—without real downtime.

How much time and money are we talking here?

The appointment itself is fast (most of it is spent waiting for a numbing ointment to do its thing). After the injections, results are usually visible within three to seven days and last from two to four months. Prices vary widely but generally start at $250 per area of the face. A top derm on the coasts may charge three times more than a med spa in the middle of the country, and, frustratingly, it's hard to know what the total cost may be until you have a consultation. "Patients have different muscular strength and anatomy, so I might put 12 units of Botox in one forehead and then need 20 units for the next," Dr. Engelman explains. As tempting as it can be to go with the best deal in town, do factor in the expertise and reputation of your injector. You want someone who has great referrals, has recent examples of their work, and makes you feel comfortable.

I'm kind of scared, though.

There are risks: Bruising, headaches, swelling, asymmetrical results, and, although very unlikely, allergic reactions are possible. "It's like the risk we take when we're in a car; there's a chance we could get into an accident, but we follow precautions to reduce our likelihood," says Michelle Henry, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. So if you could use reassurance, know that millions of people around the world have had safe neurotoxin injections for decades. Are you worried that you'll go overboard? There is something called perception drift: When we're exposed to a lot of over-manipulated images, it skews what we perceive as attractive. Referencing your before-and-after photos can help keep yourself in check—and super-honest mom-friend chats can do that for you too.

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's January/February issue as "What I Tell My Friends About Botox." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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