I’m 35. Here’s Why I Get Botox

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I had a hard time finishing this week’s story. I kept getting stuck while writing it, and I eventually realized it was because I didn’t want everyone to know I get Botox.

Seeing as how my first time trying it was documented for YouTube, this is ridiculous, but I was living in New York then and my social circles were made up of close friends from college and people I knew from the beauty industry. We’d all known each other for years, and getting cosmetic work done was normalized within these groups, so it felt safe to share.

Now, I live in a new city, and I’ve made some new friends. I’m still getting to know them and I’m a little nervous that they’d secretly judge me for getting Botox. Clearly, I have conflicting feelings about it myself. It’s hard not to, as it’s a topic that elicits a strong response for many.

Though it’s become less stigmatized in recent years, there are still plenty of critics who say that opting into these aesthetic treatments perpetuates unrealistic standards of beauty and upholds the patriarchy. I’ve grappled with these points myself, and I agree with them to an extent, but I also think that people’s reasons for getting Botox aren’t always as simplistic as chasing youth or beauty.

I’ve thought a lot about my own reasons and the closest explanation I’ve come to stems from a conversation I had with my dermatologist last year. At our first consultation, she asked pointed questions about my past experiences, and why, after a two-year break, I was ready to try Botox again.

This was when I grasped just how important it was to find a professional who was, of course, competent, but also took the time to understand the reasons behind why I was in her chair, which is a piece of the conversation that often gets left out. We see the compelling before-and-afters on social media and the casual language around how these are “quick and easy procedures,” which may be true, but doesn’t address the potential complications or the messy feelings you may have about going against nature.

After talking through my medical history, my dermatologist said something that helped me understand why my weary face bothered me: “You’ve been through a lot these past few years and I get the feeling of wanting to look more like your former self, of wanting to put this difficult chapter of your life behind you in whatever ways you can.” She then explained that we all start to show signs of aging in our 30s, but that can be sped up or become more noticeable by external factors, like extreme weight loss or extreme stress.

In a strange twist, it turns out she had done her training in head and neck cancers (which is what I had) before she found her way to cosmetic dermatology and plastic surgery. She seemed to understand my vulnerability in the aftermath of illness, but also the shame I felt for wanting to get Botox at all after surviving an extremely hard season of life.

Wasn’t it so vain of me? Don’t I know better than to be anything but grateful for the opportunity to age? Of course. But I’d also like to part with some of the collateral damage leftover from the past few years. I imagine this is a feeling that women who get “mommy makeovers” share. I understand the uptick in cosmetic treatments since the pandemic.

Sometimes these small external changes can help people reclaim a sense of self or a morsel of control in a world where so little of our fate is actually in our hands. Only you have lived through the experiences that shape your life, and only you can decide how you want to cope with them. I’m telling this to myself as much as I’m saying it to anyone who might need to hear it.

This is the best answer I have about my decision to get Botox at 35. It’s not the tidy conclusion I want it to be, but it’s the most honest one I can come up with, and perhaps that’s good enough for now.

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Botox Pointers for First-Timers

  • Do your research: Find a board-certified dermatologist who can answer your questions and make you feel at ease when you talk to them. On that note…
  • Have some questions ready: And ask for photos of their work. This is a scenario where the “no question is too small” adage is absolutely true.
  • Start low, go slow: Neuromodulators like Botox can take up to two weeks to fully kick in, so start conservatively and give it time to settle. After two weeks, you can go back for a touch up, but you may find that you don’t need it. Remember: You can always add more, but you can’t take any away. Though results aren’t permanent, you have to let things run their course, which is typically 3 to 4 months for most people.
  • Make sure you’re emotionally ready: Go in for a consultation, ask all your questions and if any part of you still feels apprehensive about moving forward, go home and give yourself time to think carefully knowing the potential risks. Know your own why before committing.
  • Prepare for some downtime: The after photos we see on Instagram and TikTok are often the best-case scenarios. As with any cosmetic treatment, there is potential for things like bruising or swelling, so take that into consideration when you book your appointment. (Avoiding blood thinners, including Aspirin, Motrin, Advil, vitamin E or fish oil a few days before your treatment can help prevent excess bruising.)

"Ma'am," "Anti-Aging" and Other Words That Bother Me

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...