Botox is one of the world’s most recognised cosmetic drug brands (see 4.8million #Botox posts on Instagram), and it’s soaring amongst millennials.
Latest research from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) found requests from 19 – 34 year olds for Botox and filler rose by 41% between 2011 and 2015. In the US – where Botox has been the most popular aesthetic treatment for 20 years – procedures among the same age group had increased by 87% in the five years to 2018, with more of the selfie generation booking ‘preventative’ Botox to beat wrinkles before they’ve even appeared.
But the UK’s non-surgical cosmetic industry – which is said to be worth over £2.75billion – is also largely unregulated, meaning treatments can be administered by anyone, anywhere. We might think we have a decent idea what Botox does now, and we’re all aware that social media pressure and reality TV has played a massive part in the boom, but there’s also been a rise in the number of patients being dangerously misinformed.
Following Superdrug’s £99 Botox service coming under fire, and claims that the cosmetic industry wasn’t doing enough overall to help vulnerable patients, particularly those with body image obsessions, tighter controls have recently been bought in to protect young people’s mental health. In future, the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) says staff of its member clinics will be trained to screen patients for mental health issues before administering Botox and fillers, directing anyone vulnerable to nearby NHS services.
Needles might be rife for gen Z and millennials but with Botox drive-thrus and a longer-lasting E‑type 2 toxin on the horizon,what do people who’ve been taking facial freezing measures for more than a decade have to say?
What does it really look like 20 years on? And why do they have it? Here, four women bare all about their long-term relationship with Botox…
“You wouldn’t think I’d had work done’”
Emma Copeland, 37, from Kent
“Growing up, I remember sitting in the back of my mum’s car, catching my reflection in the rear view mirror and seeing a big dent and shadow running from the middle of my forehead down to my nose. Having such prominent frown lines upset me, and I knew that one day I’d try and get rid of them.
That day came when I was 25 during my Fashion Promotion degree. I was conscious of being a ‘mature’ student – and I didn’t want to look like one. To me, fashion was young, cool and new. I remember thinking that if I could eliminate the frown lines getting bigger with Botox, it might make me look younger. So I Googled where to go and found a company that rented a space in Harley Street. I was really nervous but it didn’t hurt: just a short, sharp prick.
That was 13 years ago, and I’ve been having it done regularly ever since – apart from when I was pregnant with my son. I go to Botox and filler parties where an ex-nurse sets up in my friend’s front room and we all get a discounted rate because there’s a group of us. At first, I was wary as I like a clinical environment – and a big spotlight. But she’s very professional and as most of my friends get it done, it feels normal. We all congregate in the kitchen on a Saturday or Sunday, our kids are usually around, and then take it in turns to see her.
I have Botox injections in three areas of my face for £200. Obviously, once you get one area done, you start looking at other ‘problem’ areas. It’s why I’ve also had fillers in my cheeks and lips and profphilo injections (which does hurt). After about two weeks, I might be ironing or walking to the station and suddenly it’s like a switch goes off; I feel the Botox kick in and I can’t move that area.
But it’s all quite subtle. You wouldn’t look at me and think ‘she’s had work done’.
Although I have faced judgment, mainly from men, saying: “What you getting that done for?” But I never listen. My mum is also dead against it. She says she’d never stick “crap” into her face. Looking back, I probably didn’t need it as much 10 years ago, but rather than trying to ‘cure’ my wrinkles when I’m 50, I’ve tried to prevent them in my 20s and 30s.”
“I think you can have too much, too young”
Corinne Nunn, 49, from Essex
“I recently bumped into someone I went to school with and I’m not being rude, but I thought she looked terrible. When I compared how she looked with how I look, there was no comparison. Appearance is really important to me; I’m into looking as good as I can. I go the gym and I run a nail salon. I’ve also been getting Botox for 23 years.
My first Botox treatment was a birthday present. I didn’t really know anything about it but I went along and I just really liked the affects. These days, I leave it to my practitioner at Woodford Medical to decide what ‘needs’ doing. I go every three or four months and she usually does a bit around my eyes, forehead and sometimes in my chin. I trust her completely.
People are always asking where I get mine done because it looks so good and everyone says I don’t look my age. Sometimes I get asked why I started so young, but it’s more acceptable now, especially where I live in Essex. But I do think you can have too much, too young. You also need to be careful who you see because I think it makes some young girls look older. I’ve also seen some people look horrendous with ‘bad Botox.’ You know, when they end up looking like a dead person because it’s so frozen? Or like Mr Spock from Star Trek because their eyebrows are so forced up that it looks too false. I don’t mind the false look but you should have a bit of movement.
Overall, when it comes to natural beauty over cosmetic beauty, I’m cosmetic all the way. I’d have a face-lift if I need one, but with my regular Botox and fillers, that’s a long way off. We’re probably more obsessed with how we look than 20 years ago but I blame social media for that, where people look the same; it’s all about the teeth, the hair, the Botox. When I first started getting it, there was no Instagram, but now we live in a society where unfortunately we feel like we have to look a certain away.
I don’t feel I have to be fully “made up” to feel confident, though. I have a semi-permanent line around my lips and tattooed eyebrows so it looks like I’m wearing make up anyway, but when my Botox wears off, I just don’t feel as fresh. I’ll keep getting it done as long as I can afford to. I spend about £1400 a year on it, but that’s part of my regime and budget – just like my haircuts.”
Read next: What does plastic surgery look like in the 2020s? In the words of an expert, “In the 2020s, ageing will be more of a chronic illness than a death sentence.”
“I would never keep it a secret”
Dr Sabika Karim, 41, from London
“I never felt beautiful when I was younger. I had two stunning sisters but I was always the ‘academic’ of the family: I knew I wanted to be a doctor by the time I was 10. During medical school, I learnt about medicine and surgery but also how appearance impacts patients and, in the end, I chose to become a cosmetic physician.
At 23, I started getting early signs of the deep, furrow lines that my Dad has on his forehead. I didn’t want them – so I went to have Botox in America. They were much further ahead with it than the UK. But I had no expectations. At that point, almost two decades ago, I knew that it had been used medically for over 50 years, and I knew how it came to be used aesthetically. But it still felt trial and error. Even when I started my practise 11 years ago, and I was getting it done here, Botox was still taboo.
I would never keep my Botox a secret, though. I get it in my frown lines, around my eyes and along my hairline every six months. I like that it makes me look more relaxed. I also get it for my migraines and in my underarms to stop me sweating, which gives me confidence when I’m leaning over my patients. Oh – I’m so naughty – I also get it in my massetermuscles to stop me grinding. But I’d never do my own Botox because I don’t have that objectivity. I know what bothers me but I need an expert to say yes or no.
The sad thing is that some people go to practitioners who won’t give them that medical opinion. So many people come to my clinic with work that’s gone wrong – and don’t know the qualifications of the person who did it, or even what they had done. Imagine not having a clue what someone is injecting into your face? It’s scary! I once saw a girl who was left not being able to smile on one side of her jaw for months.
If it’s being administered correctly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Botox. When my mum’s generation was younger, no one coloured their hair. But, for us, that’s totally normal – just like Botox and fillers are now for many people. The problem is when you look artificial. If a young girl wants enormous lips, for me, that’s not acceptable – and I have no problem saying no. Even if is is the norm. Equally, if I see someone the same age being affected by something that can be helped with Botox, will I help them? Absolutely. I have a responsibility to do right by my patients.”
“I’m glad I didn’t start earlier”
Debbi Ward, 55, from London
“I never thought Botox was going to be my thing. I thought it was for people who had more money than sense. Then, 10 years ago, I randomly popped into a Revere Clinics open day, simply because it was near my gym. Doctors were talking about all these different cosmetic procedures. At first, I was sceptical – but I also wasn’t happy with certain lines on my face. I mean, I could actually fit a 50p between my eyes!
The practitioners told me they could sort it getting bigger with Botox so I booked in, and was thrilled with the results. I looked fresher, younger… less angry. I now get it in three areas of my face up to four times a year and, at 55, I think I look younger than I did 10 years ago. In fact, my relationship with Botox has probably lasted longer than any other relationship – including my previous marriage.
But I’m glad I didn’t start earlier because it wasn’t as common and I probably wouldn’t have believed the practitioners. Also, the timing felt right for me at 45. I was accepting that I was slightly older and I just wanted to arrest the age process a bit. Mostly people I’ve told have an ‘each to their own’ reaction, and to be honest, it’s nobody else’s business what you do to make yourself feel better, if you’re not harming anyone.
Because when did you last open a magazine or social media and see ‘natural’ beauty? You just don’t. Photos are photoshopped, smoothed or filtered. Rightly, or wrongly, this is the society we live in. It made be sad but if you can post a photo where you look a bit better, why not? If you can have a treatment done that makes you look younger, do it. There’s no point thinking how we got here, or how we could have done things differently. Of course, if you choose not to have it, that’s absolutely fine. But I say don’t judge someone for getting it because you don’t know their reasons.
I get why young people are having preventative Botox, if they understand the science behind it. But my advice? Generally, it can be left a little longer: live some of your life first. I have three children who are 23, 21 and 19 and I’m very aware that young people feel pressured to look ‘perfect’, but what young people see on where they look, isn’t natural or real. If my eldest daughter said she was thinking about having it done now, I would put her off and say it’s just not necessary.”