To botox or not to botox

I’m not sure if this is true, but I feel I look more wrinkly now that I have lost weight. Perhaps it is a loss of plumping fat, or maybe it’s a psychological issue – it might be in my nature to look for something I don’t like about myself. Maybe I’m just halfway on my path to a new prime, and I just want to look my best, but these creases and crevices are really starting to bother me.

The first natural thought is botox. I’ve got several friends who use it and swear by it. It’s not horrendously expensive (less than $500 a session, and they have 2-3 per year), they say it doesn’t really hurt, and there’s no recovery period, so they can get it done in a lunch break.

Botox is made of a dire poison called botulinum toxin–a, which is known to cause paralysis. When injected in a very small dose to a particular site, it paralyses just one muscle (by blocking the release of the principal neurotransmitter where it joins the muscle), preventing it from contracting when we direct our face to move. This stops the perpendicular line forming over the muscle as the skin squeezes together. Botox takes a few days to attach to the nerve ending that would normally stimulate the muscle to contract, and so doesn’t show immediately – most patients notice changes in 10-14 days.

Botox is supposed to do its job without any permanent nerve damage, which is one of the reasons people are so happy to use it. Not only that, there is some evidence that suggests that if use starts before the long-term wrinkles are formed (and is continued over time), that it can prevent the skin from forming these wrinkles in the first place.

So that’s all the good. My pro-botox friends are beautiful ladies, and look good for their age. But I don’t know if they are any more beautiful than the other friends I have who don’t use it. This makes me question the need, and as I am always the sceptic, I need to see the other side of the story.

The issues I have with botox are:

  • I don’t know if botox is actually what I need. Apparently any line that exists while your face is relaxed is not going to go away with a treatment, and you’re going to need fillers instead (e.g. Restylane, Radiesse and Juvederm).
  • I am not convinced there is any effective research into the long-term effects of Botox. This is scary – it looks like botox injections to the forehead affect the brain map of the hands. What if I start using this dire toxin, and then discover down the track that it has shortened my life expectancy by 10 years? Is it worth that risk?
  • There are a stack of side effects: nausea, headaches, hormonal issues (like I really need more of those!), illness, dizziness, swollen eyes, malaise and pain are the common ones. It gets scary when the toxin spreads to other parts of the body, and causes paralysis elsewhere, including other muscles in the face and those that can affect vision, speech, the bladder, breathing or swallowing.
  • Once you start, you have to keep going, or deal with the horror somewhat like the picture of Dorian Gray. And I hate to link my life to literature; there always seems to be a moral to the story I don’t end up enjoying.
  • It might not work like I expect it to. The difference might not be significant. I might lose a character to my face that defines me. It might not last long. I’ve read stories about women who have their crows feet done, and then their face seems to relax to a stage where it causes under-eye bags. I just don’t know if the risks above outweigh the benefit I am promised, and if I believe that promise.

So, when it comes down to it, I’ve decided to live with the wrinkles. I don’t like them, and I’m not against a cheat to remove them, I just want one with a better score card for me. I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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