You know that muscle in the middle of your forehead, right between your brows? The scowling muscle? Maybe you don’t. Maybe some people are blissfully unaware of their weird, clenchy forehead muscle.
Mine has always been overactive.
As a teenager, I always had this deep cleft of worry and contempt etched between my brows, even when I wasn’t angry. Sometimes, the spot would actually hurt from overuse. In my early twenties, it became more pronounced. The middle of my forehead would ache, and I would rub my fingers over it in circles, trying to relax it.
As I was about to turn 30, I noticed that not only was the forehead cleft asymptotically approaching maximum angriness, but I also was getting some really serious crinkles around my eyes when I smiled. I kind of like crow’s feet on men, and on actresses a lot older than 30. But these things extended back nearly to my hairline. They were, objectively speaking, over an inch long. If you have dry skin and not a lot of body fat, you might find yourself in the same position.
So, pre-30th-birthday party, I made an appointment for Botox with Dr. Bracci at Verve Laser.
Dr. Bracci looks exactly like he does in these photos — tanned, with very white teeth and with many pastel neckties. He always makes me think I’m in Los Angeles for a minute.
We talked about my forehead-clench and my crow’s feet. Botox is charged “per area.” I soon learned that upper and lower forehead are two different areas, and I was fine with leaving my upper forehead free to do its thing. So I settled on two areas, handed over my credit card to the tune of $400 (this was a couple years ago — I now pay $500 for two areas), and prepared for a barrage of needles in the face.
Botox needles don’t go in very deep at all — the Botox is injected in a very shallow way, but it’s just a lot of needles, which Dr. Bracci is extremely well practiced in delivering in a sort of rapid-fire hail. Over the last few years, I’ve discovered that it’s a little like plucking or waxing your brows — the first time, your eyes water and everything turns all red and angry, but after awhile, your skin adjusts, like, “Oh, you’re going to yank hair out of here by the roots? We get stabbed a lot now? We get it.”
The first time I left the clinic, I had an angry row of red bumps over my eyebrows. For a brief period, I looked like a Klingon. I have since purchased a fedora which I wear home from all Botox appointments.
The bumps subsided after an hour or so. I still had a couple of practically microscopic red puncture-dots, and one centimeter-long bruise near my eye where a needle had gone in — nothing severe enough that others would notice or comment.
After 24 hours, not much else had happened. By the next day, the forehead cleft was gone! Try as I might to make an angry face, I couldn’t move that muscle at all! I felt serene. I could smile without crow’s feet! I felt that, as a result of freezing a few small facial muscles, others were functioning a tiny bit differently — my cheeks were moving in a manner slightly different from how they usually moved. But it wasn’t bad, and indeed this was exactly the sort of thing that, if you tried to describe it to others, they would look at you like you’re crazy (“No, my cheeks also used to go up when I smiled, but differently!”)
I later read a study that said that since we empathize with others by mimicking their facial expressions (sometimes, anyway), having Botox can make a person less empathetic. But it can also just make you less mean and angry, in the sense that just like forcing yourself to smile can actually improve your mood, not being able to make your worst ever angry face does tend to decrease your actual anger levels. So, my scowls are now not very scowly! This is good for humanity.
So, I’ve been going for Botox ever since, about every 4 months. Usually people go every 3, but stretching it out is a bit of a cost-saving measure. Once, I decided to save even more money by just doing the forehead and skipping the crow’s feet, and I was so unhappy watching my face contort like a crumpled ball of paper every time I tried to express happiness.
So, I really like my Botox. Yes, it’s expensive, but lots of regular women spend $50 or more on a jar of face cream that they expect no real benefit from — you just kind of hope that you’ll end up better-looking when you’re old than you would have been without all the face cream (6 jars a year for 40 years = $12,000, by the way), except there’s no control group, so unless you have an identical twin who lives the same lifestyle except without all the face cream, you’ll never know. Same with facials. I just don’t get it. You “glow” for a day, probably just because you got to relax and have someone pamper you. But then you just spent over $100 having someone put a single-use application of products on you. Seems like an absurd waste of money. I use drugstore moisturizer, maybe $15 a jar, and I get Botox, which actually works in a dramatic and immediate way.
On my second or so visit to Dr. Bracci, he pointed out my smile lines, or nasolabial folds, which I had been noticing (in certain lighting, at least) since I was 26. He suggested we fill them in with Radiesse, an injectable filler. He offered me the first one for free (he certainly didn’t know I was a writer, nor did I have any idea I’d be writing about it years later).
Soon, Dr. Bracci was sticking a much longer needle up and down the length of my entire cheekbone, as well as directly into my nasolabial folds. It felt exactly as though someone were filling in my “wrinkles” (and building up my cheekbones) with injectable toothpaste. I think the minty association I made was due to the fact that the Radiesse has an anesthetic mixed in, thus the Novocaine-at-the-dentist feeling.
I was sold — it didn’t hurt that, after the Radiesse, Dr. Bracci stepped back. took a look at me, and said, “Now you’re fully corrected.” I’m sure you stop getting that after a certain age. I’ve been doing the Radiesse in addition to the Botox once or twice a year ever since.
The Radiesse has occasionally left a bit more bruising (needle up and down the entire cheekbone!) — in one case, leaving a half-inch long bruise on my upper cheekbone that somehow bothered this guy I was dating. I told him I walked into something. I mean, really, this bruise was very light and half an inch long. Four days later, he exclaimed, How is your face still bruised? So, I have fibbed a bit to guys, but this is only ever necessary in the very short-term, and if a guy is really bothered by a tiny bruise he thinks you got from walking into a door, that actually probably bodes ill for other relationship issues.
Maybe 29 is young to start injectables, but I’d rather fix problems in a gradual way as they start. That’s how I do everything else in life, I think — jump on a problem before it gets too bad, or go out and get what I want early in the game. Overall, nothing bad has happened, although certainly one must sign many disclaimers about the bad things that could happen. But it’s pretty routine for me, especially now that I have the fedora. The appointments have in fact gotten shorter and shorter — for a repeat appointment with no real consultation needed, I’m in and out in 15 minutes.
I don’t look freakishly young, either (as though that’s even possible). I never get carded, certainly. I just don’t happen to have a nasty forehead cleft, giant crow’s feet, or deep nasolabial folds.
So, in conclusion, I do a lot of “fake” stuff to my face, but keep in mind that no one has the option of keeping their face exactly like it was when they were young. You can either try to preserve certain aspects of your youthful appearance through elective medicine, or you can let your face age at full speed — either way, your face will be changing. I prefer to direct that change.