Grooming is a world filled with jargon, technicalities and insider knowledge – some of it true, a lot of it bluster. That's where the Grooming Glossary comes in: a brand new series that drops the science on the world of skincare and haircare so you can self-care better – and with the know-how to separate the wheat from the chai-infused anti-aging miracle potion. This week, the boys in the Botox (and everything they need to kn0w).
Define a ‘fine line’. It’s difficult. After all, what constitutes fine? Is one man’s hairline crack another’s San Andreas Fault? Do you tell others that their facial creases are nothing to worry about? Merely whispers of slightly older age? Or do you see your own as slight giveaways that, sadly, you’re no longer the bouncing, boozing 22-year-old baby you once were? Fine lines are named as such because they allude to the barely thereness of it. They’re not wrinkles. They’re not unnatural either. But at some point, these ever-deepening lines stop being fine. And turns out, a lot of people are not at all fine with that.
So much so, that they’re looking for solutions beyond the usual anti-aging rotation of lotions and potions. Retinol is one such proven product. Hyaluronic acid another. Though for something more heavy duty – something that cements, rather than prevents, fault lines – Botox has become an increasingly popular choice. According to a 2019 study by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, there was a marked downturn in surgical brow lifts as non-surgical procedures gained traction, underlining “the value of Botox as an alternative but also a preventative treatment in rejuvenating the forehead and brow.” It’s not quite a scalpel-aided dot-to-dot, but it’s more than just a topically applied product. Botox, then, seems to sit on the palatable side of invasive. And it’s also on the lucrative one, as its sales are projected to increase to around $4.6 billion in the US alone by 2024.
It’s easy to think that those profit margins are buttressed by the cushioned-face cast of TOWIE alone. But Botox isn’t just stopping time for reality TV stars. Nor are its results as unnatural as many would assume. It’s stopping time for regular guys, too. Lots of them, in fact, as a BBC survey of last year found that almost 50 per cent of men aged between 18 to 30 are considering a procedure – and many are already booked in. “There’s definitely been an increase in men getting Botox, and they’re more interested in investing time and money into looking good,” says dentist and advanced facial aesthetics clinician Dr Amy-Rose Anfilogoff. “Like the push for male skincare, Botox is becoming popular because it’s quick, it’s relatively inexpensive and there’s minimal risk involved.”
Which sounds like a huge downplaying of it all given that Botox is literally a toxin. Botulinum toxin, to give the stuff its proper name, is a substance that can cause infection (or death) in certain medical contexts. Cosmetic aesthetics however, is not one of those. “We use Botox in such small, minimal and controlled amounts that it’s totally safe,” says Dr Anfilogoff, pointing that its deadly qualities are the reason it works (in small quantities). “Botox paralyses the muscle so it can longer contract, so that the skin that lives over the muscle can’t move. Think of your skin as a piece of paper. The more you fold it, the more crinkled it will get, and that’s what creates and perpetuates those lines. All Botox does is prevent the muscle moving, so the skin can’t move with it.”
Laughter lines, frown lines, fault lines – whatever you want to call them, Botox holds those muscles in place. It’s those areas that Dr Anfilogoff most commonly treats. “You concentrate Botox largely on three areas: crow’s feet, around the eyes and to the forehead, more so with men, who often ask just to look a little younger and a little less tired.” So, think less wide-eyed immovable Action Man, and more ‘man who just looks pretty good for his age’. “Guys don’t want to look frozen, and it’s a case of working out how strong the muscles are, and professionals can work out how much Botox is needed. The procedure and the product has improved so much over the years that we’re seeing really natural-looking results.”
So pop along to Harley Street, sit down, cough up and careen back into the office (or onto your Zoom calls) looking a little bit younger. Sounds great. But Dr Anfilogoff says that it’s not so easy, and advises patients not to just buy into the postcode. “Just because it sounds reputable doesn’t mean it is. Many practitioners are renting out rooms because they know with the label of ‘oh I went to Harley Street to get my Botox done’, people are trusting. But just because you’re in a certain area, it doesn’t mean you’ll get the best practitioner, so research who you’re visiting, find out what training they have, and how long they’ve been doing it, and actually ask yourself: do I trust these people implicitly?”
Because, if you don’t, things can go wrong. Those holding the needle may talk up Botox’s risk-free application, but a poorly-executed procedure can cause bruising, damaged blood vessels, uneven results, or, as Dr Anfilogoff tells me, the dreaded ‘Spock’ effect. “It’s exactly what it sounds like, as in the guy from Star Trek. You can get a Spock eyebrow and look surprised. It’s not too difficult to alter, as it can just be a case of adding more Botox to relax the muscles elsewhere, but it’s not something you want.”
As with all relatively new treatments, Botox can be a loosely regulated ballgame. Ultimately, anyone can administer a procedure and in a bid to draw clearer guidelines, Alberto Costa MP raised the issue in a parliamentary debate last year. Other topics have naturally taken precedence since then. So until things change somewhat, the onus is on you to find a safe and reliable practitioner that does things in a safe and reliable way. Some don’t. “Look out for someone who pushes the Botox onto you: that’s a huge no-no. You should always have a cooling period – about a week – between the consultation and the procedure. You go away, you think about this, and if you want to go ahead, you come back at another point. If a practitioner is pushy, alarm bells should ring,” says Dr Anfilogoff.
“Also, beware of tanning shops or salons. That’s not to say they always give bad treatments, but many of these practitioners do a straight-forward course and get their hands on Botox not really understanding facial anatomy as they’ve had no medical training. A well-recognised nursing practitioner or a dentist or a doctor has a medical understanding of needles too, and that’s a really important factor in getting good treatment.”
Ultimately, though, the effects of Botox aren't permanent – and many believe that to be the procedure's biggest strength. “It doesn't mean you lose muscle movement forever. Botox wears off and it's reversible as your body will metabolise the substance in three months, which is the natural breaking down of substances within your system," says Dr Anfilogoff. "So it's really beneficial, and it's a procedure that's becoming really popular for men, not something you should be embarrassed of doing. Just have a good consultation and if you express exactly what you want, it can be done."
Botox: turns out it's absolutely fine.
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