My botox diary (The Times)

Which was worse – facing the needle, or her husband afterwards? Helena Frith Powell grits her teeth and goes for the face freeze.

“You’re not going to get any Botox done, are you?” my husband, Rupert, asks as I leave the house this morning. He knows I am going to HB Health; he is already suspicious. I have not yet made the final leap from noninvasive to invasive treatments, but if I’m honest, I don’t think I can resist the temptation any longer.

“No, of course not,” I reassure him as I kiss him goodbye. I think I meant it at that moment, but the closer I get to Beauchamp Place, the less sure I am.

It is a bright, cold, winter’s day. Nurse Brenda sits opposite me in a white leather chair. “We have to decide whether this is the right treatment for you,” she says. “What disturbs you the most?”

“This.” I point at the wrinkle. “This vast wrinkle between my eyebrows. As well as my whole forehead, the line down the side of my face, the myriad lines around my eyes, the lines just starting to form above my lips. In fact, my lips are horrible, far too small. Shall I go on?”

Brenda is a delicate lady of Asian descent and totally wrinkle-free. She could be aged anywhere between 25 and 40 – I have no idea – but it’s a look I am keen to emulate. Brenda came to England in 1993 and has been working in antiageing treatments ever since. She was one of the first nurses in the UK to practise Botox, so she has been doing it for more than nine years. Some say that the treatment can make you look frozen, but Brenda says that this is not the fault of the Botox, rather the person who has administered it. According to various websites, the possible side effects include headaches, flu-like symptoms, temporary eyelid droop, nausea, double vision, facial pain, redness at the injection site and muscle weakness. So, at worst, I will be a vomiting, sneezing lunatic. But at least I’ll be wrinkle-free.

Brenda asks me to frown, then smile. “The lines you have could be treated with botulinum toxin,” she says. I feel my heart skip a beat, like a teenager hearing the name of her secret boyfriend. “You mentioned something about your lips?”

“I hate them – they’re too thin. But I don’t want a trout pout.” “I think you should do the upper face with Botox, then have filler to lift the corners of your mouth. That way, you keep the cost down as well,” she says.

Ah yes, the cost. Staying young doesn’t come cheap. If I’d known, I would have avoided laughing all my life; now, I can just be miserable paying for it. The fillers are £250 each and the Botox injections £200 each.

“But, you know, there is no point in just coming in and having a one-off treatment,” says Brenda. “This is a work in progress, and you have to maintain your Botox to get the best out of it.”

I sit there thinking for a few minutes. The downside could be any of the side effects I mentioned earlier, along with a very grumpy husband. The upside will be a wrinkle-free me. “Let’s do the Botox and the fillers to lift the mouth, but not the lips,” I say to Brenda.

My husband’s words, “You need braintox, not Botox”, are echoing in my head as I watch Brenda prepare the treatment. If it all goes horribly wrong, I’m in deep trouble. Not only will Rupert hate me and think I’m even more stupid than he does now, but I could end up with a rash over my face or a drooping eye.

Brenda has taken a series of Polaroids of me, so we can do a before and after. For the pictures, I have to smile, frown and raise my eyebrows. Consequently, I look quite mad. Whatever happens today, it’s not possible to look any worse than that.

“Frown for me,” says Brenda, needle in hand. She pinches a piece of my skin. “It’s a tiny needle and only the tip goes in, so it shouldn’t hurt too much.”

After about 10 minutes, all the Botox is done. Amazingly, I hardly feel a thing.

“Now, don’t touch it, but you’re to keep frowning, smiling and raising your eyebrows every few minutes for the next two hours. Don’t lie flat for six hours, and no strenuous exercise for six hours. Now for the fillers.”

Brenda injects the side of my face; it doesn’t hurt at all. “Okay, take a look,” she says, handing me a mirror.

“I can see specks of blood,” I say, suddenly feeling quite weak. “Compare it with the other side.” I have to admit, it is amazing. I can see that the left side of my face looks younger. It’s lifted the entire area.

This is a transformation, and it’s taken all of three seconds. Brenda has achieved something with her needle that no amount of exercise, healthy food or vitamins could do. Why isn’t everyone doing this?

Wednesday, 4.30pm

Am almost arrested for pulling strange faces at the Chanel counter in Harvey Nichols in an effort to keep frowning, smiling and raising my eyebrows, as I was told to. Luckily, when I explain what I’m doing, the girl behind the counter totally understands. She’s been there, done that Botox thing. “Forget face creams,” she whispers.

“Botox is where it’s at.”

Am taking off my make-up, no visible change to my forehead, but then, Botox Brenda did say it would take two to three days. Go to bed excited by the thought of what I might look like when I wake up.

Thursday, midday

I have a mild headache, which I take to be a good sign. No vomiting or sneezing yet. But the wrinkle is still there. “You’re not long for this world, buster,” I keep telling it. It doesn’t look worried.

Friday, 10pm

Am jolly pleased with the way I look as I stumble to bed, having drunk half a bottle of champagne and three glasses of pinot grigio. Am staying in Sussex with my friend, Annika. She is a former model and really too beautiful to be friends with, but too amusing not to be. Maybe not the best person to be around when you’re in the middle of an antiageing procedure. I fall into bed praying the Botox will work by the morning.

Saturday, 8am

My forehead feels very heavy, as if there’s a slab of ice on it. This could be the effect of the alcohol.

Saturday, 10am

This must be how people live when they don’t have children. They wake up feeling dreadful, then they go back to sleep. I stumble into the bathroom and see for the first time that the Botox is starting to kick in. My forehead is almost wrinkle-free. But, rather worryingly, a new wrinkle has appeared, right at the top of my forehead. This one is obviously compensating for the fact that the others have been ironed out. Hopefully, it will vanish in time.

Saturday, midday

I am spending most of the day in front of the mirror, monitoring my forehead. It still feels heavy, but it looks a lot better.

Sunday, 9am

Eureka. The wrinkle has gone. Well, almost. It is a shadow of its former self. And the crow’s-feet are slowly slipping away.

Monday, 8am

Am amazed at how far back I have to lean to get my mascara on. My eyelids seem to have doubled in size. This is slightly disconcerting: I am no longer in control of my face and its contents.

Monday, 10am

Am in the Channel Five News make-up room. “Can you look up, please?” asks the nice make-up artist.

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” I reply.

Monday, midday

Call husband to ask what he thought of my television appearance. “It didn’t really seem like you,” he says. I decide that a phone call from London is not the time to break the news about my betrayal.

Tuesday, 10pm

Smiling seems a little trickier than it used to be. The upside is that, when I do manage to smile, the crow’s-feet are minimal, so when I smile, I look younger, not older.

Wednesday, midday

Exactly a week later, I decide to see Brenda about the new wrinkle. She says we’ll get that one next time.
Thursday, 8pm

Am at home. My husband hasn’t noticed a thing. Should I tell him? Probably best to wait until the morning.

Friday, 8am

Looking at my face for the first time properly, in daylight, in my own mirror, I see that I really do have fewer wrinkles. The worrying thing now is that I can’t see how I’ll ever live without this. I quickly call a friend for advice while Rupert is watering the garden. “Should I tell him?” I ask.

“What’s the point?” she replies, but is more interested in the results of the Botox than my marriage. “Does it really look better? I can’t wait to see you. Can I come next time?”

My husband brings me a glass of orange juice. “It’s lovely to have you home,” he says, hugging me.

I wait for him to add: “And you look incredible, at least 10 years younger. London obviously agrees with you,” so that I can confess. But he doesn’t, so I don’t. I keep quiet. I feel like a traitor – a wrinkle-free traitor.

Two weeks later, in a bar

A romantic dinner may seem an unlikely place to confess to my husband, but I get drunk. There is a slight misunderstanding on the number of caipirinhas we order, and I end up drinking two, which sends me over the edge.

I am extremely nervous, but the alcohol is making me brave. I tell Rupert what I did. He almost falls off his chair, but that could be the cocktails.

“You mean, you went ahead and did it?” he asks. “Even when you said you wouldn’t? That’s just plain dishonest.”

I wonder if crying might be the best strategy here, but instead opt for total surrender. “I’m so sorry, but I knew you’d stop me and it was one of the things I had to try.”

“You’re going to turn into one of those mad women we used to laugh at, aren’t you?”

“No, of course not.” “You say that now, but what’s next? Surgery?” “Never,” I say, as solemnly as my alcohol level will allow. “No scalpels, I swear.”

“It is odd,” he carries on, “but when I saw you on TV, I asked myself, ‘Who is this woman I’m married to?’ It was a horrible feeling. I just didn’t recognise you.”

“And now?”

“Now, you seem to be back to yourself. But you’re right,” he says, peering at my forehead. “You do have fewer wrinkles.”

I smile. “Look, no crow’s-feet,” I crow. “Anyway, do you like the new, Botoxed me?”

“Yes, but the problem is, I can’t see when you’re ever going to stop.”

“Oh, no,” I protest. “This was a one-off.”

I know I’m lying, though, and when I next see Botox Brenda, I’ll jump back on her couch quicker than you can say, make mine a caipirinha or two.

20 thoughts on “My botox diary (The Times)

  1. My name is Janice Dickenson and i would like to show you my personal experience with Botox.

    I have suffered with migraines and neck pain for many years. Botox has given me my life back. I have arthritis in my neck and Botox is the ONLY thing that has given me relief.
    I hope this information will be useful to others,

    Janice Dickenson

  2. Botox is a nightmare. It is a Neurotoxin- the most deadly known to man. One unit of Botox is the amount that kills one mouse in lab studies. I tried Botox, 33 units, for the first time, at 30 years old in good health, and now I have pain and burning in my scalp, face, neck, chest, heart, arm, while breathing etc… I feel poisoned. And there is nothing I can do to feel the way I did just three days ago, as I must wait 3-9 months for the effects to disappear. Yet then I still won’t know if there is long term damage to my body. The toxin has only been used this way for 20 years, cancer studies have not been done… long term effects are not known. They insist that the toxin does not leave the area or muscle it is injected into however my experience proves that it does migrate, and wreak havoc on the body when it does. I pray nightly for my suffering to end… suffering that I submitted to all in the name of one small wrinkle… a wrinkle that is now being replaced by another wrinkle as I now no longer have a symmetrical smile, and the lines on one side are deeper than the other. I was injected by a plastic surgeon at a reputable hospital. I cannot stress more— it’s just not worth it. This stuff is poison. And it has been shown in some studies, when injected into the faces of mice, to travel into the brain. It’s normal for our brain to communicate with our nerves and muscles! Stopping that process through paralysis is simply unnatural and dangerous!

  3. Poor you Jessica it sounds totally appalling and has certainly put me off another dose of Botox…I hope you feel better soon Hx

  4. My name is Janice D. and i would like to show you my personal experience with Botox.I have suffered with migraines and neck pain for many years. Botox has given me my life back. I have arthritis in my neck and Botox is the ONLY thing that has given me relief. I hope this information will be useful to others.

  5. But you said you wouldn’t do this in your book about French women. You said they looked so good aging gracefully. I was counting on you. What happened? What made you change your mind?

  6. I said I would never have surgery and I will stick to that, but I have to admit that Botox does work and doesn’t make you look like a nutter trying to look young! I changed my mind because I had to try it for the book and then found someone I could trust to do it for me.
    Hx

  7. I have been getting botox for years now and absolutely love it. It is important that you find a reputable place to go for sure, but don’t let one bad story change your mind, It has certainly given me more confidence in aging gracefully.

  8. Tell yourself what you like but I don’t know how people DON’T get it !! I get some every six months and am amazed at what a difference it makes – not only to how I look but to my self-esteem. I look in the mirror and now look as young as I feel. HOWEVER I physically take care of myself as well. I don’t smoke, I eat the right things (thank you Dr Oz) and I get plenty of fresh air. I have a small vice with alcohol but you can’t live like a saint – right ?

  9. Good God, 33 units of botox? In a 30 year old woman? I am 42 and have 6 units in my forehead and that amount did the trick. I still have some movement in my brows but my forehead is smooth. I have had no side effects whatsoever. I am thrilled with the results.

  10. I had 6 injections in my forehead and near the outside of my eyes 1 month ago. Wrinkles are gone, but I do feel as if my forehead has a heavy feeling.

  11. I have had my first Botox treatment just 24 hours ago and already my husband can see a slight difference. I am impatient and want to see immediate results but I am aware this could take up to a week to see the full benefits. I do know one thing that treatments will not stop here my plan is to have more!! The happiness I feel is awesome!

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  13. I am touching on 50, had botox on and off for at least 8 years. Never had one bad experience, and the MD I go to for treatments is amazing. She also believes in ‘less is more’ . It is one of the key factors, just enough to take away the hardness of the lines. Also, the benefit of getting it regularly is. The particular muscles tend to get smaller and loose the ability to work. So in time. You need get less and less of it. It slows the aging process permanentlly. Even if you stop using eventually, the lines forming wouldve been there years ago without botox. Fillers also do wonders and work straight away and you need them once a year only. But moduration is key! Keep it natural. If nobody notices right away, it is a sign that it is subtle. I will find it very hard to just stop. But maybe some day, I do believe that beauty from within is more important anyway, and it becomes more prominent as we age.

  14. Hi My name is ‘Bruno Rico’ just want to share my experience with the world on how i got my love back and saved my marriage… I

    was married for 7years with 2kids and we lived happily until things started getting ugly and we had fights and arguments almost

    every time… it got worse at a point that she filed for divorce… I tried my best to make her change her mind & stay with me

    cause i loved her with all my heart and didn’t want to loose her but everything just didn’t work out… she moved out of the house

    and still went ahead to file for divorce… I pleaded and tried everything but still nothing worked. The breakthrough came when

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    we continue to live happily, the kids are happy too and we are expecting our third child. I have introduced him to a lot of

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  15. i know how useful botox can be to some people but as a lawyer i have seen some awful cases in which people have been badly affected by it both cosmetically and psychologically

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  17. I was a reluctant botox novice. I hesitated until nearly turning 69. On a whim, after a conversation with a friend who is a big consummer of botox and filler, i made an appointment for minimal 20 cc botox for lines between eyes. 24 hrs later they are fading. I will do it again. Why not! Should I try filler, hell yeah. Just a little. I work hard at looking good and staying in shape. This is just another way to get it done.

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