Would You Try Botox? Our Lunchtime Conversation About Anti-Aging

An unedited and candid talk on aging (and the stigmas around it).
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"Would you ever get Botox?" When Leslie posed the question to the office at lunch the other day, our opinions ran the gamut from a whole-hearted "yes!" to "never!" When the conversation took a turn to musings about anti-aging and skincare in general, we quickly hit "record" to capture the conversation, as we did with our bra post last yearRead on for an unedited transcript of our discussion, then add your own thoughts in the comments below:

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Emily (Founder): Okay, so let’s talk about aging. We’re all kind of in that sweet spot, 20’s and 30’s, where it certainly is a major topic of discussion or at least something we are beginning to notice in other people. I want to know... at what age did you start taking care of your skin? For me, I was probably 30. I feel like I was very late to the game.

Leslie (VP of Content): I think I always did it... not that I had any idea what I was doing. I was fairly product agnostic as a teenager, but my mom has some skin damage from spending her teens and twenties in the sun—she lived on a boat for a year without any sunblock—so she insisted I always take care of my skin. I didn't really dive into skincare until two to three years ago.

Katie (Assistant Editor): For me, I definitely think I had a similar experience to you, Leslie. In high school, I liked the idea of having face creams, but I didn’t know at all what they did, and I didn’t use them consistently. Last year, around when I turned 22, is when I started developing a routine.

Anne (Email Marketing): I started using sunscreen religiously at 18, but I would say 19 in terms of taking care of my skin. In the 2000’s there was so much tanning, and people weren’t talking about skin care. Then it kind of inverted, and I remember reading an article in Allure or Cosmo saying to wear sunscreen, and I didn’t even realize. I think I bought Neutrogena, and that was the beginning of my obsession.

Kelly (Marketing Manager) My mom is a very no-products person so I grew up not understanding anything about skincare or makeup. I ended up learning through friends. The one thing she was a huge proponent of was sunscreen. I didn’t start to use or really care about skincare products until probably 27 when I noticed my first forehead wrinkle begin to appear. So, I started doing my research.

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Leslie: It’s also interesting to hear what inspired you to get into skincare. For me, it was just learning about ingredients, like natural versus conventional products...

Emily: For me, it was seeing certain things on my face and realizing that I am aging. Again, I got into this way late in the game, and part of it was because I was able to get away with not doing anything. I never had breakouts and didn’t really have any skin issues so I kind of rode that train until I reached 30 and was like “Oh, its catching up with me.” What’s interesting is that we all have spots and different things on face that we are most insecure about, and you look at that one area. At 35, I look into the mirror now and notice my forehead. I recently looked back at a selfie from 22, and what I found most fascinating is that my forehead looked the same at 22. I just didn’t notice it then.

Leslie: Why do you think that is? Because you think you’re supposed to notice that and be more aware in your 30’s? 

Emily: I guess… Part of me is glad that I had the last thirteen years not even worrying about something that would be another thing to add to the list. If you are someone who has to be careful with your skin, you had to become religious with a routine whereas I was always outside and carefree.

Anne: When you have issues with skin like acne, you have to be conscious of skin care. There is an age where acne dissipates and becomes something else to focus on.

Emily: Anti-aging…

Anne: Yeah, anti-aging. I’m definitely more conscious of laugh lines. You don’t want to be conscious of them, but I always try to find positives and negatives by looking at contemporaries as inspiration. I look at someone in their 50’s or 60’s, and they look so ethereal and beautiful, but they have laugh lines and forehead lines. In those cases, I’m not conscious of them because of how they carry themselves. I’m trying to focus on that more instead of just beating myself up.

Emily: Especially since most of the time, the thing you’re focusing on and notice in yourself, nobody else is seeing. 

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Leslie: So I've mentioned this before to you all, but I have this vertical line between my eyebrows I'm self-conscious of. I know no one else notices it, but I do and it bothers me. My mom has a similar crease, and recently got Botox for the first time and looks fantastic, so I've been considering it. The way I think of it: I get my thin eyebrows dyed and use strips to whiten my teeth—I've even had a burst blood vessel lazered off my nose—which makes me feel better when I look in the mirror. So, for debate's sake, why wouldn't I get a line in my forehead fixed with Botox? Why is Botox specifically so stigmatized? 

Kelly: I’m totally on the other side of the spectrum. I don’t think I would ever get Botox. It’s just not for me. There is something about sticking a needle in my face that I just can’t do. I don’t know why I feel like I have such a firm stance against Botox in general. Maybe we as women should be allowed to enjoy the aging process and having a line on your face is just a sign that you’ve had a good life? We are all our own worst critics. We look in the mirror, and see something that other people do not see.

Emily: I think I’m in the middle here. I’m not considering Botox any time soon, but I see a lot of people I know trying it. But I think that there is a difference if you have one particular thing you want to fix versus gradual aging. 

Leslie: I totally hear you on aging gracefully, but I'm wondering where the line is? I know people who would never get Botox but would dye their hair if it turned gray. We all wear makeup to enhance our best features, so it’s interesting to me that Botox is so divisive. 

Emily: It certainly is a much more extreme change than adding highlighter, but it’s not a permanent thing. So, if you did it, in 3 to 6 months, you could say, “You know what - I’m good. I don’t need to do that again.” Or it could be something that makes you more confident, and then power to you!

Leslie: That’s the key for me. From what I understand, Botox and hair color aren't permanent changes. I wouldn’t go under the knife for elective surgery. I don’t judge it, but that's where my personal line is.

Anne: To get Botox at one place, you could try it and not like it. But there's actually a lot that can happen if you freeze certain muscles. Other muscles start to react. So I think it’s a band-aid solution. 

Kelly: Yeah, it’s a slippery slope.

Emily: I found out recently that multiple people in my life have done it, and I had no idea. There is a new wave of Botox coming in. Where it used to be a certain dosage they would inject, now you can do so much less. It comes down to where you go, and, for the most part, you can really see when people have done a lot. Also, we have to think about what our goal is for doing this. Is it preventative, or do I want to look 22 again? I don’t think the latter is reasonable, but can I stay looking as I am now? So maybe it’s down to a lot of care and sunscreen and not having to go to extreme measures.

Anne: It probably will all soon be something you can do from home anyway. For example, they have that new Fillerina product which fills in the skin temporarily. We’re going to see more and more pharmaceutical grade procedures done at home. Honestly, nothing is really stopping you. There will always be two tiers of people: those who are like Kelly and are not for it and those who will experiment at home.

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Leslie: I don’t know if you guys feel the same way, but when I think about who I am and my identity, I don’t think that I’m a superficial person. In a lot of ways, I don’t care about how I look. I don’t think twice about coming to work without makeup on or if somebody saw me at my “my worst.” It's almost as if I have these two competing philosophies: There is the side that says "this is what I look like, own it," but there is also the side that, every time I look in the mirror, I want to look nice. I don’t know if anyone else feels that way? 

Anne: I don’t wear makeup, but I’m definitely consumed with other aspects, like preservation. I don’t think it’s always healthy so I do try to keep myself in check. I ask myself what is more important, and does it really matter? 

Emily: A big part of this discussion is your role. For me, it’s my role as a mother to a little girl. If I were to start doing more extreme measures to my face, what does that show as a role model to Sloan? How can I show her to age gracefully? I want to be that person who is guiding her in a positive way. Does that get taken away if I, at one point, get Botox? I don’t think it necessarily does as long as I’m comfortable talking to her about that.

Kelly: I think it’s an important point. I grew up in my teens thinking retinoids are evil because that’s how my mom framed them. For me, my issues are less about aging and more so adult acne. I didn’t get acne until 27 and had my first dermatologist appointment at 28. He told me to get on retinoids because they help with acne. It took me a long time to get over it though because of this mental block my mom instilled in me. The mother-daughter aspect is very important.

Leslie: My mom recently told me that she got Botox, and that really influenced my decision and how I think about it. She is never someone who strikes me as superficial, but she said, “Listen, all my friends were getting it. Your father would never notice, and it isn’t about him or anyone else. It’s something I noticed, and Botox made me feel really good about myself when I look in mirror.” For me, that’s the key difference, because it’s not about other people seeing you differently. It’s more: “I don’t like this line, and let’s do something.” 

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Kelly: Confidence is a big thing. I think what a lot of us are driving at is what makes us most confident. For me, I need to not have acne. I spend a lot of my time making sure that my face is clean and spend less time on the anti-aging element.

Emily: It’s really hard to feel pretty when you have blemishes on your face. A few months ago, I had these underground pimples on my chin. I would look in the mirror while getting ready for the day, and I would wonder why I would even bother to wear makeup.

Kelly: Yeah, my dermatologist told me adult acne happens to a lot of women. It’s all hormones.

Emily: I have a certain thing where I look in the mirror and want to look good, but having a public facing persona does impact me. Not necessarily in how others are viewing me, but how I am potentially seen among other people of influence. I have been doing this for over 10 years. A lot of these other girls who have found fame are in their early 20s, so I can't use that as a barometer for how my skin should look. But, it’s hard not to. I wonder: Are they looking at me and wondering who the grandma is? This brings us to a conversation on filters. I was at an event recently, and I saw a celebrity from afar using a filter that I didn’t even know was a thing. It glossed over her whole face.

Leslie: The 'pretty filter'!

Emily: It literally was a game changer! How is that fair? I felt like she was Lance Armstrong… how is it fair that you’re using that, and I’m over here just trying to find the best light? It’s important to always remember that with anything from social media. Any time you have a FOMO moment or you don’t look a certain way, it’s not always an even playing field. They might be using filters or doctoring their photos, and that’s a whole other issue.

Kelly: Are you ever tempted to edit photos? Have there ever been times where you wanted to get in Photoshop?

Emily: 100%! If I ever have a huge blemish or if I want to add a little retouching to make it look like I do in person, I will go in Photoshop. I take my role as an influencer seriously. If I ever do anything, it’s minimal, and you probably can’t even notice. Again, no shame, but if you do edit or use Photoshop, maybe share?

Leslie: I agree completely. Jenny Mollen is a great example of this. She’s a comedian on Instagram, and she shares her Botox experiences, skin care routine, and even her flare-up breakouts. To me, the only time I take issue with influencers editing is when they’re being sneaky about it—I love how up-front she is about it! 

Emily: Don’t be sneaky! If you have perfectly smooth skin then share your tips, but there is a certain responsibility in today’s age with a new era of people in public facing platforms. This isn’t just a magazine where you expect the people photographed to not have control. If you are someone who has this platform, just be up front about it. I don’t necessarily think if you’re getting Botox you have to announce it to the world, but maybe, if someone were to DM you, you could take the opportunity to be honest.

Anne: To that point, there is such a stigma attached to anything like that. People end up lying. There are the cases like Courtney Cox. Eventually she came out and talked about how she regretted her surgeries and dialed it back. But there was so long when she was probably embarrassed. I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but there was a while where she didn’t fess up, and then she did, and I’m sure she felt a lot better about it. Now you can look at her and know exactly who she is externally and internally.

Emily: There is something appealing about being able to share that. If you are considering doing something, share! You might hear from a bunch of people who say to not do it. I have a thing with my best friend where we check in with each other. We have the same thing with our foreheads. I don’t look at anyone else’s laugh lines in the middle of their brows because all I’m consumed about is foreheads.

Anne: Same! I’m always looking, and nobody here has it, but I’m always wondering are my laugh lines like that? Or does my skin look like that?

Emily: Exactly! To the celeb thing of dialing it back, I’ve noticed celebrities, either on social media or in person at events, that I am now seeing wrinkles where, even a few years ago, their foreheads were like ice-skating rinks and nothing looked natural. I think that’s interesting and compelling: there is almost a reversal back. We are aging so if we are going to drink green juice and do Tracey Anderson, then let’s let our foreheads do what they’re going to do.

Anne: At a certain point, you’re going to get old. You have to ask yourself what you want to be in the end. It’s happy and healthy.

Emily: And that radiates more than anything else

Anne: When you’re in your walker, you’re going to be there. It helps to think that far ahead because it gives you perspective.

Leslie: Can I also just say? It's also such a position of privilege to be able to say I don’t like this one wrinkle because I don’t have anything more pressing to worry about. It’s a hierarchy of needs.

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Katie: I think your idea of beauty can evolve with your different interests and surroundings. I used to live in France, and, after living there, I totally changed my mindset on beauty products and how I wanted to take care of my skin. I’m more in your boat, Kelly, where I personally wouldn’t get Botox, especially since in France you see women aging gracefully. I think that, overtime, being beautiful is being authentic to yourself, and that changes quite regularly. 

Emily: You bring up a good point about who you are surrounded by. My mom has never done anything to her face, and I think she looks incredible. Living in L.A., you see a lot of work constantly. If you go into Beverly Hills, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a woman who has not done something to her face.

Anne: Sometimes it’s the young people too!

Emily: Right! I have a friend who started Botox on her forehead years ago, and I think it has made her look significantly older. When I look at her, she has no forehead wrinkles, but I don’t think that makes her look younger. She actually looks older than I do. That’s the other thing about how we equate how we look with a couple of forehead wrinkles. 

Leslie: I think it’s in my nature to be very curious, and I’m always the guinea pig for my friends. Whether it's eye lash extensions or laser hair removal, my thought has always been, "Oh, I’m just going to try it." I have that curiosity about Botox.

Emily: There is nothing wrong with that! And something that Anne said, that isn’t said enough, is there is this stigma. Not just in terms of skincare but how many articles have you read about workout routines or about someone who has a crazy sick body say they do pilates once a week? It makes you questions them. There is this stigma that makes you want to be secretive and hide what you do in a work out or what you cover your skin with because...

Leslie: It’s not effortless.

Emily: Exactly, it’s not effortless. I wonder what it is about the stigma attached to aging that you kind of have to do it in a way that no one knows about it?

Leslie: I mean, there's probably a sense the getting something like Botox is cheating. But, at the end of the day, if I were to get Botox—not saying I am, necessarily—it wouldn’t affect a single other person. But if I did it and shared it, people would have a problem with it.

Emily: I was very judgey of my friend, and I feel bad saying this years later, but I remember being like “Wow, I can’t believe she did that!” Who cares! Why should it affect me or should I care about the decision she’s making that might be best for her?

Anne: I agree with Leslie that ultimately people don’t want to share because it’s a bit of a cheat. It’s not absolute but so is everything—so is using a face filter or heavy makeup. When you’re fudging the lines a bit, you don’t want to tell anyone. We need to accept that fudging, and, as long as we’re having these discussions and were open about it, it’s okay.

Emily: Yeah, be open about it! This is coming from a group of women who aren’t doing anything drastic. I dye my hair not because of grays, but because I think I look better as a blonde, and that’s clearly not natural. So why would it be something we’re ashamed to share if we do take those steps towards a slightly more invasive approach? I think there is something to be said about being open, talking about it, and trying to age as gracefully as possible in whatever way that looks like for you.

What are your thoughts on aging gracefully, with help? Do you use any measures like 'anti-aging' creams or Botox? Share your thoughts in the comments below!