To Botox or not to Botox: Why I needed the needle

Beatrice Aidin, an award-winning beauty journalist, gave up Botox. Then something happened and she found herself yearning for it again.

When I think about Botox for older women, I think about my experience in 2020. Just two years ago in those naïve days of yore when we started talking about this strange virus known as Corona, the last appointment I had before lockdown was for Botox with cosmetic doctor Dr Sophie Shotter in Harley Street.

It wasn’t planned as such — who would have thought we would only be allowed out for  an hour a day in our lifetime? — but had I known what was happen, I would have asked for a double or triple dose from Dr Shotter’s perfectly poised needle. Because although lockdown was so tough for everyone – unless you were swinging on the swing in Downing Street clutching Corona (beer, that is) – and along with the major major issues were the smaller ones and choices that normally give us agency and control over our lives.

The beauty element of the pandemic

For many women, it was their roots: revealing the gray of the stress of it all. Indeed, sales of home hair colorant soared up 1,200%. But for me it was the lack of Botox and filler that really got to me. I could see the lines appearing more deeply. My father, to whom I was very close, had died three months before lockdown. Grieving, a process that is hard at the best of times, was all the more difficult with all sense of normality turned upside down. My father had Alzheimer’s and watching his brilliant brain being destroyed, I found myself grateful that he had gone, wasn’t isolated and confused in his care home like thousands of others without visitors. I had thoughts I never thought I would have — and feel guilty for having. I am crying writing this.

Beatrice Aidin as a child with her father

Beatrice Aidin as a child with her father

Many many people had it much worse. But this was my experience. During the various lockdowns, work as a freelance journalist dried up. I had no government support, no furlough, I couldn’t even get a government loan. My MP Nickie Aiken proved to be less than useless having promised to help, she has ignored 25 emails to date. I had two operations, one on my shoulder and one to remove polyps in my uterus causing heavy bleeding. Then a close friend was at my house and had a heart attack. He is fine now but the experience was traumatising.

More was to follow but I don’t want to send you to the Sauvignon Blanc as you read this (and yes, a bit too much of that was going on as well). Oh and I had to get the police involved to shut down the brothel next door during the first Christmas lockdown when Covid was rampant and the thought of the sex workers put in an even more vulnerable state was horrific.

The stress showed on my face

The stress was showing on my face — and quickly. I longed to do something about it. It was the deep lines between my eyebrows, known as the “elevens” that furrowed more deeply, the wrinkles around my eyes with hollows beneath, bags from grief and also, like so many experienced, insomnia. Her injections would normally last a good nine months. But just six months after seeing Dr Shotter, my skin looked saggy. Of course, I’m sure the Sauv B didn’t exactly help, dehydrating my skin and reducing the quality of shut eye.

As a beauty writer, I am very fortunate to be sent products, but I wasn’t exactly observant with my skincare routine even though I knew that Botox and fillers won’t improve skin quality. For example, despite 2020 being a very hot summer and although I have been evangelizing to a level that’s Speakers Corner worthy for everyone to use SPF 50 every day even in winter, I couldn’t be bothered. I know that sun damage breaks down collagen and elastin in the skin, which of course leads to dermal degradation – that is, wrinkles and sagging.

I wanted control back in a way I knew would work and my reaction was wanting it from the needle.

The difference between Botox and fillers for older women

First, to explain the difference between Botox and fillers:

Botox is the brand name for a muscle relaxant — a very diluted solution of botulinum toxin that was originally used to correct facial drooping in Bell’s Palsy patients. Botox as a brand name is used similarly to Hoover and there are excellent competitors.

Fillers are used literally ‘fill’ in deep lines, correct nose asymmetry, enhance lips, fill in those large shadows under the eyes. They also create volume in the skin which in turn lifts the skin and reduces sagging. My drooping chin is very grateful for filler.

Both Botox and fillers have been used for more than 20 years and are very much deemed safe — in the right hands. Used together, think salt and pepper. They have different functions but are a great combination.

I was a tweakment queen…and a defector

I have yo-yo-ed in the world of “tweakments”, as non-surgical cosmetic interventions are known, for just under two decades. But I started having Botox in my early thirties and went too far. I looked like Ms Potato Head. Realising this from a photo and a friend’s gentle words — we still speak! — I wrote a piece about giving up Botox in The Financial Times aged 38 and won three journalism awards for it.

Colleagues said it was brave. Hardly the stuff of the George Cross, but as a beauty editor, at the time I felt it was very important to be honest with readers.

How my feelings about Botox changed

Then I hit 40. And soon enough I was back at the doctor’s office. That was 10 years ago and for the last decade – I was 50 last year – I have been a devotee. Why? I know we aren’t meant to talk “anti-aging” but hell, it makes me look better and also younger. There, I said it. In a world where midlifers can be ignored, I want to put my best face forward and the needle works. I don’t want the stress of the last five years — my father was in a care home for three. And then the pandemic to show in my appearance.

I know we aren’t meant to talk “anti-aging” but hell, it makes me look better and also younger. There, I said it.

These procedures are not for everyone and I would underline that a skincare routine – even though I was very slack during the first lockdown probably due to a dose of depression looking back on it – is the most important way to look after one’s skin. Good skin is about the quality, bounce, radiance and glow which Botox and fillers can’t provide.

A lot of people, especially women, have realised that they needed to “self-care” (which always sounds to me like masturbation, but there you go). According to consumer research, during Covid and lockdowns 30% of facial skincare users said they had moisturised more since the outbreak of Covid-19, while a fifth spent longer on their routine and 14% used more facial treatment products such as face masks.

Oddly enough this collective experience of a pandemic has made me more determined to do what feels right for me.

As lockdown eased, I did manage last summer to get a visit to Dr Shotter, who had been working on the NHS frontline. I even wrote on Instagram that I felt like I had got my face back. But It was more than that. It was about having some control during a time when our world was unrecognisable, when the five PM daily briefings had to be watched but were also dreaded.

Oddly enough this collective experience of a pandemic has made me more determined to do what feels right for me. Botox and fillers are not right for everyone of course. But if it makes me feel that I look better after what has been a collective two years of trauma for us all, then I did need the needle. And I’m most certainly unapologetic about it.

Beatrice Aidin

Disclaimer: As press, I did not pay for Dr Shotter’s treatments. 

If you are considering a non-surgical aesthetic intervention thetweakmentsguide.com lists the best practitioners.  

 

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