What age is too young to start getting cosmetic work done? Girls getting nose jobs for their sweet sixteen and breast implants as college graduation gifts have become, if not the norm, commonplace enough where we hardly bat a Latisse-lengthened eyelash.
But what about injectable fillers? Botox, Juvederm, Perlane, etc. -- those quick-fix shots of youth administered to brows, lips, and smile lines. Increasingly, it's not just the wizened erasing life's battle scars, but the under 30 on a quest for subtle enhancement -- and unlike the Upper East Side denizens whispering in hushed voices about a recent "procedure," they're not afraid to Twitter about it.
Pop culture has a lot to do with it. Who can forget Heidi Montag's exaggerated ten procedures in one day? And then there was Lindsay Lohan with plumped-up lips in her latest mug shot as well as under-30 Kim Kardashian getting Botox in a recent episode of her show on E! All of these young stars who don't ostensibly need any work done are erasing "imperfections" (some might argue character) and augmenting beauty (at least in their minds) with a few quick jabs of the needle.
The idea that someone without nary a forehead furrow would go voluntarily into the doctor's office and undergo having needles stuck into their face might sound anathema to some, but the truth is that it's little different from a trip to the dentist. Both require visits about every six months for upkeep, and unless you have any major problems, the visit's about the same amount of time too -- except the waiting room is cosmetic spas is usually nicer and has better magazines.
A 23 year old in magazine publishing, who asked not to be named, experimented with Botox at 22. "I didn't do it to look 'enhanced,'" she said. "I already get that I look 16 -- it was just to fix something that I saw so that I wouldn't notice it anymore. I don't know if I'll do it again, maybe when real wrinkles appear or when I'm 50."
It was in this spirit that I made a visit to Park Avenue practioner Dr. Amiya Prasad last week. My objective: getting rid (at least temporarily) of my nasolabial fold lines -- those subtle smile lines everyone has to some degree. Mine are unusually deep and have nothing to do with my age or skincare regime, they're just what the genetic wheel of fortune dealt me. When I look in the mirror, I tend to fixate on them -- those little lines become fjords that swallow my face, all my other features drowning in them. Okay, that's an exaggeration but they do bother me, and they're so easily corrected that it seems like a no-brainer to take care of them.
The good doctor is an expert on maintaining youth, having recently written a book about it called The Fine Art of Looking Younger. He has a lot to say on the issue -- waiting for my anesthetic to kick in, I asked him if it was typical for young people to come to him.
It's very interesting to see how -- I've been in practice for 15 years -- and the people coming in have been getting younger. If someone is in their late 20's -- it would almost be a case where normally I'd never have to do anything for someone that young, but if they happened to have spent time in the sun, if they happen to have very light skin, then it's beneficial to do minor things: chemical peels, injectables, etc.
Does he feel that media has influenced the influx of younger people coming to him? "There's no question that pop culture and media has a tremendous impact on the understanding and knowledge of what we do. When the plastic surgery reality shows came out many years ago, we saw a significant increase interest. Positive or negative."
The procedure is relatively painless -- and this is coming from someone who used to convulse at the sight of a needle. A topical numbing cream is applied, then a shot of Lidocaine into each fold. This is the most painful part of the procedure, but it's over in a few seconds. The rest is painless since the mouth area is completely desensitized. Someone could staple your lips together and you could smile but for the staples holding them down.
A few days later, my small bruise fading, I'm thrilled with the results. I don't look older or young, just slightly better. You'd never know that I'd had anything done, even if you saw me just a day before the Juvederm, and yet two syringes worth of the miracle liquid is sitting right below those old trench lines, propping them up.
I'm hoping that by taking action now, I'm warding off future need for more intensive (and costly) operations like a face-lift.
Aging is a combination of our genetics, environment, and physical experience in life. What the fillers and injectables do is soften the effects of the aging process. When you do an injectable like Botox or Dysport, the lines that would continue to get deeper don't continue to deepen as drastically.
I'm smiling at that.