As skin-care offerings and the industry’s consumer base have continued to expand, so have people’s comfort with trying out new treatments that were once considered subversive and risky. A decade ago, routine facials were as far as many would go, and now, at-home microneedling, nanocurrent devices, and laser treatments are seen as not only standard, but essential for beauty lovers the world over.
Botox is among the treatments that have become normalized, even among communities that would normally be reticent to try it given pervasive and long-standing ideas about their approach to skin care and aging. There’s no definitive purveyor of the infamous “Black don’t crack” phrase, but it has certainly dug deep at the heart of Black people’s ideas of self-care and skin care.
A 2017 Nielsen report revealed that 52 percent of Black women adhere to a strict skin-care routine, but that number may have grown significantly as insights from April 2021 revealed that 41 percent of Black women changed their regimens during the COVID-19 pandemic. And while only 4 percent of patients who received botulinum toxin type A injections were Black in the 2020 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the actual number of people has yet to be calculated, and doesn’t include those who may have received their treatments outside of the U.S.
That change in skin-care routine was very real for three Black women we spoke to, who all had their first Botox treatment over the last 12 months. Here, they tell their stories about the decision to get Botox, how often they’ve received it, the reaction from friends and family, and their thoughts on the “Black don’t crack” ideology.
Felicia Walker | Montclair, N.J.
“I’ve been in beauty for over 15 years, so I’m often the person to try something first, test it out, and get a feel for it. I’m very much a beauty nerd, so beauty technologies and breakthroughs excite me. From a generalist point of view, I’ve always been intrigued by Botox and I’ve always known that it was something that I would go to as a resource when needed to meet the changing needs of my skin. But my concern was, is it safe? So I did the research, learned the safety aspects of the product, and sought out a trusted injector.
I actually thought of Botox for cosmetic purposes as only being a line reducer, but I have not had a line issue because I’ve been very diligent with sunscreen since I was about 20 years old and I’ve been doing a lot of preventative work. But one thing I noticed about myself in pictures is that I’m starting to look so much like my mom, which I think is how we all recognize aging a lot of the time. I also noticed that my eyes were starting to droop on the outer corners. I went for a chemical peel with my plastic surgeon and she remarked that my eyes were starting to droop and that all I needed was a little touch of Botox at the brow to lift it up and open up my eyes. I almost screamed at her, ‘Do it right now!’ because I knew exactly what she was talking about. She had asked me a couple of times before and I always felt I wasn’t ready for it, so even she was surprised that I wanted it.
Botox has been life-changing, game-changing, and both literally and figuratively eye-opening for me. I’ve done it about three times in the last year, starting in August and as recently as two months ago. For a lot of people, the pandemic has brought on an increase for injectables and I’m definitely a part of that segment of the population.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive and if it was negative, I honestly wouldn’t care! I’m happy with my Botox brow lift and I don’t care about the response. But when I first did it, I didn’t tell anyone and I also had filler from my smile lines around the same time. I wanted to see if anyone would notice, so it was literally both a science and social experiment for me. And when I started telling my friends one by one, no one noticed a single thing. ‘The one you did, I need it too,’ some of them even said. Afterwards, I was looking at my face and couldn’t help saying, ‘Damn, you look good!’ I’m typically a very humble person, but with just a bit of Botox, it was clear that everything I’ve been preaching for the last 15 years is working and it is just a complement to that work. So now, people are asking me for referrals and I’m happy to continue giving them advice on what they should do and who they should see.”
Caswanna Spruill | Oakland, C.A.
“I got Botox for the first time in May in Mexico, because of both cost and timing. My wedding is coming up in October, and for it, I want to look and feel the best I’ve ever looked and felt in my life. I tried it in May to give myself some time to see if I liked the results; I didn’t want to try anything new too close to my wedding day.
I looked into and inquired about several facilities and I read a ton of reviews. I knew Mexico would be cost-effective and it wasn’t far away, so I got the treatment at a reputable doctor’s office. I trusted the facility and I knew that it was common for Americans to go there for Botox.
My second treatment will be at the end of this month and I’m very excited about it, but the reactions from my family and friends have been mixed. My Jamaican mother told me she was jealous after I shared the news and I was shocked because I thought she would’ve been against it. Now, she wants to do it too, but she’s worried about affordability. That was really cool and I was happy to have her support. I laughed at her telling me, ‘The Real Housewives are doing it and you’re not special.’
My close friends have had so many questions, asking why I got Botox and remarking that I look so young. But I look young because I got Botox! I have fine lines and I see them, but they do not. So I’m going to do me. My fiancé’s friends have been open and supportive, which I was shocked about again because out here in the Bay Area, people tend to be more focused on natural and nontoxic beauty. But as we all work in tech, they totally understand it and even agreed that in a lot of ways, the tech industry is a ‘young person’s game,’ so we have to look the part.
It seems like everyone is doing Botox now, and it has become so mainstream. I think we’re two steps from it being available at our favorite retailers at this point. I personally wish it wasn’t so expensive because I really like it. [Editor’s note: Prices vary drastically; depending on the provider and number of injection sites, Botox can range anywhere from $250 to upwards of $1,000 per session.] I don’t know if I’ll continue to get it after my wedding, as it’s a pretty steep cost, but maybe as a treat every now and then, and especially if I have a big event coming up. I am very dedicated to my skin-care routine and I’m constantly doing research on new things to do, so what I like about Botox is that it’s preventative. So I may think about cutting other things out of my regimen in the future if I decide it needs to be a staple that I keep around.”
Kara Saulsberry | Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I have been really interested in skin care over the last five years due to my hyperpigmentation. Over time as I began learning about different ways to treat my dark spots, I became curious about Botox and decided to do my own research. Like a lot of the methods for treating hyperpigmentation, I learned that Botox was more about taking care of your skin in the long term, so I decided that it was worth the investment and something I wanted to do for myself and my skin as a woman in her early 30s.
I decided I’d start getting Botox this year, but I wanted to make sure I found the right person and it honestly took a lot of research to find someone I liked. It was a monthslong process because I set up phone consultations long before I decided to go through with the treatment. It was important to me to find an expert of color who understood my skin, and after a long search, I’m happy I found a trustworthy professional who is knowledgeable in her practice.
My family has that old-school mentality, so they haven’t wanted to talk about my Botox treatments. They don’t really agree with it, but they know I’m the kind of person who does what she wants and they respect that. Some of my friends are also into Botox, but I have others who are against getting it. The ones who aren’t into it tell me I don’t need it. But Botox isn’t about what other people think you need — it’s a decision you make for yourself.
As a content creator, I was also worried about the judgment I would receive when I shared that I was getting Botox, but funny enough, people are just as interested and curious about it as I was before I got it.
If you’re a Black person who wants to get Botox, I don’t see any shame in that. In our community, we don’t spend a lot of time talking about it and filler because many think they’re things people of other races and ethnicities do to look like we do and age like we do. I don’t see it that way and think it’s all about finding an experienced person to administer it. If there is something that you want to enhance about yourself, then you should make that change because life is too short.”