This column first ran in Valerie Monroe’s newsletter, How Not to F*ck Up Your Face, which you can subscribe to on Substack.
Q: I am 30 years old and many of my friends are starting to get “baby Botox” as a preventative measure. I am not sure I am ready for this yet, but now I feel self-conscious standing next to them (in matching bridesmaid dresses no less)! Do you know of any alternatives at this stage? I have looked at red-light masks and lasers but can’t find the right answer! My impending fine lines thank you!
A: Dear 30-year-old reader! Please come sit on Val’s old, wrinkled knee. Comfortable? Okay, listen.
I am a 73-year-old grammie with decades of experience in the beauty industry and a wise, philosophical, sometimes gimlet-eyed approach to trends and products. So if that kind of perspective entices you, you are in the right place.
My advice is this: You might notice when you scan your lovely face for signs of aging that, in the immortal words of Frank Drebin, there’s nothing to see here. And, as dermatologist and HNTFUYF DermDiva Heidi Waldorf, says, unless you’ve been tanning, smoking, and/or picking at your skin, it’s time to move along. Of course, if you spent your youth unwisely — as I did, broiling my baby-oiled face over an aluminum reflector — you might visit a dermatologist to assess the damage. But otherwise, here’s what I suggest you do.
Find a mirror lit evenly on either side (not lit above or below, because that will make you look like a ghoul — a young ghoul, but still). Look into your eyes. You will soon hear a voice speaking to you. Could it be your impending fine lines? Are they saying if you don’t do something about them now, they’ll invade your face and destroy every last chance of looking decent in a bridesmaid dress? Are they saying your friends will look somehow more beautiful and radiant than you do because you’re not taking advantage of the treatments that promise to keep you looking 30 forever? Are they telling you to read Vogue to underscore — in a backhanded way — why you should consider Botox in your 30s? Are they saying that you look okay today, but you must be vigilant about truncating any signs of aging if you don’t want to look decrepit in your 40s? Or at 31?
Your impending fine lines may be doing you a favor. They may be reminding you that comparison is the death of happiness; that the future is unpredictable, which is why it’s critical to be present for now; that there are few things you can control — and though your appearance as you age may be one of them, that has less to do with Botox than with a life well-lived (and well sun-protected; an estimated 90 percent of skin aging is caused by sun exposure, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation).
Waldorf offers a more practical response to your question.
When you look in the mirror or take a selfie for assessment, do it from at least 12 inches away — that’s how others see you, she says. And when even to start thinking about trying Botox or another neurotoxin? If you either find yourself scowling, squinting, or frowning when you don’t mean to (that is, you look like you’re frowning when you’re not), or you can see remnants of your expression lines at rest, that’s when you might consider it. At that point, Botox can help you avoid developing etched-in lines. (I personally like some of my etched-in lines.)
Meanwhile, said Waldorf, maintain your youthful, healthy skin with a good basic regimen that includes a gentle cleanser, sunscreen every day (rain or shine), and if you aren’t pregnant, a retinoid. Are you wearing a bridesmaid dress to celebrate a declaration of love? Remember that, and your conspicuous radiance will be all you need.