I’m 33 and Botox Messed Up My Face. Help!

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

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 love reading your newsletters, especially as a 33-year-old who generally hadn’t been concerned about aging until I hit 32. I got Botox in my forehead and in my jaw muscles and I’m so worried the result actually f*cked up my face. What I learned from doing the forehead Botox is that my elastic and varied facial expressions are my favorite things about my face, and now my eyebrows don’t move in unison … even after it seems the Botox has mostly worn off. And although the jaw Botox was the only thing that has ever helped my TMJ, my smile now looks entirely different to me than it did a year ago. I don’t like it. Is there any way to reverse this? I’ve begun using a NuFace and hoping it will stimulate the frozen muscles, but is there anything else? Should I resign myself to the fact that this is permanent?

A: First, dear E, thanks for trusting me with your question. And here is why you should take my advice: I’m a 73-year-old former magazine editor with decades of experience in the beauty industry, and I’ve seen it all. The good news is the neurotoxin will wear off; how long that takes depends on the injected type (Botox versus Xeomin versus Dysport) and your body chemistry. So be patient; I’m pretty sure there are no neurotoxin results that last more than approximately six months.

Most importantly, though, I think you should have a conversation with a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon. They can reassure you that the effects aren’t permanent. That’s one thing. Another is that it’s helpful to remember no one sees you with the critical eye with which you see yourself. What seems like a visible difference to you may not be noticeable to anyone else. Lastly, NuFace isn’t likely to make a difference whether you’ve had neurotoxin or not; you can read what I wrote about it (and other microcurrent devices) here.

My advice: Relax. Make an appointment with a physician to get clarity (and to calm your fears). Then take advantage of the terrifically important lesson you learned about your face. How lovely to discover it at only 33!

As I was writing that response, two other young readers wrote:

As a 37-year-old who’s had a frozen forehead for the past seven years due to medical Botox, I hate it! It’s changed my smile and I worry my facial aging will look “off.”

And then:

I’m 40 and have been doing Botox on my forehead and in between my eyes for about two years. I’m “due” for my next round next week and am really struggling with whether to cancel the appointment. Sometimes I think the Botox just moves the wrinkles to other places. My face is like, Oh, I can’t scowl at people anymore? Fine, I’ll pop up some weird wrinkles on the outside of your eyebrows then. I’m not much of a social-media follower, but every other 40-year-old woman is— and they all do Botox. And many of the women in my family (including my 62-year-old mom and 32-year-old sister) do Botox. I really don’t know what “normal” aging looks like. I do know I’m tired of spending the money, but I’m also scared of looking like I haven’t “aged well” (with all the moral judgment that implies). Quite the conundrum.

I also suggested both readers bring their concerns to either a board-certified plastic surgeon or a dermatologist; as I wrote to the second reader, if they’re a skillful, experienced physician (and a good listener), they might be able to assuage your worries and help you find a more comfortable schedule for treatments (or none at all). As for looking like you’ve “aged well,” make sure a broad-spectrum sunscreen is on your agenda; it’s the most effective treatment for healthy skin. Everything else is … optional.

But the obvious, larger question here is about social pressure. If you, wise readers, have more thoughts about this, please share them. As for what “aging well” looks like, I can tell you what it is not. It is not grasping to maintain a face you have outgrown or trying to freeze that face into submission. It is not yearning to look like an unrealistic beauty ideal of any age. In fact, “aging well” is only “living well,” which is increasingly becoming, year after year after year.

Originally published on Jan. 9.

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I’m 33 and Botox Messed Up My Face. Help!