Growing up, my go-to movie quote was, "Wrinkled, wrinkled little star. Hope they never see the scars." That's a line Meryl Streep's insanely vain character Madeline says as she looks despairingly into the mirror at her aging face. It's from the movie Death Becomes Her, a dark '90s comedy that tapped into how society's obsession with looking youthful can control our lives.I've sarcastically repeated that phrase to myself over the years while spending countless hours staring at my own cracking face in the mirror. So you get it. I'm one of those people who is obsessed with looking younger. If MySpace was still a popular thing, my dermatologist, Dr. Lisa Espinoza, would, without a doubt, be in my top eight. For goodness' sake, I had my first IPL laser treatment at 19 freaking years old to remove a slight redness from my chin.
Given my history with cosmetics procedures, I was effing baffled that writing this simple piece about a man (me) who gets Botox and fillers was difficult in any way. I've been trying to pen it for over three months, and the words would just not come out. I thought about it a lot and realized what it comes down to: I don't want men to feel insecure about how they look. Gone are the days when it is taboo for guys to have a cosmetic procedure. We have stepped into the beauty arena. There's great interest across the board, from the businessman to the construction worker to the English teacher to the college student. Men want to feel good about how they look, just like women, and that's OK, to a certain extent.
But let's be honest here: women have been under the beauty microscope for a much longer time. We've all seen the effects the beauty industry has had on the self-esteem of the women in our lives. Girls in their teens won't leave the house without full makeup. Women in their 60s try to keep their faces looking like they did at the age of 22 for fear of losing their value. It's — quite literally — not pretty.
Now, men are beginning to face the same scrutiny. I don't want my nephews to one day look in the mirror and think what they see looking back at them is not good enough. I don't want anyone to feel that way. But I do recognize men have a great interest in experimenting with their appearance, and I may be able to help them explore that world. Look, I know I'm not Oprah. Chances are nobody will even care what I have to say, but the fact that I am putting my thoughts on this subject out there in the world in such a formal way feels different (very different from me joking around in private with friends about how our faces are starting to look like the skin you may peel off a piece of turkey at Thanksgiving).
So can you please do me a favor? Before you read on and learn about my experience pumping chemicals into my face, I need you to know this is all in good fun. These procedures are not a necessity for you or me. They will not turn your life into some Kardashian reality show. They are, however, really fascinating when they work the way they are supposed to and something I think certain men may want to experience for themselves.
Now that I've made myself feel better about pimping out the world of cosmetic dermatology, let's get on with the show!
I'm currently 34, and in my late 20s, I decided that I wanted to be a man who "ages gracefully." That can be translated into wanting to look as young as technologically possible, but never having someone from my high school say, "WTF did he do to his face?!" I determined that if this was going to happen, it was better to start sooner rather than later. Cut gravity off at the pass and beat it to the finish line. I host a travel show that requires my face to be put in front of the camera a lot, so obviously looks play a big part in my life, but I really don't know how this passion for skin frozen in time started. I was born in a simple town in Rhode Island where skin care is not a high priority for most. My dad's beauty regime consists of ivory soap. Period. My mom's consists of Oil of Olay. Period. And my two brothers shave. Period.
Notice I didn't mention Botox or fillers. I know, right? You would think that would be on the top of my list. But they scared me. The previous treatments I tried didn't change the way your face moved or its overall shape. Botox paralyzes the tiny muscles in your face, which can greatly alter your expressions. Fillers can plump your skin in a way that makes you look like you've been stung by a swarm of bees. At least, this is what I thought. We've all seen those celebrities who've gone way overboard, and I just didn't want to go down that road.But then, over the last two years when I saw the start of wrinkles on my forehead and the jowl lines on my face getting a little bit deeper, I had a slight panic attack and said, "Eff it! Let's do this." So I did. The following is what I learned and what I think every man needs to know before they try Botox or fillers.
Here's what I had done & the cost:
30 units of Botox applied to the midsection of my forehead = $468
1 syringe of Restylane Lyft to my nose-to-mouth (smile) lines = $700
1 syringe of Voluma to my cheeks to address hollowing under the eyes = $900
Ask yourself why are you doing this. All joking aside, please make sure you do a check-in with yourself before you try Botox or filler. Why are you really doing this? What are your expectations? Are you prepared for your face to look different? Are you ready for something not to turn out the way you think it might? Are you comfortable with the possible side effects?
You're altering your face and spending lots of money. That's not something you want to do on a whim. I have a good friend in the entertainment world who was so scared he was starting to look too old that without even thinking, he had a heavy dose of Restylane injected into his cheeks by a doctor who was less than talented. He was horrified at the results, he lost work because of it, and he felt even worse about his face when it was all said and done. Luckily, the Restylane eventually dissolved and he had a come-to-Jesus moment where he realized his face was aging just fine and he was comfortable with that.
Research and trust your doctor, duh! This is the most important thing you can do. The. Most. Important. Thing. If your doctor is sloppy, your face will be sloppy. When you visit the doctor's office, look at the staff. You can pretty much guarantee that every person in a cosmetic dermatologist's office will have had some work done. If you don't like how they look, run away.
If you have a friend who looks great, ask who their dermatologist is. I have a very dear friend who is 56 and often gets mistaken for 30. No joke. No lie. He introduced me to Dr. Lisa Espinoza and I have never looked back.
Dr. Espinoza goes above and beyond with each of her patients to make sure they know exactly what they're getting into. She answers every single one of my insane questions no matter how small they may be. On top of that, she has skill. When I sit in her waiting area and I see how good the other patients look, it makes me feel comfortable. These are all the things you want in a doctor. And, might I add, Dr. Espinoza's office is in New Hope, PA, and I live in San Francisco, CA. You have to be willing to go the extra mile for the right match, and in my case, I'm willing to go the extra 3,500 miles.
Learn everything you can about the procedure you want. You should go into your doctor's office as if you were about to take a medical exam. Google is your friend. Read or watch reviews from bloggers who have tried the procedure you're thinking about. Go to the official website for the injectable you're considering, like Botox, Dysport, Restylane, Voluma, etc. If you're not sure which you're interested in, look into all of them. Find before-and-after pictures online. Watch videos on YouTube of doctors performing the procedures you're hoping to try. Most importantly, ask around to see if you know people who have already gone down this path. Get their input and recommendations. Then go into the doctor's office with lots of questions and ask them all.
This is not the time to be cheap. No Groupon, please. This is your face. It's not the time to look for a deal. You look for a deal when you're buying airline tickets or some tools at Sears, not cheekbones.
Now let's break down the things I feel are worth mentioning for each treatment . . .
- Less is more. Don't go in and freeze your whole face. Start with just one trouble area. I started with just my forehead, because it was the area I was most concerned about. If you like the results in one area, then move on to the next. Also, ask your doctor to go on the lighter side with the Botox. This will prevent you changing your face too much, too fast. You have to ease on into it like a new pair of jeans. You can always go back for more, but if you go overboard, that three-month period before it wears off will seem like an awfully long time.
- The needle does not hurt. For the most part. You will feel a prick, but it's just like a quick pinch, no reason to freak out. If you are super sensitive, you can always ask for a topical numbing cream, but you may need to arrive 30 minutes early for that.
- Headaches are a possibility. Botox takes about 10 days before it goes into effect. The muscles injected with Botox will slowly stop working over that time and sometimes the body tries to compensate by using other muscles to help create movement. This slight strain can give you a dull headache. This happened to me, and at first I got nervous, thinking something was wrong. Dr. Espinoza assured me this is normal and happens with certain patients. For me, the headaches only lasted about nine days. I only noticed tension periodically and a little Advil was all it took for that to go away.
- Three months. That's how long it lasts. Some doctors claim otherwise, but in my experience and speaking with my friends, after three months your face will go back to normal. (Envision Cinderella running home before the clock strikes 12.) Be prepared to make that monetary investment time and time again.
- Would I do it again? Yes. Just in my forehead for now. The lines are completely gone, but my eyebrows and face still have great expression. I'm really happy Dr. Espinoza was conservative and I don't look like a Real Housewife.
- I repeat, less is more. I personally feel that fillers altered the look of my face even more than Botox. I had a minimal amount added to my cheeks and the lines around my mouth, and I really noticed a difference and so did friends. It's a fine line (no pun intended) between having just enough and looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.
- Symmetry. Very few people have symmetrical faces. Dr. Espinoza carefully examined my face before injecting me with the fillers, and this is something you want to talk about with your doctor. The right side of my face has a bit more wear and tear than the left. My nose-to-mouth line on that side is a bit deeper and she added a bit more Restylane Lyft to help compensate.
- Swelling. It was about a good two months before I felt like the fillers completely settled. I can only describe it as a slight swelling to the treated areas. It wasn't red or anything like that. With each passing week, it continues to look more and more natural.
- One year. Fillers stick around for a long time when compared to Botox, typically one year after the first application, and with some brands, they can last up to two years after you do it more than once. This is yet another reason to be cautious. Baby steps, y'all.
- Would I do it again? Yes, but I will keep it to a minimum. The area under my eyes and the smile lines seem much softer, but sometimes when I smile, I notice I look a little different. There's cheek where there wasn't cheek before. It's extremely subtle, and I'm probably the only one who would notice it, but I'm still trying to get used to that. If I had applied any more, I don't think I would have been as happy. Luckily, Dr. Espinoza keeps me in check.