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Beginners Botox

Hoping to look 28 forever, Ning Chao submits to the needle.

By Ning Chao

WebMD Commentary from "Marie Claire" Magazine

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On the eve of my 29th birthday, I got Botox. Let's just call it a present to myself ($250 is a lot cheaper than the latest Louboutins anyway), a sanity-saving panacea for the panic of seeing a new decade so close on the horizon. Wanting to stop time, I found myself on a recent morning sitting on the edge of a paper-covered examination chair (the business-class version of what you'd find at the dentist's office), with dermatologist Dr. Francesca Fusco scrutinizing my forehead while she asked me questions about my job and family and told jokes to make me laugh - all so she could watch how my face naturally moved. Then, four quick pricks later, I was done.

The pain was minimal. In fact, I didn't really feel a thing. The target? A short line I called my writer's wrinkle (from inquisitive eyebrow raising during interviews) that had been threatening to stretch across my forehead since age 24. I walked out of Fusco's office less than a half-hour later (the consultation took about 20 minutes; all four shots, one minute max) with a dull headache and instructions not to lower my head for the next four hours, or risk the toxin migrating down to my brows and causing eyelid droop.

This awkward precaution is what gave my friend Liz's youthful secret away at a lunch two weeks prior to my big day. Fresh from her appointment with Fusco, Liz gingerly raised the menu to her face to read it and then wouldn't look down at her food while eating. When I asked what was wrong, she said she had just gotten injected. "Botox? But you just turned 28!" I exclaimed, scanning her face for zombie-ish paralysis or any other signs of artificial age-control. But her face moved and her brows raised like normal, and she sheepishly admitted that she had been going under the needle for the past four years.

"I started doing it to treat my migraines, which I used to get once a week and had to take daily medication for. But now I don't need the pills, and I don't have any lines on my forehead," Liz revealed. "Women our age are scared to get Botox because they don't want to look like Joan Rivers, but my mom's been doing it for years and she doesn't have a frozen face. Her lines are now gone - she doesn't even need a filler" (as in collagen or hyaluronic-acid injections).

Botox's preventive aspect was proved in Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. William J. Binder's groundbreaking 2006 twins study, where he injected one identical twin with the toxin for 13 years (from the age of 25). The result? The treated twin looked at least five years younger, in spite of living in sun-damaging Malibu (her sister lived in Munich). "Muscles move and form folds in the skin. If you do that long enough, you'll get imprinted lines from the collagen breaking down," Binder explains. "Botox stops this process by preventing the muscles from moving." He also assures me that despite controversy earlier this year, Botox is the safest drug he's ever used - and he's been using it since the late '80s.

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