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Beginners Botox

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

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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.

But when is the right time to start the shots? "It depends on your skin type and how much you move your face. Thinner complexions" - typical for women with lighter hair, eyes, and skin tones - "will develop more lines, faster," says Binder, who doesn't recommend treatment for teenagers (even if they live in Beverly Hills) or anyone who doesn't see lines yet, because if you can't predict where the patient will form wrinkles, you won't know where to inject the toxin.

Patients typically start treatment around a "9" birthday (29, 39, 49), according to New York City dermatologist Dr. Anne Chapas. "This is when people reflect on their lives," she says. "They think about what they've accomplished in the last decade and wonder if they look the same." I can certainly relate. With my dream job and apartment (which I own, thank you very much), I've come a long way since my 20-year-old, new-college-graduate self, but that doesn't mean that I don't want the smooth, glowing skin I had then (albeit with less acne).

"If you ask a 13-year-old when people get old, they'll say 30," says Pennsylvania psychologist and dermatologist Dr. Richard Fried. "We're bombarded with unbelievably unattainable images of airbrushed models and celebrities, so we all look into a circus fun-house mirror whenever we see ourselves. The human tendency is to accentuate the negative and minimize the positive. We've been sold a very destructive philosophy that somehow when you're past 30, you start deteriorating. Any thrill, passion, or excitement has fizzled, and you're just biding time until you croak. Doing something as simple as Botox can be enormously liberating and help fight the negative messages."

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