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Beginners Botox

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


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."

It's no surprise I'm not alone in my quest for eternal youth. In 2007 almost 400,000 Botox procedures were done on patients ages 19 to 34, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Chapas estimates that 15 percent of her Botox patients are in their mid- to late 20s. And Liz alone has convinced at least four other 20-somethings (not counting me) to submit to the needle.

Fusco calls my early-adopter treatment "baby Botox," a diluted dose that will get rid of my little wrinkle but won't leave me expressionless. Still, I'm nervous about my foray into cosmetic "work." Will I become a plastic-surgery junkie? What if my already-arched brows rise to perpetually surprised Spock-like V's? Fusco reassures me that she'll inject less than usual and I can come back in two weeks - it takes two to five days for the muscle to stop contracting and up to 10 days for the wrinkle to smooth - if I want more. But two weeks later, when she e-mails me to ask about my "vitamin B" (she's very discreet with her Botox patients), I'm thrilled with the results. My writer's wrinkle is gone and nobody notices a change in my appearance (even when I tell them what I've done).

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