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Beginners Botox

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

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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).

Two months later, my forehead is still smooth when I don't move my face, but the slightest hint of a line starts to appear when I raise my brows (similar to what I saw at age 24). Amusingly, the men I've attracted since are much younger (mostly 22- and 23-year-olds), which I hope is more of an indication of how I look rather than how I act.

Fusco estimates that I'll need a touch-up after another month but predicts I'll require fewer treatments, less often, the longer I stick with the shots. "Over time, as people get Botox repeatedly, the muscles become trained to a certain extent and don't move as much, even when the toxin has worn off," she explains. "You may start getting injections every three months, but eventually you'll only need it twice a year." And the FDA approval of the competitive botulinum toxins Reloxin and Puretox, expected as early as the end of this year, might mean the price of injections will go down. (Right now, Botox has a monopoly, so doctors pay a premium that they pass on to their patients.)

By the time I'm due to schedule my next appointment, I surprise myself: I decide against it. The Botox helped me ease into 29, but I'm getting more comfortable with that number every day (and frankly, I miss meeting men my own age). So when will my next booster shot be? Probably the day before my next birthday.

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