The Unexpected Criticism of Botox Among Millennials

Lauren Caruso
Photo: Getty Images

Something funny—well, it wasn’t so much funny as it was curious—happened recently. I got Botox for the first time last month, but unless I told you (I told everyone), you’d have no idea. It was just a tiny pinch in between my brows where I tend to furrow my brow in casual judgment, and a bit underneath each eye near the tops of my cheekbones—and just like dermatologist Jeannette Graf promised, I woke up looking, well, better. I was pretty shameless about it, and confessed—if you want to call it that—to anyone that would listen.

But let’s rewind: When I got home from the appointment, my skin slightly red and splotchy from injecting it with a needle, my boyfriend just shook his head at me. He’d tried to talk me out of getting Botox a few days prior, telling me (genuinely, it should be noted) that he loves me just how I am, and that it would be vain to get Botox at age 29—even if it was just “preventative.” I figured he was a dude and just didn’t get it, and didn’t he want me to spend less time getting ready?

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Then, when I casually mentioned it to my friends—many of whom have no problem lying in a tanning bed a few times a month and Instagramming about it—they shrieked in disdain. I heat-froze my fat once a week for a month and got a pimple injected with cortisone without so much as an eyebrow raise, but apparently, they draw the line at Botox: Complaints ranged from “You’re not even 30! You don’t even need it!” to “IT’S SO BAD FOR YOU!”—and, my favorite, “Now you have to get it all the time!

But here’s the final straw: When I got to work, a co-worker Slacked me (which, for the uninitiated, is the office-equivalent of G-chat), asking me how the Botox went. We have a pretty modern and non-traditional setup, so I just turned around and basically yelled across the office about my injections, somehow prompting her to apologize because she wasn’t sure if I “wanted everyone to know.” We openly discuss sex positions, orgasm shots, and chemical peels—so why would Botox be secret territory?

Then it hit me: Should I be embarrassed that I got Botox? Is it something I should lie about and instead tell anyone who asks that I’ve just been using some magical serum? Why did everyone insist on whispering when they asked me about it? I know I’m not the only millennial who’s gotten it, so when will the stigma wear off?

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“I’m getting younger and younger patients,” says Graf, who was outraged when I told her about the backlash. “In fact, we’re noticing that people who are getting [Botox] younger and younger don’t need it as frequently, and can avoid getting lines. You can stop anytime.”

As of 2015, 64 percent of facial plastic surgeons saw an increase in Botox in patients under 30, and just about half a million of those getting Botox last year were between the ages of 19 and 34—the difference of half a generation. In 2014, Botox was the most popular procedure for patients under 30, up 6 percent from 2013.

Dermatologist Joseph Eviatar, who also works out of OMNI Aesthetic in NYC, stepped in to back me up, too: Many of his patients are as young as their early twenties, and for some, it’s less about blurring the fine lines that haven’t even appeared yet: “One of my patients is 22, and she just wants to see what she can do,” he says, referring to injectables. “And it wasn’t about making her look younger, it’s about making her look great.”

Sure, I could discuss the merits of a good concealer, what’s so bad about waking up looking great?