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When's the best time to have Botox?

Written by
Chloë James

We’re willing to take a bet that when you think about the best treatment for fine lines and wrinkles, you think about Botox. This go-to method for a smoother complexion has a reputation for ‘freezing’ unwanted lines in place and – despite its medical uses for migraines or excessive sweating – this is what Botox does best. Ever since its cosmetic purposes were first discovered in the 1980s, it’s been injected into muscles to block the nerves that allow them to move. And if muscles can’t move, neither can the skin on top. So, whether you’re smiling, frowning, crying or laughing, it stops wrinkles forming when you make different facial expressions.

Our emotions aren’t the only thing giving us wrinkles. Sun damage, smoking, and the general ageing process all play their role. The common factor? Loss of collagen. As collagen production decreases, so does our skin’s elasticity, meaning it struggles to bounce back the way it once did.

But while wrinkles are the most prominent, visible sign we’re not as young as we once were, they also happen to be one of the few things we can, to an extent, control.

What age should I get Botox?

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Although there’s no ‘best’ or ‘worst’ age to get Botox, its results do differ depending on when you first start undergoing treatment. The most obvious point to intervene with your wrinkles is when (and if) they really start to bother you. For most people, wrinkles are most apparent from their 40s onwards – which, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, also happens to be the main age demographic of Botox users.

By this point you have several decades of facial expressions under your belt, so wrinkles usually sit around the areas that move most – namely the eyes, forehead and mouth. It’s unlikely that anti-ageing skincare or SPF will have much of an impact, but Botox can soften these lines and prevent them from deepening further. Research also suggests it can encourage collagen production, boosting your skin’s elasticity.

If this is the first time you’ve received Botox, there is a chance lines may be too ingrained to be erased by Botox alone – especially as you reach your 50s or 60s. That’s why some patients opt to start treatment in their 30s when fine lines and wrinkles are in their early stages, but not so deep-set that they’re irreversible. Botox can weaken the muscles and stop them from pulling in ways that make lines deeper, or create any new ones.

There’s also a convincing case for starting Botox even earlier: prevention. ‘Baby Botox’ or ‘micro-dosing’ is all about using tiny amounts in concern areas from a young age to train the muscles not to move in ways that create deep lines. Botox uptake is increasing rapidly among younger patients, with injections among 20- to 29-year-olds rising by 28 per cent since 2010. This all comes down to one tantalising promise – they’ll never need to worry about wrinkles when they’re older, because they’ll never even get them in the first place.

But not everybody needs to start this young. To figure out if this is the right choice for you, think about how your face moves when you talk and interact with others. Do you find yourself squinting, frowning, or pursing your lips a lot? If so, it’s possible preventative Botox could put you one step ahead of future wrinkles, and mean you require fewer top-ups later in life.

How do I fit Botox into my beauty regime?

No matter how old you are, the important thing is that any patient is fit and healthy – and understands exactly what it means to get Botox. Even though the beauty of Botox is that it slots into your daily routine with minimal downtime or side-effects, it won’t work miracles overnight. It takes anywhere between three to 14 days for your final results to set in. From that point it’ll be four months until you require a top-up.

With this in mind, Botox is the kind of treatment that takes some planning. If you’re wanting your results to be noticeable for a special event, appointments should be scheduled at least two weeks in advance. On the off chance this isn’t possible, you can at least minimise the chance of getting any bruising or swelling at the injection site by avoiding blood thinners like aspirin, ibuprofen or fish oil for 10 days before your session.

It’s also worth taking a look at the other treatments in your diary. Anything involving a laser – whether that’s hair removal or skin resurfacing – compromises the strength of your skin, so it’s best to receive this and let it heal for two weeks before Botox. The same goes for chemical peels, which can temporarily damage your skin barrier and leave it vulnerable.

Fillers, on the other hand, work better when administered after Botox. Not only will you want to wait to see how Botox alters your features before diving in with another injectable procedure, but it can also help improve your final results. The more your face moves, the quicker filler breaks down – but if there’s already Botox limiting the movement of your muscles, your results can last longer.

And isn’t this what everyone wants from their treatments? For the most impact from Botox, there are a few simple rules you can follow. Avoid massaging your face directly after treatment, and skip any skincare products containing active ingredients for three days. Also, stay away from exercising, extreme heat and sunbathing for 24 hours to prevent migration or swelling.

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What complements Botox?

Botox can make a big difference for anyone conscious of the dynamic wrinkles that appear when your face moves – but it can’t do everything. To treat and prevent lines of all shapes and sizes, there are a few complementary options.

Skincare

SPF – Botox is a powerful thing, but it’s not stronger than the sun. No matter how good its rays feel on your skin, excessive exposure to UV can cause collagen to break down at a higher rate than normal ageing, and lead to premature wrinkling. To avoid this, be sure to layer on a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

Hyaluronic acid – Fine lines can look deeper than they actually are without enough moisture in your skin. Rather than piling on any moisturiser, look for one that contains hyaluronic acid. This binds water to collagen and traps it in the skin – which, in turn, locks in hydration and amplifies the results of your Botox.

Retinol – Nothing transforms skin from home quite like a retinol. Whether you opt for one purchased over-the-counter, or a stronger prescription product (known as retinoid), it increases the production of collagen and gives skin a plump, healthy finish. However, this takes some patience. Retinol can initially cause some dryness and irritation, which might exacerbate the appearance of existing wrinkles.

Treatments

image of balloons representing fillers

Fillers – Together, Botox and fillers are the anti-wrinkle dream team. While Botox treats dynamic wrinkles, fillers can be used to add volume to the deeper lines that have settled with time and are visible even when the face is completely still.

Chemical peels – Combined with Botox, chemical peels can be used to treat some of the other signs of ageing, such as dark spots or sun damage. There are three different depths to choose from – light, medium or deep – and the right one for you depends on the depth of the wrinkles or damage involved. Downtime can vary from 24 hours to a few weeks, but you’ll start to see results in as little as one day.

Laser skin resurfacing – Laser skin resurfacing targets the topmost layers of skin and, like Botox, can tackle unwanted lines. But unlike Botox, it specialises in the lines caused by loss of collagen and sun damage. Used together, the two can treat all kinds of wrinkles. Just be sure to avoid direct sunlight for two weeks after laser treatment, as it makes you more sensitive to pigmentation.

Phototherapy – For the finer lines that aren’t caused by facial expressions, you might want to try phototherapy. This uses different coloured LED lights to repair tissue damage and treat wrinkles at the source of the problem. Both yellow and red light can kickstart collagen and elastin production, which helps restore the plumpness lost during the ageing process.

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