Please join me on a brief journey back in time. The year is 2005, and I'm a fledgling beauty assistant at Lucky Magazine (RIP) just trying to figure out how to book car service and program my boss's Palm Pilot (a lot has changed in the last decade and a half).
Botox has only been FDA-approved for aesthetic treatments since 2002, and it's all anybody can talk about — the miracle injection that stops your forehead muscles from making repetitive movements, thereby smoothing (and maybe even preventing!) lines. Everybody wants it. I start booking my boss to see a top NYC dermatologist every three months, and within a few weeks she looked 10 years younger. This sh*t works.
If I can just stop moving my forehead on my own, I'll never get wrinkles and never need to get botulinum toxin injections in the first place.
As I'm learning about the technology, I have an epiphany: If I can just stop moving my forehead on my own, I'll never get wrinkles and never need to get botulinum toxin injections in the first place. Hyperbolic? Yes. But stay with me. It's a simple strategy, really, but easier said than done. In fact, as a kid, I had a repertoire of silly scrunched faces I made on command — "piggy face" being my most-requested. But with some self-awareness and sticktoitiveness, I decide I'll change the way I use my facial muscles.
I start by focusing on my eyebrows and make a conscious effort not to raise them up and down when I talk. Next, I tackle specific faces I make in certain situations (think grimacing while running and squinting looking at the computer, neither of which is forehead-friendly). I hold my forehead in place with the palm of my hand while typing out an assignment with the other. After a few months, it's second nature. And I don't know whether it's because forehead movement isn't actually necessary to be expressive or because foreheads all around me are becoming less and less mobile thanks to dermatologists, but nobody says anything about my new wax figure-like state.
Fast forward 14 years, and a lot has changed . . . except my forehead. I have a couple thin lines on either side because I could never figure out a way to put on eyeliner or mascara without moving my eyebrows, but I'm overall happy with how my strategy panned out. I've managed to avoid the dreaded "eleven" lines (the ones that form between your brows from squinting), and even though I've tried "baby tox," it's not a regular part of my beauty routine. The best part? Dermatologists actually agree with my strategy.
"Repetitive facial expressions [mean] muscles are contracting over and over," says NYC dermatologist Ellen Marmur (my personal go-to). "This can definitely create unwanted wrinkles over time. Each muscle movement creates a groove in the skin . . . It's like the skin has memory, and the creases get deeper and deeper."
And it gets even better: Dr. Marmur says if you can stop certain habits like frowning or squinting, you can prevent (or at least slow down) the formation of forehead lines. (And she agrees that eye makeup-application wrinkles are real!)
Now, if you don't think you can put my technique into practice without a little help, Dr. Marmur suggests preventative use of Botox (or Xeomin, Dysport or Jeauveau, which all have the same FDA indication). "I'm convinced by my patients and my own use over time that when the muscles can't contract you're not creating new wrinkles," she says. And there you have it: the best validation for the anti-wrinkle trick I implemented 14 years ago — bet my boss wishes she thought of it herself.