Never let them put anything in your face. It was one of the first orders I received from my boss as the new kid in the beauty department at a major women’s magazine in New York City. (Kid being the operative word, as I was barely old enough to drink the free champagne at fancy fashion parties.) A veteran of the industry, my boss proudly showcased her years of experience by framing her fine lines (earned during the golden era of print) with fiery red hair that she meticulously colored every two weeks. I idolized her career and her unwavering commitment to aging gracefully. This cautionary piece of advice came during the mid-2000s when injectable fillers and injectable wrinkle reducers — temporary treatments injected into areas of the face to help plump (with fillers) or smooth (with wrinkle reducers)— were something only women around my mother’s age were thinking about, not me.
[Editor’s note: Injectable fillers and injectable wrinkle reducers for moderate to severe wrinkles are prescription treatments – they have benefits and risks. Consult with a licensed provider to see what’s best for you. Looking for an aesthetic provider? Our trained specialists can help!]
Sure, the popularity of these non-surgical tweaks was on the rise and they were frequently being administered in doctor’s offices around the country, but it was mostly happening on the down-low. Even if you wanted to admit to going under the needle, this was pre-Instagram — there wasn’t exactly an ideal platform for immediately spreading the news or a selfie that included a play-by-play of the entire experience in the caption, at least not yet. At the tender age of 21, I was determined to adhere to the guidelines I’d been given as a fresh-faced assistant straight out of college.
Approximately a decade later, life was moving at the pace of the internet and I started to lose my resolve. The Kardashian family had effectively seized the tabloid throne from the Hilton sisters and followers became a new form of currency. Documenting every waking moment of one’s life became commonplace, even necessary, in order to remain relevant and up to speed. Social media ignited a cultural shift that encouraged anyone and everyone to share. And share people did — especially on the beauty front. Suddenly, I was acutely aware of the “stress wrinkle” between my brows, the moderate to severe line commonly known as the elevens.
Perhaps I became more cognizant of this line because everywhere I went, everyone was taking pictures and I felt pressured to do the same. I noticed that women and occasionally a few men in the industry (as well as countless image-conscious strangers), particularly those who were members of my generation or even younger, were openly discussing injectables online and out in the wild. To prove this wasn’t all in my head, I looked to The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery or stats to support my observations: Injectables were up in 2017 by 5.1 percent, a “massive” 40.6 percent increase over the past five years.
One thing I noticed through my own unscientific research: the people that I keep regular tabs on via social media are from two camps: unfiltered or completely Facetuned (with more than just an app). There are those I’ve dubbed the “Glossier gang,” who seem to literally wake up poreless and practically perfect. They need only a schmear of concealer to find their light. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the “Insta-influencers.” They are, as Laverne Cox croons, “beat for the gods” and don’t shy away from a little (or a lot) of filler — a combination that seems almost guaranteed to rack up the likes.
As a 30-plus woman with access to the best products and pros thanks to my job, I still couldn’t quite figure out how to straddle the line. I didn’t want to look “done,” but I also knew I needed help hitting the refresh button, especially when it came to that frustrating wrinkle I undoubtedly earned squinting at my iPhone and dutifully tapping away at my computer day and night. I couldn’t, however, get that warning from my first boss out of my head. I felt torn about breaking the promise I made so many years before and keeping up with the changing beauty landscape. Even if today’s 20-somethings were bragging about the injections they received to plump their pouts and smooth the appearance of lines, I was thoroughly convinced injectables were for the weak. (I may be considered a millennial by today’s fairly hazy definition, but I wasn’t that millennial.)
It was Dr. David Shafer, a double board-certified plastic surgeon in New York City, who assured me that seeking support from injectables didn’t necessarily mean I’d given up on my vow to remain untouched. And he promised that there were ways to go under the needle for your moderate to severe wrinkles without veering into tabloid territory. He said he’s seen an uptick of patients 18 and over who want to “improve their appearance and perfect their profile pics on social media and dating sites.” Dr. Shafer attributes this rise in millennial-age traffic to platforms like Instagram.
“Because of social media, patients are more aware of what is available and feel more comfortable coming in for treatments,” he explains. “The stigma of going to a plastic surgery office is gone and concentrating on your appearance is a priority.” According to my feed, many millennials also feel right at home at the doctor’s office — so much so that they often go live or record every prick of the needle so that followers never feel left out.
Too nervous to document the event on social media, I went all in on an injectable wrinkle reducer to temporarily block nerves from triggering contractions in my facial muscles. (More specifically, the corrugators and procerus muscles responsible for creating that pesky crease smack between my brows.)
In the days following my appointment, I didn’t look remotely plastic or stiff — just less worried about the state of our ever-tumultuous world. I didn’t immediately celebrate with a selfie and share the news that I was no longer a wrinkle-reducer virgin, but I knew I was never looking back…at least no sooner than every three months when I would need to see Dr. Shafer again.
While I’m still not live ’gramming trips to the derm like younger millennials might be, I have graduated to the next level by getting my crow’s feet injected. I started late in comparison to many of my colleagues on social media, but nobody is putting this 32-year-old baby in the corner, especially now that I’m the boss.