“Ugh, I really need to get a treatment for these wrinkles,” my mother, Jody Unterberger, 64, said during a recent visit to my apartment in New York City. She was looking in the mirror and pulling at the skin on her forehead to make her forehead lines disappear. It was the fourth time she’d brought up injectables in the 24 hours she’d been there. “Mom, you look fine,” I assured her for the millionth time.
“This is your fault, you know,” she responded. “If you hadn’t shown me how good I could look, I wouldn’t want it all the time!” She said it jokingly, but I couldn’t help but think there was some truth to her words. I was the one who led her into the land of injectable wrinkle reducers — prescription treatments that temporarily smooth lines on the face — and injectable fillers to begin with. Two years ago, for her 62nd birthday, I treated her to a “cosmetic injectable day”: wrinkle reducers around the eyes and forehead and filler in her cheeks and lips. The entire $6,000 procedure was comped because I was writing a piece about it (the perks of having a beauty editor for a daughter), but the experience turned her into a veritable injectable aesthetic enthusiast.
Two weeks after the treatment, my mom, who is the vice president of sales for a travel management company in Memphis, attended a giant industry conference in Denver. “I thought I looked incredible, which was the most important part,” she says of her appearance at the time. “But the response from colleagues was also overwhelming. People asked if I was using different makeup. They did not know what it was but said I looked fantastic.”
The experience reminded my mom of Cinderella. In the months that followed, she says she looked in the mirror and wondered when the proverbial clock would strike midnight and the wrinkles would return. Of course, eventually they did, and this time there was no beauty editor fairy godmother to transform her back. Cue the tiny violins here.
It was gradual change, she says, but a noticeable one. “I would wake up every day after three months, and I’d look in the mirror and see a little line here and a little line there and ask myself when I could go back for a treatment. I just didn’t like the way I looked as much without the injectables. And therein lies the issue: Before I had it done that first time, I didn’t know what to expect or what I could look like but after, I didn’t want to go without it.” It’s not that I want to look younger, she insists. “I am 64. I don’t want to look like I’m 30. That’s not the point of this for me. But without it, when I look at myself, I don’t look as good.”
Jody’s feelings toward injectables are representative of so many of my patients, says Lisa Street, a national clinical educator for leading laser and injectable companies and a nurse practitioner at Glo Medical Aesthetics and Hair Spa in Memphis (where my mom now goes for her cosmetic work). “People definitely like it,” says Lisa. “They say, ‘when I look in the mirror, I’m happy with my appearance.’ And when it starts to wear off, they can tell and say, ‘Oh wait a minute, I still want to have that look.’ I get calls all the time from patients who say, ‘I think my wrinkle reducer is wearing off, can I see you as soon as possible?’”
To ward off such occasions, Lisa recommends that her patients come back for wrinkle reducer treatments no sooner than after three months. She says, “the more you plan ahead, the more you can stay on top of it,” (and not be in the position my mother found herself in when she was standing in front of the mirror at my apartment). Lisa adds, “As with all prescription treatments, I remind my patients that there are risks involved. It’s important to thoroughly discuss these with a provider before making a decision.”
Cost, however, can be a big hindrance to regular injectable treatments. Believe me, if I could afford to get wrinkle reducers and fillers consistently, I would happily do it, says Jody. Instead, she looks for deals to see Lisa and schedules her treatments strategically. “I save up and I time when I need it, like right before a big event when I want my face to look the best it can look. Oh, and if it comes down to buying a new outfit or getting wrinkle reducers? The answer for me is always the latter.”
“Oy,” I thought as my mom continued to bemoan the lack of wrinkle reducers in her life while standing in front of my mirror that day. “What had I done?” For a minute, I felt bad about introducing her to something that had the power to make her feel worse about her natural appearance. As a beauty editor I always want to make people feel like they have all the tools they need to look their best, but as a daughter, I want my mom to know that she’s beautiful as is, full stop.
“Think about it this way,” my mom says when I told her I felt a little guilty. “I do this for me. I like the way I look afterward.” Okay, fair point. I’m certainly not about to argue with her on that. Want to chat about cosmetic injectables? Our trained aesthetic specialists are here to help! Get real aesthetic answers, right now from our trained aesthetic specialists!