It was surprisingly quick, disconcertingly so. Less invasive than a dental hygiene appointment and as painful as eyebrow threading, definitely something that could be performed in the aisle between the fake tan and the Lucozade. Once I crossed the Botox Rubicon my first surprise was just how easy the procedure is, I wouldn’t entirely agree with the term ‘noninvasive’ as an injection mere millimeters from your eye feels pretty invasive, but it was over so quickly I never even took my coat off.
Fresh off the back of their Love Island sponsorship major High St retailer Superdrug are now offering Botox. When you pop in on your lunch hour for your facial wipes and your appetite suppressants, you can throw some Botulinum Toxin into your basket. Well, you can book an appointment over the phone - no walk-in’s - and be seen by a qualified nurse in a side room.
I’ve had Botox twice. An older colleague once conspiratorially whispered in my ear, ‘If you’re working with a woman and you think she looks great, she’s had ‘it done’’ She was trying to be helpful, doling out a verbal contribution to the sisterhood. She didn’t want me going home at night and peering in the mirror wondering why Cathy’s forehead shone when mine, well, did not.
I went for a few consultations, one with a man who looked like a surprised Harrison Ford, definitely high on his own supply. I ended up in a basement just off Harley Street with a kind lady who made me look in a mirror and tell her what I liked about my face. She then stabbed me about 12 times around the eyes and told me to come back in 10 days ‘so I can even you out.’
Annoyingly the compliments rolled in. It worked, I looked less tired, people thought I’d given up drinking; my face was about 10% more Paltrow. I should have felt great, but instead I felt guilty. Should I say to everyone, ‘Thanks, I’ve had Botox’? I didn’t, instead I allowed them to presume I’d gone vegan or bought a new foundation.
That’s my issue with Botox. It’s becoming a ‘norm’. It’s insidious and creeping. I can tell when someone is wearing make-up or spends hours in the gym, I know an expensive head of highlights when I see one, but Botox is a little less detectable. With every compliment I felt duplicitous. Did I really want injections to become part of my beauty routine? Did I have to have it to merely keep up with my colleagues?
On hearing the news about Superdrug, suddenly Love Island, my summer romance, looked like one long advert. It now seems that over 7 weeks, for an hour a day, they were broadcasting what was essentially cosmetic propaganda into 3.6m homes up and down the country. As we sat enraptured by the did she kiss him or did he kiss her? plot lines, cosmetic surgery was being normalized before our very eyes. It’s not a new business model; ‘self-made’ Kylie Jenner set up her make-up business, specifically lip-kits, off the back of her cosmetically enhanced pout. Alongside brands like McDonalds, cosmetic surgeries were buying prime ad space in the middle of Love Island, but there’s something about Superdrug - the place you go to for essentials like toothpaste - that worryingly normalizes it.
‘While it might be "Botox on the high street" it is exactly the same as having Botox in a purpose built clinic.’ Dr Pixie McKenna, GP and Superdrug Ambassador told me, ‘As a doctor I feel it is important to be on message saying Botox is a medical treatment and should only be administered by proficient, trained, experienced healthcare professionals. Superdrug is engaging an experienced aesthetics nurse for this purpose.’
The non-surgical cosmetics industry is almost completely unregulated, so the silver lining is that Superdrug are holding themselves to standards above the industry. The second and last time I had Botox was through a Group-on type offer I found on the internet. It lacked any of the ceremony of Harley Street. It left me with a twitchy eye for two weeks that I took as a sign that injecting stuff into your face shouldn’t be done lightly, and probably not by someone who wasn’t medically qualified.
I haven’t gone back to Botox, and it wasn’t just the eye twitch; I was loath to add another expensive, painful thing to my beauty routine. I also hate that it’s creating a new normal. I didn’t like knowing that I was fueling an industry that will take so much of our money just so we can look ‘normal’ or at best ‘fresh’. Even this year's Love Island didn’t tempt me back. I’m just not sure paralysed foreheads, lactic acid pouts and noses missing a third of their cartilage are more beautiful than their before pictures.