I did something I never thought I would ever do.
I had Dysport injected into my face. Who Dys? I hear you say. It’s a close relative of Botox, which uses Botulinium Toxin to relax your muscles to a point that they can no longer contract. Goodbye, forehead lines. Farewell crow’s feet.
I’m 37-and-a-half, and despite having friends who swear by the jab, taking the needle-train to Tox Town has never been on my to-do list.
As a freelance journalist and beauty editor, I’m often invited to trial different treatments. I’ve always said no to needles.
But this time, something stopped me. I think it was the moment I inspected my face too closely and for too long, until all I saw was a potato with frown lines.
Yes, I decided, this potato was finally going down the cosmetic injectables path, if only in the name of (youth-boosting, face-smoothing) research.
A few weeks later, I’m sitting on a bed in Natalie Abouchar’s Privée Clinic, set in a picturesque tree-lined street in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Natalie is lovely – just the right amount of chatty and professional with a warmth that puts me instantly at ease.
Ever wondered what cosmetic injections feel like? Imagine there’s a bee. A beautiful bee, dressed in a pristine white coat, whose sole priority is to lovingly sting you at the exact points of your face that will relax the muscles, ensuring you look infinitely well-rested.
It’s worth noting here that I am not well rested. I work late. I am the mother of a three-year old girl who refuses to sleep for more than four hours at a time.
I am also the mother of a Staffy, whose nightly let-me-outside-to-not-wee-but-waste-time-sniffing-leaves whining has me lurching out of bed until the early hours of the morning (nope, still sniffing leaves) at which point child wakes up and wants to do puzzles. I am the opposite of well rested. I am haggardly un-well-rested, kept artificially alive by caffeine. But I digress.
Natalie asks me to frown, relax and then… jab.. Frown, relax, jab. And repeat.
I was surprised by how little it stung. In total, I had injections at 12 points in my forehead and around my eyes, and three into each side of my jaw. As a teeth-clencher, the jaw-jabs would reduce the workout I was giving my masseter muscles, slimming my face in the process. (Good news: I’d still have the power to chew through a steak.)
Eighteen gentle, glorious bee-stings, and I was done.
It’s a financial investment in your appearance, I tell myself. Prices at Privée start from $140 depending on the area. It lasts for around four months, so top-ups will need to be considered if you’re that way inclined.
The thing about Dysport is that it takes about four days to kick in. Each morning I looked in the mirror with anticipation.
Day two, I could still frown.
Day three, my forehead felt weird. I panicked.
Was I destined to be one of those women who go in to a cosmetic clinic to look refreshed and come out looking more like… a cat?
Lying in bed next to my oblivious husband, my fingers shakily typed the words “Dysport disasters.” The world stopped. My child’s demands for breakfast silenced by the white noise of terror as I fell into a rabbit hole of horrifying Google images; of good tox gone bad.
Why had I succumbed to vanity? I stopped myself obsessing, forcing visions of Elephant Man style face-wear to the back of my mind.
Day four, I woke up and looked in the mirror. I couldn’t frown anymore, but my face looked natural; relaxed. My forehead was smooth. I was delighted to discover that I could still raise my eyebrows, but only to a point where not a single line appeared. Total rejuvenation. I looked rested as all hell.
Here are a few expressions I’m currently able to make from the eyes up: Mild surprise. Wonder. Disbelief.
Here are a few expressions that have been completely wiped from my repertoire: Fury and associated variations of anger. Ferocity. Deep thought.
And yet. Despite marvelling daily at the results, I miss my lines. I worked hard for those lines in 37 years. Teen angst. Failed love. Family fallouts. Giving birth. Living life. Grieving death.
I don’t believe in age as a defining factor, but I have friends of all vintages whose faces would not be the same without the stripes that hint at their stories.
I can’t help but wish we lived in a society where we’re not compelled to cover our crinkles or freeze our foreheads. Where the marks of time and emotion and experience are celebrated – nay, revered – in all their wrinkly glory.
Besides, I miss being able to look fierce. A withering glare isn’t a withering glare without a brow furrow so menacing, it will stop a small child in her tracks.
In three months or so, the tox will wear off, my lines will return, and I’ll welcome them back with all the expression my face can muster.
Hello my friends, I’ll say. Let’s grow old together.
Cecily-Anna Bennett is a freelance writer and editor who’s been published everywhere from Marie Claire UK, SBS Life and the Weekend Australian to Advanced Style, Cosmo Bride and Prevention magazine. Visit her on Instagram.