MIA FREEDMAN: Why I've not had Botox. Yet.

Listen to this story being read by Mia Freedman, here.

The problem with saying you've never had Botox is that it can make you sound like a bit of a dick. This I know from experience.

Because when you talk about a choice you've made - particularly one about your face, your body, your career or your family - those who have made a different choice inevitably feel judged.

So when I say “I'm No-Bo”, the Bo-Bo women feel attacked even though I’ve made this decision about my face, not theirs. 

This is called being a woman. Welcome.

But the truth is this: I am 50 years old and I have not had Botox. Yet. See what I did there? I’ve gifted Future Me the option of changing my mind without being called a hypocrite. I’ve left the door to my face open. 

But for now, I’m No-Bo, I've always been No-Bo and this makes me increasingly rare not just among women my age but among any woman over the age of 25. 

At Mamamia, I work with around 100 women in their 20s and 30s and almost all of them have friends who get Botox. And in case you're wondering, this is not a media thing. My co-workers’ friends work in industries as diverse as education, finance, retail, medicine, aged care, construction, and law. Some are at uni and some are at home full time with kids. Some are as young as 22 years old. All getting regular Botox.

In 2022, Botox is as mainstream as Netflix, AirPods and laser hair removal.


In my thirties, I went through a hormonal period where my skin was terrible. I’d recently come off the pill and my skin was doing something I’ve since learned is called purging which is exactly what it sounds like. Someone suggested I try microdermabrasion which is a skin treatment I’d never try again because it’s like mixing a handful of sand with a dollop of moisturiser and rubbing it all over your face and then putting $300 in the toilet and flushing.

On the day of my appointment, I arrived at the clinic with my heart full of hope. It was a fancy clinic that was recommended to me by a TV makeup artist who thought microdermabrasion might help clear up my skin but as I looked around the waiting room, my hope began to curdle. 

From what I could tell, the receptionists and my fellow patients were all older than me and yet they all looked strangely ageless. It was literally impossible to tell if they were 60 or 30 and I don't mean this as a compliment.

There was an odd similarity to their faces that could best be described as frozen and filled. I knew that look. I didn’t want that look. I just wanted my pimples to be gone.

When my name was called and I went into the treatment room, a woman greeted me warmly and handed me a mirror. 

“Now Mia, tell me what you don’t like about your face?” she urged.

I handed the mirror straight back.

“Oh no,” I stammered. “I’m just here for microdermabrasion. I don’t want anything else.”

Her face flashed disappointment before she quickly rearranged her expression into one of forced enthusiasm.


“Ok then!” she replied, gesturing me to lie down on the treatment bed and standing behind my head. “Let’s have a look at that problem skin of yours.”

For the next 45 minutes of what felt like mild sand-blasting, I was gently upsold on the benefits of Botox as I lay prone, vulnerable and unable to mute her voice. 

I left feeling more insecure than I had when I’d arrived, my skin was still shit and now I also felt like not having Botox would put me at a major disadvantage. 

For what, I couldn’t articulate because it’s not like my face is my fortune. I’m not a model or an actor and I’m not on TV. My earning capacity is not indexed to my appearance.

However, I’m still a woman and it’s not easy to push back against a lifetime of internalised messaging that looking old - or even your age - is the worst thing a woman can be. 

My resolve wobbled, but it didn’t collapse. 

Over all the years since, there have been periods when it’s wobbled even more dramatically but each time, I’ve steadied it.

Today, I remain Botox-free. 

I won’t say happily so because I am a human woman who lives in the human world and like every woman, I too marinate in a culture that makes me fear the appearance of ageing. 

And that fear, that beauty standard, often feels uncomfortably oppressive.


Let me point out before you do that I willingly, happily do countless other things to conform to beauty standards. I dye my hair. I wear makeup almost every day. I spend an obscene amount of money on serums. 

I’ve lasered my bikini line. I shave my legs and armpits. I sometimes use fake tan.

And it’s never occurred to me to not do those things. 

In fact, I actively enjoy doing them (laser notwithstanding).

I’m also the co-founder of a media company that has a daily beauty podcast and proudly publishes a vast amount of beauty-related content. 

Walking around Mecca or Myer while listening to a podcast and trying products on the back of my hand is one of my favourite hobbies.

So what’s my deal with Botox? Why do I (so far) refuse to get any kind of wrinkle injection?

1. Fear

It’s not that I’m scared of needles; I’m scared of slippery slopes. 

For me, it’s far easier to make the decision to not have Botox than it is to try it and then have to make 100 cascading decisions about how much, how often and what else. 

Moderation has never been a strength. I know what going too far looks like and I know how easy it is to think “Oh, this Tim Tam is delicious, I want more of this delicious taste” and then the whole packet is gone and I’m nauseous and I think Tim Tams are the promise of youth in this very tortured analogy if you’re still reading.

TLDR: I don’t trust my ability to maintain perspective or control once I’ve broken the seal of my No-Bo policy. It’s easier to just take it off the table and work with whatever needle-free, non-surgical options are available.


2. Feminism

This is a tricky one because I can already hear the all caps FEMINISM IS ABOUT CHOICE AND I’M CHOOSING MY CHOICE. 

Yes, of course, you are and yay for all the choices that women have. I would remind you though that just because a woman does something, it doesn’t inherently make that thing a Feminist Act. Just like when a feminist doesn’t like something, it doesn’t by extension mean that thing is objectively “un-feminist”.

Fact: having Botox has no bearing on whether you are a feminist or not and anyone who suggests that the two things are mutually exclusive is lazy and misinformed.

For me, it’s far more nuanced. Dying my hair or wearing makeup are purely superficial. Paralysing the muscles in my face with botulism to explicitly reduce my range of facial expressions is a different kettle of wrinkles.

Because here’s the truth: the fundamental principle of using Botox as an anti-ageing treatment is to prioritise a youthful-looking face over an expressive one.

And that is the specific part I struggle with. 

So far, it’s that part that is overruling my desire to look younger and get rid of those two lines between my eyebrows. Because at the heart of it, our culture seems to have elevated a Stepford-Wife style of blank passivity as our modern beauty standard for women’s faces and to me, that’s disturbing.


I have lines on my face because my face moves. A lot. It shows people when I’m delighted and surprised and disgusted and angry and hurt and distressed and incredulous and thrilled. 

When did these feelings become something to limit or erase from women’s faces? And are we cool with that? “Preventative Botox” (which is what women as young as 22 are having) is literally about paralysing your facial muscles when you’re young so you can make fewer expressions and thus will have fewer lines on your face sometime in the future.

I can’t shake my discomfort with that, as a concept and to capitulate to it, feels like a betrayal of what I believe.

3. Visibility

You can’t be what you can’t see. Well, you can, but you’ll probably feel a bit weird or lonely if nobody else looks like you. By not having Botox and by telling people I don’t have Botox, I’m not looking for compliments or claps. I’m not trying to be #sobrave.

What I’m trying to do is to show women my age and younger that there are other options. Botox doesn’t have to be the default. Maybe, a 26-year-old will look at my face and be horrified that I look (gasp) my age or be baffled as to why I would reject any needle that could make me look younger, ‘better’, ‘fresher’.

Maybe. Or maybe, hopefully, they’ll remember that not everyone has Botox and think about what it means to ‘need’ or even want to erase the signs of your life from your face.

Whether you're No-Bo like me, Bo-Bo like many of my friends or Bo-Curious, Botox is one of the sessions at The Skin Summit, presented (virtually - streaming to you at home over two nights) by Mamamia. I became obsessed with skincare during the pandemic and perhaps you did too. Skincare sales sky-rocketed as makeup seemed absurd when you weren't allowed to leave your house and we collectively decided if we couldn't control anything else during unprecedented times, we could distract ourselves with serums and eye creams dammit.


Unlike makeup though, skincare is complicated. In which order do you put your products on? Should you be cleansing twice, really? Which products are worth spending money on and which are a total waste? What are the red flags when you're choosing where to get Botox? And if you want to explore non-injectable options (me!), what can you do that doesn't involve cutting or needles? When should you start using retinol and how do you know which one to use? And all of that is just on the first night.

We have brought together nine of the top skincare experts in the world including dermatologists, doctors, Paula from Paula's Choice, Zoe Foster-Blake from Go-To Skincare and some very special surprise guest beauty gurus. Whether you're a soap and water girl or a product junkie who layers serums on until you look like a glazed doughnut, we want to empower you with information so you can make the best decisions for your face.


Early bird half-price tickets are on sale now but only for a short time before we go to full-price. And if you become a paid annual subscriber to Mamamia, your ticket is free.

I'll be there and so will Mamamia's beauty podcast host and industry legend, Leigh Campbell. Come join us for a laugh and a learn.

Looking for expert skin advice? We're giving you access to the best skin experts in the world. For the women who wash their face with a bar of soap, to the 12-steppers and everyone in between. The Skin Summit, presented by Mamamia, is an online event for anyone with a face. Streaming direct to your couch. Click here to buy early bird discount tickets, for a limited time only →

Feature Image: Mamamia