It’s a face-off when it comes to botulinum toxin injections and dermal fillers. Editor Ng Yi Lian has no qualms about doing them, while writer Kayce Teo shuns all invasive aesthetics treatments. It’s about ageing gracefully, they both say. Where do you stand?
In my 20s, I told myself I’d never get fillers and botulinum toxin injections. I worried about becoming addicted to aesthetic treatments, the possible pain, and that I wasn’t accepting what nature had given me.
I found myself wondering about my own definition of ageing “gracefully”. I believe grace is the ability to think independently, even if it goes against the status quo. Which is more graceful? Remaining open to life’s changes, or simply avoiding (or resisting) aesthetic treatments for the sake of it?
I’ve done fillers in my nose bridge, chin, lips and under-eye area, botulinum toxin injections around my eyes and brow bones, and am open to plastic surgery in future. Does that make me less of a person? I do not think so, even if society judges me for it.
Let’s talk about pain. Why put myself through it – especially when a treatment involves multiple injections over a small area? Getting fillers in my lips, with its many nerve endings, was the most painful experience by far, even though numbing cream was applied. On other areas of my face, the pain feels like pinches.
I’ll always remember my first filler session – the moment my doctor finished the series of 12 injections on my thin lips. Skin smarting and eyes brimming, I asked him: “Why would anyone put themselves through this?” His response was to pass me a mirror. Looking at my newly filled-out lips, I understood. “I get it now. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
The cost works out too. A full syringe of fillers costs about $900 and is enough for both the lips and under-eye area. Those 12 jabs lasted six months. My second lip filler procedure needed only four jabs. It’s been seven months since, and my lips still look as good. It’s also been a year since I got my first undereye filler treatment – three injections on each side.
And it’s not all unbearable pain. For my botulinum toxin session, numbing cream was first applied to the area, and as the doctor injects the neurotoxin into my face, there is a slight biting sensation as it enters the epidermis, but it only lasts one or two seconds.
While the swelling from my nose fillers settled after five days, the other areas had little downtime. When I met my husband an hour after my lip and under-eye fillers, he didn’t notice much difference. On the contrary, he told me I “seemed a bit more smiley and rested”.
The results of my fillers aren’t monetarily tangible. My favourite eye cream costs $85 and lasts three months. But as there isn’t a skincare product that makes me look “more smiley” – there’s really no comparison.
I still think I’m ageing gracefully. I’m evolving from the declarations I made as a young woman, like not getting tattoos and not marrying a divorcee with kids, to making grownup choices in my 30s. Growth involves learning new things and unlearning old ones. And that includes redefining what ageing gracefully means. – NYL
Growth involves learning new things and unlearning old ones. And that includes redefining what ageing gracefully means.
– Ng Yi Lian, editor
“Uh-uh, no way.”
Ageing gracefully has been my beauty philosophy since my early 20s, when I saw the train wreck of before and after pictures of a certain Hollywood celebrity after her plastic surgery. It had the effect of steering me away from wanting to do things to my face – and by that, I mean aesthetic treatments that alter a person’s face contours, dramatically or otherwise.
When you’re in your 20s, it’s easy to age gracefully. All I had to do was eat well, sleep well and exercise. My skincare routine consisted of just cleansing and moisturising. If I was in the mood, I’d put on sunblock or a sleeping mask. At 29, when I got carded at R21-rated movies, my heart would do a gleeful dance.
Then I had two kids. And I hit my 30s. And it all went – well, not exactly downhill, but down a gentle slope. I said hello to nasolabial lines, fine lines below my eyes and a subtle sagging of my chubby cheeks. I also noticed that my double eyelids would disappear from time to time because of said skin sagging.
All these changes coincided with the time I became a beauty journalist, where I saw aesthetic treatments becoming increasingly less invasive, and with little downtime. So imagine how tempting thread lifts and fillers sounded to me.
But still, I said no.
Yes, the effects of invasive aesthetic treatments are temporary, and you can choose not to get them redone. And yes, some of the ingredients used, such as hyaluronic acid for fillers, already exist in our bodies.
Yet, I worried about how skin that is stretched out doesn’t bounce back. And what I’d look like after. Case in point: just Google “Courteney Cox fillers”. Those pictures haunt my dreams. It scares me how she looks like a completely different person.
And it’s not just that. Coming across body positivity movements on social media, I became hyper aware of how beauty is a social construct. And that part of me that is a (yes, it’s the F-word) feminist baulked at succumbing to the pressure of living for the ’gram. It’s a life where looking good is prioritised over living well, and where one’s self worth is tied to the number of likes and followers one has.
As I write this, my inner critic is calling me a hypocrite because I’m not totally against all aesthetic procedures. I am open to lasers and Ultherapy (which tightens and lifts the skin). My stand is that these are non-invasive and help improve collagen production to tighten and tone skin. But I’m still wary of the follow-up treatments I would have to do if I were to get “hooked” on them.
So, it’s a definite no for me if you want to place a foreign substance into my body for the sake of vanity. And to the doctor from an aesthetics clinic who tried to get me to do botulinum toxin treatments by asking me: “You’ll have a more V-shaped jawline and look slimmer and better in pictures. What’s there to lose?” I’d say, my selfworth, that’s what. – KT
Coming across body positivity movements on social media, I became hyper aware of how beauty is a social construct.
– Kayce Teo, beauty writer
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