“Does she or doesn’t she?” was the Clairol advertising slogan that normalized women coloring their hair back in the 1950s and ’60s. There used to be a similar stigma around using injectable cosmetic products like Botox and Juvederm, but is anyone hiding these things anymore? Laura and I aren’t. Here’s what we’ve tried, why we tried it and how well it’s working for us in our 50s.
No two faces are the same and our experiences are different—yours will be too—so it’s important to work with a dermatologist you trust who can help you negotiate the products, prices and pitfalls in this fast-changing category of non-invasive cosmetic procedures. We also realize that this topic assumes economic privilege and we’re very aware that not everyone has a choice or chance to spend on absolutely elective cosmetic procedures, but if you’re curious, here are our honest assessments. And if you’re interested in our daily skin care routines, click here.
I’m 56 and pretty comfortable with that number and how I’m aging. I definitely subscribe to the theory that less is more when it comes to cosmetic procedures, and while I admire women who say no to any intervention, that’s not where I’m at. You should do exactly what makes you comfortable, and do it for you—not your partner or because everyone else is doing it! I want to be happy when I look in the mirror, but I want to look like me, not somebody else or some crazy ideal (or just crazy!). I think what I’m doing is the right mix for me—kinda natural, but better than if I let nature take its course.
I’m 58 and I’m not trying to erase every sign of aging from my face, but I do want to feel good about my appearance. There are two spots that bother me—the lines around my mouth and my drooping neck. I’m focusing on what I can do to improve those areas, while leaving the rest pretty much alone. Not everything needs to be fixed! I avoid anything that would give me that artificial “trout-pout” or prevent me from making normal facial expressions.
I’ve been injected with both Juvederm and Sculptra, and while they work differently, my results were very similar. As you age, you lose fat and collagen, so everything sags just a bit. I have a thin, narrow face and aging made it more so. The dermatologists (I’ve had filler from two different docs, hence the two different products) both recommended injections in my cheekbones, temples, smile lines and a bit in my chin. I was VERY worried that my cheeks would look chipmunk-y or too obvious, but both doctors were restrained and used a light hand. The reason I slightly prefer Sculptra is that it encourages your body to produce collagen, so the results develop over a few weeks; it’s a gradual change. You don’t walk out of the doctor’s office looking puffy! It can last two years, but I find after a year, it’s faded and I need a little boost. Painful? Yes! Because the injections go deep, plus, I bruise easily, so I’ve had some nasty bruises that upset my husband more than me. I paid $775 for my last filler session.
In my mid-40s, I felt something on my face. I tried to brush it away then I realized—it was my face on my face. I’d developed creases between my nostrils and the corners of my mouth that I could actually feel. Other women my age didn’t have these “Howdy Doody” lines and I became very self-conscious of them. I went to an information session with a dermatologist and learned that as we age we lose fat in our face, which causes the lines.
Now I see my derm for fillers every 9-12 months. He uses different products like Juvederm and Restylane because some are better for adding volume, others for fine lines. I’m not gonna lie, despite the numbing cream the injections do hurt and I’ve occasionally experienced bruising. But the wonderful thing about fillers is they work immediately. My face looks fresh but not fake. And bonus, fillers have a preventative impact. Plumping up the area now helps new lines from forming later. I’ve tried other dermatologists who use more product but my doc is pretty restrained, so my fillers cost about $450-500 per visit. It’s actually become cheaper over time because of the residual effect of the material. Compared to what I spend to color my hair in a year, fillers are a beauty bargain.
There are a lot of products out there, so here’s a product guide from the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery:
I’ve had mixed results with Botox, which works by paralyzing muscles so they stay either relaxed or contracted. When I first used Botox to treat my crow’s feet in my 40s, I didn’t like it. It made my upper cheeks feel frozen—I couldn’t even smile normally. In my 50s I tried it on my forehead and, while it did smooth my frown lines, it also lowered my brow, causing my eyes to look more hooded and tired than usual. I’ve seen it do wonders for other women’s foreheads, but it hasn’t worked for me. I’ll just stick with my bangs. On the positive side, I recently tried Botox on my neck and liked it. This is an area where the product makes the muscles contract, and it definitely lifted and tightened my jawline. Botox is cheaper than fillers ($200-$300) but wears off after three months. I’ve lost the original effect but I’ll definitely use it again when I go back for my filler visit because it’s the only thing I’ve found that works on my drooping jowls.
I’m a bigger fan of Botox than Marjie is. I don’t have bangs, so my prominent “elevens” (the lines between your eyebrows) made me look constantly peeved. I’ve had enough Botox over the years, that those lines are pretty much gone. My dermatologist lightly injects the rest of my forehead so I can still move my eyebrows and she gives them a little lift. Be very specific about how you want your eyebrows to look and go back immediately if your brows feel heavy. I’ve had it happen once or twice, but the doctor was able to fix it each time. Still, it was upsetting, so I absolutely get why Marjie isn’t a fan. I also get a bit for my crow’s feet, which works like no cream or lotion ever will, and I’ve gotten it for my neck, and like Marjie, I like the results. Unlike Marjie, I think I am paying for my doctor’s fancy Michigan Avenue location (or I just get a boatload more injected than she does), since my costs are almost $800 a year.
Good God is this painful. Ultherapy targets the deep layers of your skin with ultrasound energy, which creates heat and stimulates new collagen production. Even with a numbing agent, I was in pain. The first time I did Ultherapy I was in my 40s and had just started to notice my neck sagging. My suburban dermatologist gave me a Xanax and numbing cream, and it wasn’t too bad. Plus, I forgot the pain when I saw the results. Like Sculprta, it’s not immediate, but after six weeks my neck was noticeably tighter. Fast forward to my 50s and more sag. My city doc didn’t prescribe Xanax, and so it might not have been any more painful, but boy did it seem that way. Also, the results were invisible. You really couldn’t see much of a difference at all. Both dermatologists told me up front that “results vary,” but I’m guessing the younger you are, the better it might work. I won’t be trying this one again.
I had high hopes for the neck-lifting powers of this treatment but it was very painful, very expensive and I didn’t see any noticeable results. Hard no for me.
Latisse isn’t an in-office treatment, but I get it from my dermatologist so I’m including it as an “other.” Aging thins both your eyebrows and eyelashes, so I apply Latisse to both and they’re noticeably lusher. However, Latisse is expensive and you have to keep using it or the thickness fades. I’ve tried lash extensions, which I loved, but I had a reaction (awful) to the glue, so Latisse it is.
Invisalign is for your teeth, but I’m sharing it here because it made a big improvement to my appearance as I hit 50. I wore braces as a kid but by my late forties my teeth had become more crooked than ever. I got Invisalign through my dentist. The series of clear aligners were easy to wear and weren’t all that noticeable. A couple caveats: 1) Invisalign is expensive (mine was $4800) and insurance didn’t cover it and 2) the process has some yucky parts. You have these “buttons” installed on your teeth to anchor the aligners, and the bumps stay put for the duration of the treatment. Also, there was some very unpleasant “shaving” between my teeth. But I’m happy with my improved smile and, because I use the final aligners as a retainer, my teeth are still straight today. Here’s an up-close look of my mouth (kinda scary, sorry) when I started Invisalign and now.
How ’bout you?
Now that our beauty secrets are all out in the open, we want to know what you think of these procedures and what’s worked (or hasn’t) for you. The more information we can share, the better!
Note: Style Challengers isn’t sponsored or compensated by anyone (yet!) so these are completely our opinions.