Aging gracefully isn't easy for me. I think this characteristic comes from my father, who is age 29 and holding - right, Dad?
Since turning 21, I haven't divulged my age unless necessary. Growing older has been especially hard because most of my friends are younger, I am the oldest sibling of three, and my husband is 15 months younger than I. One of my friends had to sneak a peek at my driver's license after knowing me for several years to find out my age - 32 at the time.
I always tell people that it doesn't matter what your digits are; what counts is how you feel on the inside.
But, it's hard to ignore the signs of aging.
My first sign came at the ripe age of 23 when I found strands of gray hair. I remember buying that first box of hair color and hoped no one would notice the difference.
Turning 30 wasn't any easier. Not only was I coloring my gray hairs, but now wrinkles were forming on my forehead and along my smile line. Yep, I should have listened to Mom when she warned me not to soak up the sun without protection. But I was a teenager, and being tan - I thought - made me more attractive.
Cure for wrinkles?
My attitude has changed as sun damage has translated into fine lines and age spots. Now, I slather on the sunscreen, anti-wrinkle cream and anti-aging makeup, although doctors say the latter two don't do much to ease wrinkles.
I have had a few age spots removed by Lawrence dermatologist Lee Bittenbender. He froze them with liquid nitrogen. The procedure took only a few minutes and wasn't painful. The dark spots turned even darker and then peeled off in less than a week, revealing new skin.
As I near my 40s, I have become curious about what kind of procedures might reduce my wrinkles, especially on my forehead.
After talking with several Lawrence doctors, I decided to try Botox, a toxin that temporarily paralyzes the facial muscles that cause wrinkles. It was the top cosmetic procedure performed in 2006 for both men and women with a total of 4.1 million procedures, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Dr. Carla Phipps, Dr. Scott Thellman and Dr. Robert Dinsdale all said that Botox would offer the biggest bang for my buck. The cost in Lawrence ranges from $175 to $400, depending on how much is used and where you get it done. Most doctors charge between $10 and $18 per unit. The procedure cost me $200.
It is typically used for wrinkles on your forehead, between your eyes or around the outer corners of your eyes. There is no downtime, and the reduction of wrinkles should begin in a few days and last from three to six months. The most common side effects are temporary eyelid droop and nausea.
I had the procedure done at Phipps' office Dec. 21. She went over the procedure with me and told me that the one wrinkle across my forehead probably wouldn't completely disappear because it was too defined, but that the Botox should help the others. It also would help prolong the formation of new wrinkles.
She used a tiny needle to inject 20 units of Botulinum Toxin Type A into my forehead. It stung a little, but the entire procedure took about a minute. It felt like she put seven shots straight across my forehead, but when I looked in the mirror, there were about 15 holes in three rows across my forehead.
Awaiting the results
Phipps said the procedure might give me a little headache and advised me not to do anything strenuous for a few hours. She said it would take a couple of days for the toxin to work and two weeks to see the full effect.
The tiny dots lasted only 30 minutes. I just put makeup over them and went to work. I couldn't decide if the slight headache I had that afternoon was from the Botox, from work or fretting about getting the holidays.
During the day, I kept glancing into a little mirror I keep in my desk drawer, hoping the wrinkles would vanish. Nope. They were still there, and I could still frown.
A few days later, I noticed it was more difficult to frown - and the lines were beginning to fade. It was working.
I wanted to see if my husband or family would notice over the holidays, so I didn't tell any of them. My husband didn't notice the day of the procedure or even 10 days later. That didn't really surprise me. I can color my hair and get 2 inches cut, and he hardly notices. But I was sure my family might. But they didn't. So on day 10, I told them and my husband about the Botox.
They, of course, said I didn't need to do it because they didn't see the wrinkles to begin with.
And Mom warned me: "You don't know what that will do when you are 80 years old."
I am hoping she is wrong this time. Besides, 80 is many years away and everyone else is doing it - even Dr. Phipps.
Two weeks later, the Botox has kicked in and the wrinkles are barely noticeable. I feel like my eyelids have drooped a little, but, overall, I am happy with the procedure. I probably won't do it again. Well, at least not until my next high school reunion.