The reporter's perspective
Botox is a cosmetic tool that can restore confidence, take years off you and make you feel victorious in the battle against the ageing process. But only temporarily.
In theory, you could stave off the inevitability of wrinkles by using Botox for decades but eventually there will come a time when you will have to stop. And what then? Your wrinkles will come back with a vengeance and you will go from having no creases to having more lines than Hamlet's soliloquy.
"For who would bear the whips and scorns of time?" I, for one. Youth and beauty need not be only skin deep. It's a matter of perspective. Are they ugly "crow's feet" or beautiful "laughter lines" that show how often you've had cause to be happy in your life?
My husband thinks I'm having a coffee, says one woman. I suspect she is not alone. It is standing room only in the reception of The Facial Clinic, Jumeirah, as we wait for the
ExpatWoman Botox Evening to begin. Back by popular demand, this is the second time the on-line magazine has teamed up with Dr Ayman Hajjar, founder of the clinic, to offer the event in Dubai.
Drawn to the evening from as far as Ajman and Sharjah, the women have come to satisfy
their curiosity and watch the procedure firsthand. Most are in their 30s, 40s and 50s, with the average number of laughter lines one would expect from a sun-kissed lifestyle in the UAE. Between them, they share a common desire to find out if Botox really is all it's cracked up to be.
The man with the answers looks relaxed as he enters the room. We later learn Hajjar, aged 45, has been using Botox for 2 years and finds it impossible to pucker his brow. He says: "We use lots of facial muscles but, most people agree, the forehead muscles are less useful or needed. I've used Botox several times and had excellent results. My forehead looks natural but I can't raise my eyebrow up and I can't frown.
"I used to have lots of wrinkles in my forehead and when I smiled before, I had very deep crow's feet." He smiles to highlight their absence.
A new habit
Hajjar explains that for the first few days after receiving the Botox injections, the forehead will feel tight or "dead somehow" but thereafter the recipient will get used to it and learn a new habit of not attempting to frown.
Botox, a natural purified protein, works by blocking the nerve impulses and therefore relaxing the muscles. As a result, the skin becomes smoother and the wrinkles disappear.
The only danger is an overdose which could lead to a drooping eyebrow for a few weeks, says Hajjar.
For this reason he gives all his patients an average dose and invites them back after 10 days to see the results and administer any "touch-up injections" needed for free.
Hajjar, a specialist facial surgeon from the UK who has been practising for 12 years and administering Botox for 5, says: "It's a simple procedure using a very fine needle and injecting a little amount. Botox is becoming more popular because of its simplicity, quick results and affordability. It's the easiest way to take years off your age ? there's no time off, no side effects, no hospitalisation, no pain and no knife. You just numb the muscles for a short period of time."
Of the 23 women who attend, 10 choose to have the treatment there and then.
Jane Foster, a senior recruitment consultant from Umm Suqueim, volunteers to be the first under the needle. We cram into a clean and clinical treatment room, and watch as Hajjar locates the areas he will target by asking Foster to frown and marking the points with a pen.
Her treatment involves 11 tiny injections to smooth lines across her forehead, frown lines and laughter lines around the eyes. The entire process takes 5 minutes and causes only enough discomfort to prompt slight flinching of the eyelids.
Speaking of her reasons for wanting Botox, Foster says: "It's vanity I suppose, but it's no more vain than having your hair done. I don't feel I'm 44 years of age, I just want to retain some of that youth to go with the rest of my image. I feel a bit more conscious with my face getting older so it's a confidence thing, especially in a job where you are meeting a lot of people and working with a younger crowd."
I next meet with Foster following her 10-day check-up and 2 touch-up injections to see if the Botox has worked. The creases she used to get in her forehead have gone and her laughter lines are greatly diminished. It's exactly what she wanted.
"I am very pleased with my forehead. My husband really noticed the difference because he was away for four days while it was taking effect. And I haven't had any side effects or bruising," she says. Reassured about the treatment from the Botox evening and her own experience, Foster says it is likely she will top it up when the effects start to wear off. The procedure and results have also given her the confidence to arrange to have an eye lift operation at the clinic in the coming month to remove excess skin from her eyelids.
And the lady who said she was just popping out for a coffee is equally "thrilled" with her line-free new look.
Botox and celebrities
Stars of the screen and stage have long been turning to Botox to stay ahead of the game.
Casting director Paul de Freitas estimates a third of the actors he sees use Botox. But few like to admit they need any help to stay fresh-faced.
The brave minority happy to tell the world include veteran comedienne Joan Rivers and Frank Sinatra's daughter, Nancy, who describes Botox as her "best friend" in the fight against ageing.
Some have tried it and decided it's not for them including actress Teri Hatcher, who has now stopped using Botox with a view to growing old gracefully. She told Glamour magazine: "I haven't had anything done to my face in over a year and I don't plan to. It needs to be okay to have wrinkles."
The Peter Pan of pop, Sir Cliff Richard, told Breakfast with Frost he had tried Botox but said: "My eyebrows dropped? so I don't think I'll bother with that again."
Other celebrities rumoured to have used Botox include Cher, Meg Ryan, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Demi Moore and Liz Hurley. Actor Mickey Rourke is said to have lost a lead role in a British film because his face looked "too frozen".
Everything you wanted to know about Botox
What is it?
Botulinum Toxin Type A (Botox Cosmetic) is a protein complex produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which contains the same toxin that causes food poisoning.*
What does it do?
When used in a medical setting as an injectable form of sterile, purified botulinum toxin, small doses block the release of a chemical called acetylcholine by nerve cells that signal muscle contraction. By selectively interfering with the underlying muscles' ability to contract, existing frown lines are smoothed out and, in most cases, are nearly invisible in a week.*
How can it be used?
Botox can remove forehead lines, crow's feet, nose, lip and chin wrinkles, and neck lines that are "dynamic" ? appear when you make an expression. It cannot remove "static" lines that are permanently present even when all facial muscles are relaxed. Botox can also treat excessive sweating of underarms or palms.
Who can use it?
Men and women aged 18 to 65.
Any side effects?
Around 10 per cent of patients will get a very mild headache. Slight bruising is possible.
How long does it take to see results?
Between 2 to 7 days.
How long does it last?
Between 3 to 6 months.
How much does it cost?
Full face (forehead, frown lines, crow's feet) costs Dh1,500 at The Facial Clinic, Jumeirah, Dubai.
(*US Food and Drug Administration Consumer Magazine)