I must tell you,” he said in his thick, Czechoslovakian accent, “You are looking very beautiful tonight.” We were at a crowded art opening and had only briefly met once before. So, I was taken aback by his steely blue-eyed gaze and the sincerity of his compliment as he studied my face intently. I felt myself blushing and took a quick gulp of my Chardonnay. “Why, th-th-thanks—that’s nice,” I managed to awkwardly stutter out before scurrying off to the other side of the room like an eighth-grader at her first dance.
Sure, he’s the father of one of my best friends, he’s more than 20 years my senior and, of course, I’m happily married. But that smooth compliment was proof—the injections totally worked! My beauty adventure had started a couple of weeks before when my friend Caryn Clark had convinced me to try the popular Rodan + Fields skin care program with its cleansers and creams and exfoliators, oh my.
I’ve never been very good at beauty regimes and, in fact, have always practiced the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to. As a teenager, I’d merrily go out in the Florida sun slathered in Crisco—yes, Crisco, as in, basically, lard—to achieve the most bronzed brown skin possible. Unsatisfied with the effect that frying grease combined with direct sunlight had on my complexion, I would cleverly wrap a piece of cardboard with aluminum foil to reflect the dangerous UV rays smack-dab onto my face.
One would think I might moisturize after cooking my 16-year-old face in a damaging solar melt, but no—not wanting to get acne, I’d douse it in rubbing alcohol instead.
Some of the beauty tips I grew up with in the ’80s weren’t actually bad—hemorrhoid cream for bags under the eyes (hey, as the slogan goes, “It shrinks the swelling!”) and a generous dab of toothpaste to dry up a stubborn pimple overnight—but other tips were ridiculous. Besides the fact that most of us couldn’t have cared less about sunscreen back then, I remember one practice that had to do with a wet Q-tip and a bit of Comet (yes, the powdered cleanser used for sinks and such) as an in-home teeth whitener.
The point is, as a teenager and even on up into my 40s and then some, I’ve been a total slacker when it comes to taking care of my skin. Miraculously (and trust me, I’m knocking on wood as I write), my reckless behavior with Crisco, Colgate and Comet (yes, I tried it, don’t judge) never resulted in any serious harm. And while my dermatologist has gasped in horror at my youthful antics, I have a clean bill of health thus far.
As I’ve aged, I’ve stopped all my silly beauty tricks, and for years all I’ve done is use a generic facial scrub from CVS and some Vaseline to remove eye makeup (still no sunscreen—I know, I know). But as the years have set in, so has vanity.
I see women my age and older who go gaga when it comes to surgery, fillers and Botox, but as cruel as I was to my face at 16, I just couldn’t see subjecting it to knives or needles. Besides, when cosmetic modifications first became the norm 15 to 20 years ago, I noticed that so many of my friends and acquaintances were looking expressionless and bizarre—as though you could ice-skate on their foreheads and use their lips as flotation devices. Their eyelids looked uncomfortably stretched and their abnormally raised eyebrows gave them a permanent look of shock and awe.
But it seems that time and technology have furthered the way our beauty can be enhanced. Once I committed to the Rodan + Fields routine, I actually saw a difference—my skin looked smoother and felt healthier—and maybe that’s what gave me the courage to try my bravest adventure of all.
I’d resisted injectables for years, even though so many of my girlfriends were happily succumbing to the needle. Sometimes I’d see a friend at happy hour and she’d look fresh and rejuvenated as she sported a new glow, and when I’d ask her if she’d been on vacation or gotten a raise at work, she’d readily admit, “No! I just got Botox—you should do it!”
As envious as I was by how youthful my friends looked, I’d order them to frown. They’d squint their eyes and try and yet still there would be no furrow in their brows.
“See!” I’d say triumphantly, “You have NO wrinkles!”
And no matter who it was, always my girlfriend would respond, “And that’s a problem?”
They spoke the truth. That smooth, pretty skin looked good and there’s no denying that, as long as they weren’t overdone, injectables were effective and enhancing.
Still, I remained a little skeptical until I finally asked my pal Vicki what she did to look so good. Vicki is my blond, blue-eyed friend and neighbor who takes fabulous care of herself. She works out, she maintains a healthy diet, and she uses sun protection. She’s in her late 40s but could easily pass for 30, and she gets asked about her secret often. Luckily, she’s happy to share—facial rejuvenation. Specifically, injectables by Kamii Tursi, MSN. Fortunately, Kamii is a medical professional who works with a doctor, and she knows how to expertly handle the bacterial toxin botulin that temporarily paralyzes facial muscles.
Knowing I was convinced yet nervous about my beauty adventure, Vicki made it easy by inviting Kamii and a gaggle of girlfriends over to her place for a gathering where we enjoyed fruit, cheese and gossip—and I got to watch while several friends went under the needle before I did.
Only one (besides me) was a virgin to the needle, and no one even flinched. Kamii carefully explained everything she was doing step by step. So I bravely stepped up for my turn.
“I don’t even like getting a blood test,” I told her nervously. “I’m terrified of needles.”
She reassured me that she’d been doing this for years and not to worry. I took another look at Vicki’s youthful face and mustered up more bravery. First, Kamii applied a numbing agent to my forehead and especially to that annoyingly deep worry line right between my eyes. After it took effect, she asked me to give her my angriest of frowns. Then she gently pinched the skin between my eyes and did the deed. A pinch here, a poke there—just a few pinches and pokes and it was over in what seemed like seconds. No blood, no bruising—nothing. There were high fives and cheers all around. I did it.
Kamii told me the effects would really peak noticeably after 10 days to two weeks, and she wasn’t kidding. I could still frown, but it was a softer, gentler frown. My forehead was smooth and unlined. I wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner and why I hadn’t gotten it done on my crow’s feet, too.
The results of the adventure are still in full effect and it’s hard to say whether I’ll go under the needle again as that pesky frown line starts deepening again. If my lines come back and I don’t like them, at least I know I can soften them if I choose to. And if they don’t bother me, I can keep them until I don’t want to.
I suppose that’s the biggest takeaway from my beauty adventure: It’s good to be in control, and even better than youth and beauty is empowerment.
I must remember that power the next time a handsome foreign man compliments me. I will meet his gaze head on, smile and respond confidently, “Thank you.”