A few weeks ago, a friend complimented me on my skin asking if I’d had a facial. I immediately told her the truth -– that my smoothed, unusually clear complexion was down to a combination of Dry January and Botox. She immediately asked for contact details, which I shared willingly.
My Botox aesthetician (Dr Marie-Claire at Bath Facial Aesthetics) tells me she’s never received so many referrals from one person because “not many women are willing to be so upfront”. But I believe not only is it important to be honest, but that my honesty is an act of feminism.
Feminism and Botox aren’t often seen as going hand in hand, but by being upfront about why our skin looks fresh, or our brow less furrowed, we are stopping other women from potentially feeling bad about themselves. We are making it clear that slowing down aging is impossible without a bit of help.
Women are constantly bombarded by unrealistic beauty standards, from airbrushed models on magazine covers to filtered celebrities on Instagram. The least we can do is be honest with one another about any help we get.
If someone compliments me on my skin, or body shape, I make sure they know that it’s down to exercising, not being able to eat much (due to illness), not drinking, and the occasional injectable. I’m honest to the point of bluntness. I haven’t miraculously lost weight or wrinkles, and it hasn’t been ‘easy’. This is so my peers aren’t then striving after something that is unattainable without sacrifice, suffering, or scientific help.
Feminism, for me, is not only about equality of the sexes, but also making whatever damn choices you want for your body, including how you age – from dying your hair to getting Botox. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look your best.
For decades I lacked confidence, but finally – in my 40s – I’m happy in my own skin. Why? I finally like my appearance – despite my ongoing health issues – and much more importantly, I like who I am as a person, and that makes me feel great.
After decades of wanting everyone to approve of me and my choices, I no longer care what other people think. I give no value to the criticism of those I wouldn’t go to for advice, which is so empowering.
The Botox? Well, that is for me and no one else. I’m not anti-aging – I think it’s a privilege to get older – but I’m pro-feeling good about myself. I’ve spent much of my life very unwell, so decades of pain and worry etched lines prematurely onto my face.
Smoothing these gives me a boost, and not being able to frown as much when I’m in pain means my children are less aware that mum is suffering, and that is a very good thing. They’re the only people who I don’t tell about the Botox, but that’s because they’re only seven and 10. When they’re older I’ll happily explain and discuss my choices with them, especially my daughter.
My friend Sarah, who is 50 and has been having Botox regularly for a decade, says: “My daughter is 15 and I make sure she and her friends know that I’m not naturally aging. It’s my personal choice, but I want her to know that it’s normal to get wrinkles. I don’t want her to have an unrealistic exception of the aging process.”
She is spot on. I feel we have a duty as women to be as transparent as possible about all of it, especially with other women and younger girls. We’re made to feel bad about ourselves enough without lying to one another when we’ve had help, or worked our arse off, literally, to feel good in a bikini. And honestly, I struggle with those women who aren’t upfront (and I know plenty of them) claiming their slimness and frozen flawless foreheads are down to “a little bit of Pilates and a good facial”. I know it’s none of my business, but by lying I think they perpetrate unattainable patriarchal beauty standards.
Dr Elle Boag, associate professor of applied social psychology at Birmingham City University, says: “Talking honestly about tweakments, or the effort put into a fitness regime, can be seen as a form of female solidarity. If you have Botox, do it for yourself; but as a feminist, don’t lie about it. Why would you lie? Don’t you want other women to copy you and look (and feel) as good as you? Or are you embarrassed?
“Hiding the truth sends negative messages to other women. Once we’re over a certain age, wrinkles and weight gain are almost unavoidable. As feminists, we have a right to do what we want – yes, I’ve had Botox – but at the same time, if you are not honest about it, you’re upholding the same unrealistic ideals.”
So yes, I’ve had Botox and I don’t care who knows. When the time comes, I’m also not opposed to other ‘tweakments’ like fillers if I think they’ll make me feel good. Just like a haircut or a spray tan, anything I do get done will be done for me.
Feminists have bigger things to worry about than Botox: sexual assault, domestic violence, the gender pay gap, and reproductive rights are just the tip of the awful iceberg. But ladies let us stand in solidarity with one another however we choose to age – and if you get a little help to smooth things along, don’t fib about it.