There’s been a pivotal shift in how women in their 20s look at their faces. And while the reasons are arguably as multi-faceted as this generation itself, many would agree on one thing: The impact of social media cannot be underestimated. From the constant stream of supernaturally smooth jawlines and chiseled cheekbones to celebrity plastic surgeons posting before-and-after images of their work, the age of 24/7 self-documentation has spurred a novel set of beauty ideals—and, with it, a dramatic increase in cosmetic procedures. For 20-somethings, there’s no treatment more popular—or polarizing—than Botox. Need proof? According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Botox injections have increased 28 percent since 2010 amongst 20 to 29-year-olds. And the Zoom effect has only added to surge in requests for aesthetic treatments, with Botox coming in as the top minimally-invasive cosmetic procedure of the last year, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ (ASPS) 2020 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report.
While most doctors suggest focusing on the quality of the skin with a proper regimen that includes daily exfoliation and SPF protection, as well regular chemical peels or specialized treatments such as Clear and Brilliant laser resurfacing during this decade, there are still exceptions. If constant eyebrow furrowing has resulted in the first signs of an angry crease, or premature crow’s feet due to naturally thin skin are a persistent cause of frustration, injectables can help. But as any good dermatologist will note, there is a caveat: When it comes to preventative Botox and filler, there’s a fine line between targeted tweaks and doing too much too soon. Here, in-demand experts share their guidelines for women in their 20s.
Preventative Botox Can Help, When Used Conservatively
When women in their 20s first consider getting Botox, prevention is often the primary factor, since the early signs of aging—such as crow’s feet, forehead wrinkles, and fine lines—are beginning to show. “Lines get deeper and deeper with age,” explains Patricia Wexler, M.D., of Wexler Dermatology in Manhattan. “If you start [getting Botox] early enough and it’s done properly, you’re not going to need [as much] in the future.” For younger patients wary of the frozen look—remember, youthful faces move—Wexler likes to employ lower doses of Botox via ultra-targeted micro injections administered on specific areas of the face such as the forehead, brows, or around the eyes.
…But Too Much, Too Fast Will Age You
Botox only lasts three to six months—and yet what’s less commonly discussed is this: Facial muscles naturally weaken over time and going overboard in a certain area could have unwanted consequences. “If you do too much Botox on your forehead for many, many years, the muscles will get weaker and flatter,” cautions Wexler, adding that the skin can also appear thinner and looser. Moreover, as your muscles become weaker, they can start to recruit surrounding muscles when you make facial expressions. “If one stops using their forehead muscles, they may start squinting using their nose and have wrinkles along the side of their nose,” she explains. Translation: You need even more Botox for the newly recruited muscles, says Wexler. To avoid these kinds of missteps, researching a doctor diligently is essential, as is approaching injectables conservatively, and asking questions about how the treatment will be tailored to your individual needs.
The Same Goes for Fillers
“As we get older, we lose volume in our face and hyaluronic acid filler can be used as a replacement,” explains Wexler. “For younger women, injections can be used to treat areas with acne scarring or hollowness under the eyes.” During your 20s, when the face is at its fullest and healthiest, it has been argued that a shadowy gaze can even be quite charming. But in other cases, hereditary dark circles can result in a persistently tired look, which is where a few drops of filler under the eyes may be useful. As top dermatologist David Colbert, M.D. is quick to note, however, too much Botox and filler distorts the face and as a result will make you appear older. “When the line is crossed, everyone starts looking like they are related,” he also cautions of a uniform cookie-cutter appearance that lacks character or individuality. Or worse. “It’s a snowball effect of people liking something, coming back too soon [for even more], and then it gets too heavy,” adds Wexler.
Lips Are Tricky—Period
Many doctors agree that the mouth can be the clearest giveaway of work done too early. Youthful lips tend to have substantial volume and turn up naturally at the corners, meaning the best strategy for flattering them often comes down to a good signature lip color. For women who remain self conscious about the size or symmetry of their lips—think a slightly lopsided appearance, for instance—Botox can be injected into the orbicularis oris muscle along the lip line as an alternative to lip fillers. “When certain individuals smile, the lip flips in and they lose that upper volume,” says Dara Liotta, a New York City-based plastic and cosmetic surgeon. “This relaxes the outer layers of the circular muscle around the lips and looks much more natural than filler.” Additionally, injections along the jawline—or more specifically, the masseter muscle—have risen in popularity to relieve stress-induced jaw clenching and have also been known to refine the area. “A lot of people hold tension in the jaw area and when you relax that muscle, the chin comes out of the shadow of your lower lip,” explains Liotta. But the best advice of all? Forget about those self-perceived imperfections and smile. You’re only in your 20s once.