Why twentysomethings here are convinced they need to spend hundreds of pounds on the cult anti-ageing jab. Maureen Coleman probes the controversial injections that even teens are now getting.
When Botox was first introduced as an anti-ageing treatment for men and women with moderate to severe frown lines, the average age of the user was 41.
But in the image-obsessed, celebrity culture we now live in, there is a growing trend among twenty-somethings — and shockingly, even some teens — to splash out on injections which they believe will freeze their looks and stave off wrinkles in later life.
To these young people who are more than happy to part with their cash for fillers and Botox, growing old gracefully is an anathema. They are determined to prevent the hands of time taking a toll on their youthful appearances.
In Los Angeles, Botox and dermal fillers have replaced face-lifts as the anti-ageing treatment of choice. Celebrities like Lindsay Lohan (25) is a fan of collagen lip fillers, while the Hills star Heidi Montag, who is also 25 and once admitted to having no less than 10 plastic surgery procedures in 24 hours, is a regular user of Botox.
Closer to home, The Only Way Is Essex teen Harry Derbridge revealed he'd had Botox jabs before starring in panto, while last year's X Factor finalist Marcus Collins confirmed he'd had Botox administered before performances.
Worryingly, a tabloid newspaper last year uncovered an alarming statistic — teenagers are now driving a 15% increase in demand for Botox injections. And they don't come cheap. Fillers can cost from £300 upwards, while Botox injections range from £200 to £500. Upkeep is advised every six months. But what of the physical cost of these procedures?
Ironically, some experts claim beginning Botox treatments at too early an age can actually do more harm than good and could inadvertently age the user.
Consultant plastic surgeon Stephen Sinclair, from the Fitzwilliam Clinic in Belfast, says there are no studies to prove that having Botox in your teens or twenties can have adverse affects or cause premature ageing.
And he says, given every client's individual history, it is difficult to pinpoint the best time to start treatment.
“As you age, the fat distribution in your face changes, putting more pressure on areas like the jowls or the nasolabial fold,” he explains.
“This normally starts to happen in your thirties or forties. There is a growing trend among young women to prevent lines and folds by use of Botox and fillers and these treatments are very successful.
“But having it done in your teens and twenties does seem early. The main thing young women should be doing now is leading a healthy lifestyle. Eat well, get exercise, don't smoke, don't binge drink. All these will help your skin in later life.
“Of course it can come down to genes and every person is different. Some women look younger than they are, some look older. It's hard to give a definitive time-point as to when you should start these treatments. But once you start losing fat, that's when they can be very useful.
“If you are thinking of having treatments done, it is essential to seek out a good practitioner and a good clinic, somebody who has knowledge of this field and the experience and expertise to do the job right.”
Neval Bell (20), Belfast, hairdresser
“I was 19 when I had Botox done for the first time. I know that sounds young — and my clients are all shocked when I tell them — but I want to prevent wrinkles forming when I'm older, so that's why I started it now.
I know I don't have wrinkles but it's a preventative thing for later on. And to be honest, I love it.
After I'd had it done the first time I noticed almost straight away that my brows had lifted. It gave a really nice shape to my brows and made my eyes look wide awake.
And people noticed. Clients commented on how nice my brows looked. It's hard to explain, it just looked like I had a brow lift done.
I've had Botox twice now and I'm going to get it done a third time when I get paid.
I've also had fillers in my lips. I had been off work for a week and I called in one day, with my boyfriend. My friend had hers done and they looked amazing. I really wanted to get mine done too, so my boyfriend offered to pay for the fillers.
He said I didn't need them, but if I wanted them that much, he'd get me the fillers as a present. I got them done but still feel the top lip's not full enough, so I'm going to get a top-up.
I do think young girls feel under pressure to look good because of the celebrity culture. I would give anything to look like Rihanna or Beyonce, they're both so gorgeous. When I’m all dolled up, make-up, false eye-lashes on, I do feel good about myself. But I do think a lot of girls are striving for perfection.
I'd also love to have a nose job done, but not just now, maybe in a few years. I don't really care if people think I'm too young, I'm looking after myself for the future.
And the way I see it is ‘why not?’. If I can, then I might as well. Like I say, I love it. I'll keeping having Botox done.”
Claire Crothers (28), Belfast, hair salon manager
“I think that working in the beauty industry does put a certain amount of pressure on me. I remember seeing other girls having Botox done and the results were amazing, so I thought ‘why not?'.
I got it done for the first time a couple of year ago and I've had Botox injections two or three times since, at £199 for a few areas.
The first time I had it done, I was so impressed. I woke up, looking much fresher, it almost looked like I'd had a brow lift. My eyebrows were always quite flat, now I have a great arch. I know I didn't exactly have noticeable wrinkles, but you could see frown lines when I made facial expressions, and I'm getting it done for preventative reasons.
I've been told this is the perfect age to start getting Botox, you freeze the muscles now, you stop deep lines forming.
I've also had fillers injected in my lips three times, at £250 a go. They plump them up and make them look really full. And yes, I would have everything done if I could afford it, to my body though, nothing else to my face. I'd never get fillers anywhere else in my face, except the lips. I wouldn't want to end up like one of those women you see with ‘pillow faces', who've had fillers in their cheeks.
I do think young women are very much influenced by celebrities and the media. Personally, I think Eva Mendes is beautiful. She's my idea of perfection.
But I think Chloe Sims from The Only Way Is Essex has gone way over the top and looks awful.
Maybe all this is a confidence boost for me. I had a boyfriend who never ever paid me any compliments and we all like to be told we look nice.
Mum worries about me. She's 48 and has had nothing done at all. She says by the time I'm 30 I'll be plastic!
I do think these treatments can be addictive though. Once you start getting them done and seeing the difference, it's hard to stop. But I'm happy the way I look now. If I could stay like this, that would be great!”
Gemma Garrett (30), model/presenter
“I had Botox done for the first time when I was 27 and was writing a feature on it for Sunday Life. I didn't find it painful at all, just a little scratch, and to be honest, didn't notice any difference straight away.
But after a few days my complexion looked really smooth and I was happy with the overall result. The only thing is, I couldn’t move my forehead or raise my eyebrows.
I've had it done a few times since and actually prefer it when the Botox is starting to wear off. You still have the smoothness but you have a bit of movement as well.
Botox is cleverly marketed as a preventative treatment and I think that's why a lot more women
in their 20s are having it done. They believe it will stop them from getting wrinkles. Maybe I'm a bit more cynical now, but I'm not so sure. In saying that, I’m not ruling out having it done again. Never say never.
I'm not keen on fillers though. I don't think I've ever really seen them done well. Those big lips just look ridiculous. And I had such a scare over the breast implants and having to have them removed, that I'd be frightened to give fillers a try.
I'm working on a BBC3 documentary about why so many young girls want boob jobs and it seems to me that having cosmetic surgery done can be quite addictive. These young girls get work done on one area, but that's not enough. Then they start looking at other parts of their body to improve. I have to say, that worries me.
Since I've turned 30 I think I've become a lot more comfortable in my own skin. People are obsessed with trying to stay young and looking like an 18-year-old, but I've embraced my 30s and feel happier in myself. Like many women, I think I've got better with age.
I've no regrets about having Botox done and like I said, may well have it again if I have a big event coming up, but for now, I've none and that's fine by me.”
Amanda Turner (24), Belfast, model hopeful
“I'm not working at the minute but I'm trying to break into modelling, so that's why I had Botox done. Modelling is very competitive, plus I've been told by people that I look older than I am, so I want to make sure I'm doing whatever I can to look after myself for the future.
The first time I had Botox injected, in between my eyes and my forehead, I noticed a few days afterwards that the lines had disappeared.
I have a doctor who comes out to my house to do it and I trust him 100%. I looked into it beforehand, did my research, and I'm confident it's completely safe.
There are a lot of myths surrounding Botox but I think that I'll be ok, as long as I don't overdo it. You see some people with a droopy eyelid when it's gone wrong or women with frozen foreheads and no facial expressions, unable to move. I'm not entirely frozen, I can still raise my eyebrows.
To be honest, when I've had it done, no-one's really noticed. But I notice — and that's the main thing. I had a tiny scar above my left eye and that's one of the reasons I considered Botox in the first place.
When I look at my photographs I think I look better now. I've also had fillers done in my lips last year, to make them look bigger. But I wasn't happy with the way they turned out. I ended up looking like Daffy Duck.
In saying that, I wouldn't rule out having fillers done again. I know lots of people who are crazy for Botox and fillers. It's a huge industry now and I did really look into it before I decided to have the Botox done.
I don't have crow's feet around my eyes and only very small lines on my forehead, but if I want to crack into modelling, I need to take care of myself.
And to the people who say I'm vain, how many of them wouldn't leave the house without doing their hair or putting on make-up? Everyone wants to look their best. I've two sisters, one is 25 and the other 26, and I’m trying to talk them into having it done.
The way I see it is it's better to start early.”
Going back to the natural look
Botox can hold back the years as if by magic, but use too much of it and you could end up looking more frozen than fabulous.
Indeed, in 2008, one cosmetic surgery expert told a medical conference that Nicole Kidman was so ‘over-Botoxed’ she was giving the industry a bad name.
Kidman (44) admitted to using it in the past, but last year said she had given it up because she didn’t like the results. “Now I don’t use it anymore — and I can move my forehead again,” she said.
Dannii Minogue (40) has also been open about using Botox in the past but two years ago said she’d decided to stop using it after viewers complained she looked too plastic on screen.
And Amanda Holden, who once declared that having Botox was as normal as cleaning your teeth, told an interviewer in 2009 that she had also stopped using it because she’d noticed everyone who did looked the same.
The 41-year-old mum-of-two first had the injections in 2007 while filming ITV drama Wild At Heart in Africa.
“I was constantly frowning in the sun,” she said. “I noticed crow's feet coming and that's when I had it.”
And she added: “I don't know a single person who has not had something done.”