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Botox is booming among millennials — some as young as 18

Botox is booming among millennials — some as young as 18

Selfie culture prompts preventive approach by a generation of younger users.

ANTHONY SOUFFE – STAR TRIBUNEBotox is injected by Rebecca Suess at Kovanda Plastic Surgery in Edina.

Jordan Bailey, 25, is as likely to get Botox as her 57-year-old mother and has no problem admitting it.

“My generation doesn’t see anything wrong with getting work done,” said Bailey, who works at Edina’s Skin Rejuvenation Clinic, where she has been getting Botox injections for two years.

Like Bailey, more young women — some without a wrinkle in sight — are spending their savings to capture their youth.

It’s a phenomenon usually associated with the Kardashian capital of California, but thanks to social media and the quest for the perfect selfie, the trend is widespread — even in Minnesota.Botox treatments for those 19 to 34 years old shot up by 41 percent between 2011 and 2015, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The use of Botox tends to rise and fall with the economy. It peaked prerecession in 2005, fell off dramatically during the downturn and now has returned to high levels, with more than half a million procedures a year in this age range.

At Minneapolis Plastic Surgery and Carillon Clinic in Maple Grove, Golden Valley and Woodbury, Botox business among millennials has doubled in five years.

Young women are getting the message that fillers and freezers will keep them in the fountain of youth longer and delay the need for more invasive procedures down the road.

“Botox is being marketed in a preventive sense, rather than a treatment sense,” said plastic surgeon Richard Tholen, of Minneapolis Plastic Surgery and Carillon Clinic.

So is it preventive? Botox is the brand name of the drug botulinum toxin, the world’s most lethal neurotoxic agent. In its purest form, the drug works by paralyzing certain muscles or by blocking certain nerves, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Doctors and dermatologists tell their patients that if they can limit repetitive gestures (squinting, frowning) that eventually cause wrinkles, they can prevent them in the first place vs. trying to correct them later.

The problem is the drug lasts only a few months, then patients are back for more, causing some concern about Botox addiction.

“The thing I dislike the most is that some patients are spending a high percentage of their income on cosmetic procedures,” said Bryan Rolfes, a facial plastic surgeon at Omni Facial Plastic Surgery in Wayzata. “I don’t always feel comfortable about those situations, but it’s not my place to judge where people spend their money.”

Bailey, who is a clinical assistant and aesthetician, says cosmetic surgery procedures have helped her to feel more confident and she doesn’t see anything wrong with that. She has injected filler into her lips and under her eyes and jaw line, and has had liposuction under her chin.

“It’s addicting when you see the results right away and love it,” she said. “It’s a slippery slope, but I think most people want to look natural and not overdone.”

As millennials scrutinize themselves mercilessly in selfies, the stigma of cosmetic enhancements falls away.

For Bailey, the influence of social media and celebrities has been undeniable. She watches “The Real Housewives” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and admits that seeing their pumped up pouts and smooth skin sends a message that it’s not OK to have wrinkles, stretch marks or thin lips.

“You see nothing but beautiful, flawless people everywhere,” Bailey said.

For others, it’s more about concealing the effects of 50-hour work weeks and not enough sleep.

Melanie Lafferty has been getting Botox injections around her eyes for a year. The 33-year-old Farmington real estate agent said the procedure has eliminated the dark circles under her eyes.

“I look less tired and a little freshened up,” she said. “I’m OK with keeping up with the times.”

Many dermatologists and plastic surgeons say there are few drawbacks to Botox, but injections and fillers on someone who is too young can make them “look weird,” said Rebecca Suess, a nurse injector at Kovanda Plastic Surgery in Edina and Contour Clinic in Burnsville.

How young is too young? There are no U.S. laws preventing teens from indulging in Botox or fillers, but parental consent is required for patients younger than 18.

“At 18, most people still look pretty good, and yet we do have some 18-year-old patients,” Tholen said. “That’s typically driven by — say — their 36-year-old mothers who want their daughters to look good in a preventive sense and stay looking good.”

In general, Suess said women are paying more attention to their skin at a younger age.

“They’re better about using sunscreen and staying out of the sun, and Botox is a natural extension to that,” she said. “You’ll still look like you, just softer and refreshed. I compare it to getting your hair done.”

Selfie culture isn’t the only thing driving Botox business. Clinics offer VIP loyalty rewards programs, while Allergan, the maker of Botox, gives away free Botox treatments to women who get breast implants.

It’s not only millennial women who are smoothing the developing lines on their faces. Young men do, too — just fewer of them. Men now make up 10 percent of all Botox users, leading to it being dubbed “Brotox.” At Omni Facial Plastic Surgery, 20 percent of Botox users under age 35 are men.

“We’ve had a few guys come in before their wedding,” Rolfes said. “Most men are brought in by their wives.”

Botox users on average spend $382 per treatment, according to a 2015 report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. That’s not a drop in the bucket for a college student or someone just starting out in their career.

And yet at Skin Rejuvenation Clinic in Edina, that demographic is the fastest growing among Botox patients.

The clinic’s owner, Mark Hagberg, said his youngest patients are after a Photoshopped look (“It’s almost like auto correct,” he said) and are willing to give up other things to get it.

“They’re prioritizing,” Hagberg said. “It will cost on average $260 to treat the frown lines. That’s less than a cup of Starbucks coffee a day.”

Wendy Jensen, 33, had been “dying to try Botox” when a friend invited her to a Botox party last year. There was a two-for-one deal, so Johnson also had a filler injected under her eyes to improve the look of her under-eye bags.

“It’s more out there now, and people aren’t as afraid of it,” said the Bloomington mother of one. “It’s like whitening your teeth.”

The procedures set Jensen back $625, but the flattering attention takes away some of the financial sting. When friends compliment her, Jensen tells them her secret.

“I loved it. I would do it every six months if I could afford it,” she said. “I can tell I’m getting older and I want to look like I did in my 20s.”

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