"I'd Never Get Botox" and Other Beauty Lies

Ask us anything — except what we do at the dermatologist’s. Here’s why we fib about our faces.

By Emily Listfield
(Photo: Keate)

Even when women say they’re talking freely, however, they often hold something back. "I’ve seen a lot of pseudo-intimacy and pseudo-honesty," Wish says. "One friend might say to another, ‘Oh, I use Botox,’ but she forgets to mention that she also uses Juvederm, Perlane, and Restylane."

An ironic by-product of this atmosphere of deception is that the better — that is, the less obvious — the doctor’s work, the fewer referrals he or she will get. After all, if you’re busy telling friends that you are aging well naturally, the last thing you want is to run into one of them in the waiting room.

To Tell or Not to Tell Your Man?

Some women don’t mind if their friends or colleagues know what they’ve had done, but telling the men in their lives is another story.

"I’d been getting Botox for four years before I told my husband," Schnurnberger says. "The first time I came home with black-and-blue marks, I was prepared for him to say something, but he didn’t even notice. Then a couple of weeks later, he told me how pretty I looked, so I slipped into a sin of omission. Part of that comes from wanting to keep a sense of mystery alive, like not greeting your husband with a mudpack on." She was finally forced to tell him before The Botox Diaries came out. "He didn’t say anything at first, but a few days later he jokingly asked whether this was why we couldn’t afford a new sprinkler system." (Not surprisingly, money is one of the main reasons wives lie.)

Although there is the chance that men simply don’t notice, it is just as likely that they prefer you spare them the details. "Most men are just happy if you look good," Baranja says. "They don’t want to know how you get there." Wexler agrees: "They don’t want their illusion spoiled." She’s amazed at some of the willful ignorance she observes. "One woman was having numbing injections before electrolysis on her bikini line," Wexler says. "After a couple of months I asked her, ‘What does your husband say when you come home with massive bruising on your groin?’ She replied, ‘He never says a word. He’s English.’ If my husband didn’t say a word about bruises on my groin, I’d leave him."

Wish points out a compelling reason why men might prefer to be kept in the dark. "They would like to think that their woman is not so vain, trivial, or obsessed, because if she is that way, it might mean they are too. Not knowing protects men’s self-esteem." (This, despite the fact that Botox use rose four percent among men in 2007.)

But Schoenberg favors full disclosure at home: "I told my husband I wanted Botox, and we did the research together. It was a good experience. When you are that close to somebody, mystery is kind of silly. I tell him about my diet and the gym and wanting to lose weight; why wouldn’t I tell him about this?"

Franklin agrees. "Why not be honest? I am a strong, financially independent, confident, sexy woman. If I need a little filler, so what?" she says. "If you are secure in who you are, who cares how you got there? Lying is always harmful. It leaves you waiting for the day when someone finds out the truth. I really believe it would help if women were more open."

But for now, no one, not even the doctor, is immune to being hoodwinked. "A woman came in and told me about this new diet she was on," Wexler recalls. "She looked so good that I bought the book and went on the diet. When my office manager noticed, she asked what I was doing, and I said, ‘Didn’t you see how fantastic that woman looked?’ She replied, ‘Schmuck — you did lipo on her six weeks ago!’"

Emily Listfield’s most recent novel, Waiting to Surface, will be published in paperback by Washington Square Press in August.

Originally published in MORE magazine, June 2008.

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