Inside the unexpected boom of foot Botox, a procedure ridding high heels of their masochistic roots – Screen Shot
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Inside the unexpected boom of foot Botox, a procedure ridding high heels of their masochistic roots

After the COVID-19 pandemic shoved our stationary feet into Crocs, Cruggs, and Birkenstocks, the footwear industry has now announced the comeback of high heels as the ultimate symbol of a wild night out. And this time around, it turns out that its resurrection has been meticulously YOLOfied—complete with a medical procedure that’s here to stay for the foreseeable future and could potentially tempt us back into Satan’s footwear.

Fashion’s high heel agenda

Remember the time when bread shoes and mullet shoes gripped our FYPs as part of the internet’s obsession with ugly footwear? In a bid to combat the absolutely unhinged and enforced comfort trends over the pandemic, coupled with our physical return back to offices, the footwear industry is increasingly buckling back into high heels.

Starting May 2022, searches for platform heels went up 69 per cent month on month, while lace-up styles witnessed a 45 per cent monthly increase, as noted by fashion technology company Lyst. Meanwhile, British footwear and accessories brand Kurt Geiger reported that the end of global lockdowns had a dramatic effect on shoe trends—with heels becoming the retailer’s leading shoe category, overthrowing sneakers for the first time since 2017.

The company also noted that heel heights had been declining for almost a decade as the trend for mega-high heels moved on to mid-height heels or even flats. While heels greater than 100 millimetre (mm) dominated the brand’s sales between 2012 and 2015, the most popular height was reduced to 75 mm in the years leading up to 2020.

As part of the footwear’s soaring 2022 return, Kurt Geiger believes it will follow the motto of ‘the higher the heels, the better’ and expects that “there will soon be demand for the highest heel height of 115 mm, last seen in 2013.”

That being said, it’s worth noting that consumers are not particularly interested in ravaging their feet to the point of extinction this time around. Sure, the core values of the comeback hinge on being “fun, sexy, and wholly impractical,” but it’s also dedicated to taking the pain out of the ‘beauty is pain’ equation. Alongside the rise of socks and heels as one of humanity’s biggest fashion crimes, high heels are now placing the spotlight on comfort. More specifically, alleviating discomfort with a cosmetic procedure dubbed ‘foot Botox’.

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Foot Botox and the therapeutic benefits of neuromodulators

Neuromodulators (injectable muscle relaxants) like Botox have long been associated with aesthetic concerns like minimising the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Over the pandemic, gen Zers’ obsession with anti-ageing methods fostered a boom of baby Botox—which also led to the questionable rise of at-home Botox parties.

However, there’s more to neuromodulators than their ability to plump and prime faces. In 1989, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Botox to treat eye disorders like blepharospasm (uncontrollable blinking) and strabismus (crossed eyes). Since then, Botox has been deployed for a number of non-cosmetic reasons including chronic migraines and overactive bladders.

When it comes to the treatment’s migration to our feet, foot Botox in particular has witnessed a surge in demand post-pandemic. The procedure essentially involves injecting a combination of Botox and dermal filler into the arch of your foot. Here, fillers are also injected into the ball of your foot with the aim of adding a cushion of skin to reduce discomfort from wearing heels.

Now, foot Botox may sound like an extensive measure for donning a particular type of footwear, but it’s important to note that the procedure is not intended for cosmetic purposes—when compared to treatment for crow’s feet, for example. Instead, foot Botox is all about how your feet feel.

“The treatment is for anyone who wears high heels regularly and gets significant pain in their feet while wearing them,” Dr. Stephen Humble, a consultant in aesthetic medicine at Harley Street’s Hedox Clinic, told The Independent. Foot Botox also helps bunions or calluses—the two painful side effects of wearing heels—from worsening over time and addresses conditions like hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating).

But how exactly does Botox mitigate these symptoms in question? According to experts, the neuromodulator works by paralysing the muscles in your heel bone, causing the Substance P neurotransmitter (which modulates pain) to become inactive and lead to less pain overall.

“It’s very safe, but with any treatment there are always minor risks, like infection, allergy, or bruising,” Humble continued. “One downside is that the foot is a sensitive area, so there’s some pain with the injection. Another is that it wears off over time, so you have to repeat the procedure.” At the same time, it should be noted that the benefits of foot Botox last about as long as they do elsewhere in the body. Simply put, the increased movement of the feet won’t cause the neurotoxin to wear off more quickly when compared to the forehead.

Although treating the glabellar lines between the eyebrows typically involves 10-25 units of Botox, the feet can sometimes require 70 to 200 total units. Depending on the severity of the patient’s condition, foot Botox can also get expensive, and fast. At Humble’s clinic, the treatment will reportedly set you back a foot-trembling £590.

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The post-pandemic boom of foot conditions

Foot Botox previously gripped heel-wearers in 2016. At the time, the treatment became increasingly popular to help women survive parties over the holiday season. According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban, after two years of revelling in WFH-friendly footwear, people are now having trouble adjusting to towering heels—which has in turn led to a rise in patients seeking care for fast-growing foot pain.

“Weight is distributed more evenly in flat shoes, [whereas] all of the pressure is thrust to the front of the foot in a heel,” the expert said in an interview with Fashionista.

Meanwhile, dermatologist Dr. Michelle Henry noted that, even if you’re not wearing six-inch stilettos regularly, factors like “sports, [tight] shoes, age, or prolonged standing on flat surfaces can all lead to the development of plantar fasciitis,” a foot condition that presents as heel and arch pain, swelling, and persistent discomfort that can last months at a stretch.

Coupled with the dramatic comeback of the footwear, it’s hence no surprise to witness more and more heel-wearers ditching their Dr. Scholl’s inserts in favour of a more permanent solution. After all, the pain associated with donning high heels is here to stay as long as they remain as a footwear option. Now, with foot Botox in the equation, the footwear choice is slowly ridding itself of its borderline-masochistic roots.

Gen Z is fuelling an anti-ageing beauty boom with baby Botox

Last month, TikTok crowned gua sha, an ancient Chinese healing method that involves gliding a flat jade or rose quartz stone over the skin, as a must-have step in a comprehensive skincare routine. Hailed as the successor of jade rollers, the tool addresses a plethora of skin concerns from adult acne to wrinkles and sagging skin. Gen Z’s upcoming interest, as part of a growing movement towards preventative ageing regimens, now seems to be baby Botoxa non-invasive treatment considered to be the future of injectables.

On a quest to break down its demand, Screen Shot spoke to a gen Z and a ‘zillennial’ skinvestor with first-hand experiences of the treatment. From Snapchat dysmorphia to suggested alternatives, here are all of the insights they had to share.

What is baby Botox and how is it different from traditional Botox?

Contrary to the literal meaning of the term, baby Botox has surprisingly nothing to do with babies. It can, however, be considered as an offspring of traditional Botox in terms of the amount administered. Baby Botox, also known as ‘preventative Botox’, refers to a treatment that involves injecting lower volumes of Botox using micro-droplet techniques to give off a natural and even look. For example, instead of injecting 25 units in an area, only 10 units may be administered.

Considered as a great entry-level treatment, baby Botox is recommended for those who have lighter, less ‘etched’ lines or those who want to get a head-start on anti-ageing methods altogether. Although both traditional and baby Botox use the same strength of botulinum toxin, baby Botox is particularly coveted for its retention of facial movements. According to Byrdie, dermatologists avoid relaxing the muscles completely while administering baby Botoxthereby retaining facial flexibility in contrast to the “frozen” and “expressionless” features that can sometimes result from traditional Botox.

In addition to movement retention, benefits of the treatment also include the prevention of wrinkles and fine lines with fewer side effects than traditional Botox. In terms of efficacy, baby Botox has a minimal effect in comparison. However, this should not be confused with the effectiveness of the procedure. Baby Botox produces less prominent results to aid a natural look that eventually wears off in a couple of months.

The treatment also offers a versatile solution in terms of the areas on which it can be administered. Byrdie highlighted how baby Botox can be used everywhere ranging from the décolletage to tighten fine lines and under the arms to prevent sweatingall the way to the jaw muscles in order to prevent clenching and grinding of the teeth.

The roots of a booming market

I found very, very faint fine lines on my forehead close to my hairline (where my forehead naturally creases) and it concerned me,” said Suhanna De Silvaa hair, beauty and lifestyle YouTuber based in Canada. Noticing the lines shortly after finding her first greying hair at the age of 25, the ‘zillennial’ YouTuber admitted to having a bit of a meltdown. “There’s nothing wrong with ageing, you see the first signs of ageing at 25 but I compared myself to my parents and brothers who all look super young and freaked out on myself,” De Silva said. “This also happened while I was stuck at home, laid off because of COVID and life was just miserable. I felt like ‘fixing’ the fine lines on my forehead was something I could at least have control over at a time where life was (and still is) extremely unpredictable.”

The YouTuber also added how nobody else noticed the lines except her, “The nurse who I did my consultation with could barely see them, it just bothered me.” De Silva decided to get baby Botox done for the first time in October 2020. “I got 10 units in my hairline/forehead area, which is actually less than the standard amount for baby Botoxit is generally 15 units for the forehead,” she said. When asked about her experience during and after getting baby Botox, the YouTuber used ‘easy’ and ‘painless’ to describe the same.

“The entire process of going into the clinic and getting it injected took less than ten minutes, the staff were all extremely friendly and professional. Even my consultation process was great, I didn’t feel like I was being upsold on services I didn’t want or need.” In terms of the side effects, the YouTuber admitted to experiencing slight headaches when the Botox first kicked in but nothing terribly adverse.

As for Julia, whose name has been changed for anonymity, the gen Zer got preventative Botox done in April 2021. “Due to genetics, people in my family tend to have a wide-set jaw and heavy lower face,” she explained.I had previously done Botox for my TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) to alleviate pain and clicky jaws, as recommended by my dentistthat gave me an entry into exploring non-invasive procedures.” Two years later, in 2021, Julia got a small dose of 0.5 millilitres injected into her chin for cosmetic reasons. She also highlighted how she was careful about the brand, injector and amount usedfurther stressing the need for proper research before getting such procedures done.

‘Skinvestors’ of a digital age

With the anti-ageing market predicted to rake in over $88 billion by 2026, a new beauty persona called ‘skinvestor’ is on the rise. The persona symbolises a wave of well-informed, investigative and science-first beauty consumers who perceive skincare as an entire investment.

I started to really go in-depth with my skincare routine from the age of 20 when I started to experience the worst acne of my life,” De Silva said, highlighting how she believes in skinvestmentprovided you have the means to do so since skincare isn’t always accessible. “I started to focus my routine on fighting acne, fading hyperpigmentation and keeping my skin barrier healthy. Now, at the age of 26, my routine has shifted. I do still focus on fading hyperpigmentation (brown girl problems) and maintaining a healthy skin barrier, but I’ve also made anti-ageing a priority.” Over at Julia’s, the gen Zer admitted to doing a big shop and investing in skincare but sticking to the same set of products and using them over again.

So why is the target market for the anti-ageing industry getting younger? What exactly is gen Z grasping at with such preventative ageing regimens? Let’s start with the obvious cultural conversation surrounding their upbringing among technology and the age of digital filters.

“I 10,000 per cent think social media and filters have influenced gen Z into getting anti-ageing treatments that they don’t necessarily need,” De Silva started, outlining how gen Z has a different perception of what people in their 20s and 30s are supposed to look like than their earlier generations. “They’re also used to seeing people who are young but look older than their age, so they think they’re going to age faster than they actually will. In reality, a lot of these treatments can end up making them look older (the overfilled faces) than younger.”

In January 2015, Snapchat introduced ‘Lenses’ which revolutionised how users looked at themselves both literally and metaphorically. Criticised for fostering an era of toxic ideals among young girls, Julia highlighted how ‘Instagram face’ and ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ are now presumptuous terms used to explain gen Z’s perception of beauty.

“It’s easy to point fingers at the age of Instagram face, after all AR (Artificial Reality) is so readily available for just about any demographic,” Julia explained. “Perhaps my judgement is skewed as I make filters, but if we’re still blaming filters as the sole source of influence for the perception gen Zers have on themselves, then perhaps we should open up the conversation around influencers. Would these filters still be popular if influencers and celebrities were not promoting a certain kind of look?”

Capitalism often drives trends and women have (unfortunately) been sold idealistic and often unreal expectations of beauty in the form of fads, products and treatments for decades before the rise of social media,” she added. However, Julia still believes that as designers, there needs to be ethics and regulation behind filtersalong with more open conversations surrounding the topic.

A stigmatised timeline

On 26 March 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that “people who get a certain cosmetic procedure should be aware they could have some unwanted side-effects with a COVID vaccine.” “Certain procedures” here included dermal fillers like Botoxwith multiple reports of recipients experiencing facial or lip swelling after receiving the Moderna vaccine.

In terms of the risks and aftercare suggested by their clinics in this regard, Julia admitted to being vaccinated and not experiencing any side effects so far. As for De Silva, the YouTuber had gotten baby Botox done in October 2020, which wore off in January 2021. “My city has been in lockdown for so many months and the COVID vaccine (Pfizer gang) wasn’t even available to me until well after my Botox had worn off,” De Silva explained, adding how she hasn’t been able to get a refill on her Botox ever since and thereby hasn’t been advised of any precautions. “If you’re worried about experiencing adverse effects but you’d like to get vaccinated, prioritise your vaccine. Botox can be done later on, your health is more important,” the YouTuber stressed.

When asked if the news of their treatment encouraged or influenced others around them to try it out, both Julia and De Silva denied the same. However, De Silva highlighted the difference between influencing those who weren’t planning on getting baby Botox done in the first place versus those who were thinking about it but were just hesitant. When De Silva talked about her experience with baby Botox on her channel, it gave those in the latter faction the validation they needed to try it out.

“Most of the questions I had gotten were from women around my age who were already considering baby Botox but needed to hear someone else’s real experience first before deciding if it was something they really wanted to do,” De Silva added.

Let’s face it, the news of a 23-year old getting baby Botox done (not to mention all of those times baby Botox is looped into the same category as traditional Botox) is typically frowned upon and deemed ‘unnecessary’. De Silva explained how this label has been forged out of the negative connotation and stigmas surrounding Botox “because we’re so used to seeing people who have poorly-done Botox that can severely age the face.”

“These frozen faces are the first thing that comes to mind when we hear the word ‘Botox’,” De Silva continued, adding how it often turns people off. “The reality is, good Botox is undetectable and won’t make you look older, puffier or crazy. Nobody noticed my fine lines prior to getting baby Botox, and nobody noticed my baby Botox after it was injected, then subsequently worn off. I think we’ve adopted a mindset of ‘the more the better’ when really, less is more.”

The lucrative way forward

Way before gua sha hit TikTok, the traditional healing method was preached as a natural alternative to injectable neurotoxinscatering to both body and mind. In fact, a quick Google search of the alternatives suggested to baby Botox would land you with FaceXercise, a method that uses cupping and facial massage to improve blood flow, acupuncture, face patches or ‘frownies’, facial creams and chemical peels.

Before getting baby Botox done, De Silva was suggested a glycolic peel to treat her fine lines since they were faint. However, the YouTuber outlined how the peel requires multiple sessions, costing higher in the long run. In terms of all the other alternatives mentioned above, FaceXercise averages around $380 for just the initial visit with limited providers while facial creams and chemical peels require expensive prescriptions and frequent chase-ups. “Baby Botox was just a quick fix that was cost and time-efficient,” De Silva said.

Given the emerging research in the skincare industrycoupled with its rising demand among younger generationsmore alternatives to Botox are inevitable in the future. So be it baby Botox or microneedling, it is essential to do thorough research and consider both the pros and cons before skinvesting in such procedures. Since most of gen Z’s appeal with baby Botox lies in the fact that it is preventive rather than overly corrective, it is also essential to lay down some basic skincare maintenance which has a significant impact down the line.

Seriously, ageing will happenit’s inevitable,” De Silva mentioned. “That being said, it’s easier to prevent severe ageing than it is to reverse it.” The YouTuber highlighted how we don’t need to use every other active ingredient in the market, neither exfoliate nor use retinol every single day. Daily steps like removing makeup before hitting the hay, staying hydrated and maintaining a well-balanced diet go a long way in this sense. “Oh, and wear SPF during the daytime, no ifs, ands, or buts!”