The Buffalo News
7/16/02

The Botox bash

Break out the pate and Perrier, and bring your wrinkles, too

By JANE KWIATKOWSKI
News Staff Reporter
7/16/2002

Think about it, this phenomena of Botox parties.
Kind of like Tupperware parties, right? After all, both are in the business of preservation.

But this Botox procedure – injecting a refined strain of botulinum toxin into furrowed brows between sips of blanc and bites of Brie – has some people in medical circles frowning.

Botox parties, for the uninformed, occur in spas, country clubs, even aboard yachts. Billed as informational sessions, the gatherings feature food, drink and a guest appearance by a physician who talks Botox before entertaining questions and dispensing treatments.

The selling point of the parties is the comfort level afforded by the non-medical setting – not to mention the hope of a creaseless forehead.

One local radio morning show, in fact, recently had a Botox gathering on air. Botox, by the way, works to relax muscles by blocking nerve impulses that trigger wrinkle-causing muscle contractions.

Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its use for treatment of frown lines in April, cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists in the area and across the country have seen their Botox business skyrocket.

The popularity of Botox parties, however, has sparked three professional medical associations – the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Academy of Plastic Surgery and the American Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery – to draw the line on these informal gatherings.

Just how informed a consent can one give after a couple of glasses of wine?

“I’ve had to set criteria on what is an appropriate Botox party,” said Dr. Riyaz Hassanali of Maple Road in Amherst. “It can get out of hand. You want to make sure you know your audience well enough, take a medical history. I want that person to be completely aware of what they’re getting themselves into. I don’t want someone who is drunk getting Botox and falling all over the place.”

Hassanali said his Botox trade – liquid gold, as he put it – has increased 300 percent during the first six months of this year.

“It’s gone beyond what it was intended to be,” he said. “In the past, when we had Botox parties, a couple of girls would get together. Now, it’s gotten to the point where they’re in the oddest of places. I was invited to a Botox party on a yacht for the Fourth of July. It’s mind-boggling for me to have people go to the Hamptons for a Botox party.

“My main criteria is that I will not do it if there’s alcohol involved,” he added. “I need to be a physician first and foremost.”

United we Botox

Inside the Cosmetic Vein & Laser Center, Dr. Daniel Buscaglia conducts the business of Botox. He figures his Botox trade has doubled since April 15, and none of that through parties.

“I had plans to start doing Botox parties, but it felt uncomfortable professionally and ethically – just the concept,” Buscaglia said. “I did have some friends of my wife here with some wine, and we had an informal party. And then I heard other people were starting to do these. I’d rather keep it in a medical facility rather than going on someone’s yacht.”

There will likely be no office parties, though. On this weekday morning, Buscaglia is set to do five Botox treatments. Behind door No. 1, a regular customer.

“I hated those wrinkles in my forehead so much, I was considering talking to a plastic surgeon about a brow lift. That’s how deep they were,” said Susan Chieberl, 45, a self-employed hair stylist from North Buffalo.

Forget the three years of Botox, Chieberl is a young 45. Toned, not tan, and with an easy laugh, she sits with an ice-packed surgical glove on her forehead. Numbing the area is key, Buscaglia explains, paving the way for paralysis of the corrugator and procerus muscles. He fires up the syringe.

“Give me your best frown,” Buscaglia instructs before needle breaks skin. As many as 12 injections may be needed, he said, each feeling like a bee sting.

“It’s a psychological addiction,” Chieberl admits. “I look happy and relaxed all the time. I don’t make faces. When I yell at my kids, I can’t scowl.”

A single working mother of two, this woman budgets for Botox.

Cost for the injections in Western New York range from $200 to $700 per session, depending on the area treated, with some doctors offering Botox package discounts.

“This is a real luxury for me to do this,” she confides between injections. “I have to literally save my money for months. Most people put money aside for retirement, and people say that I’m not saving money for my future. I tell them I am. I consider this an investment in my future.”

Botox by the numbers

Think Stepford wives, those expressionless, pleasant robotic wonders. In reality, we may be experiencing the Stepfordization of a nation, considering that Botox manufacturer Allergan has launched a $53 million campaign to market the drug as a wrinkle fighter. The slogan?

“It’s not magic. It’s Botox Cosmetic.”

Last year, the Botox boom crowded doctor’s waiting rooms, with 60 percent more patients seeking the procedure compared to the previous year, according to a survey commissioned by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

“It’s basically saying: I’m with the trend. I’m wearing Gucci. I’m wearing Armani. And I’m getting Botox,” said Hassanali, who added that Buffalo appears to be trailing the Botox party curve.

“This is Buffalo,” Hassanali reminds. “We are not glitzy. We make money the old-fashioned way. We earn it. Most people are getting it done privately.

In fact, Hassanali’s first Botox party was four years ago – in Saudi Arabia.

“I was invited to perform Botox on a princess, and she invited her cousins and coincidentally, we wound up doing Botox on everyone,” he recalled. “Subsequently, I started reading magazines about Botox parties.”

In Rochester, the cosmetic surgeon was summoned to a day spa. After listening to Hassanali lecture, 16 of 40 women were injected with Botox.

“It was not in a medical office, but certainly all the precautions were taken just like in a doctor’s office,” he said. “And the trend continued to now I almost have to question if I want to continue doing this.”

Just say no

Next time an awards show is televised – the Grammys, for example – take a close look at the winners and their faces. Not a lot going on, is there? Their expressions appear frozen.

Still, with all the attention on this newest of age-defiers, a party advisory is being delivered to the masses.

“A casual social activity for the purpose of administering botulinum toxin, such as a Botox party, is an inappropriate and a potentially dangerous setting for performing medical procedures of any kind,” said Dr. Fred F. Castrow II in a statement issued by the American Academy of Dermatology. “Adding alcohol to the mix is a bad idea for a number of reasons, especially since bruising can be intensified.”

Even California manufacturer Allergan has indicated that Botox parties may not be the wisest of plans.

“We are not in a position to dictate how physicians run their practice,” said Christine Cassiano, Allergan public relations manager. “Ultimately we want the patients to receive the best possible care, and that it be given in a medical environment. We don’t market a Botox party.”

Even so, that didn’t stop a Buffalo classic rock radio station from inviting listeners to participate in a morning show segment featuring Botox injections by Dr. Michael Endl, an ophthalmologist, who has been administering the toxin for years.

“For years, we’ve been using Botox for blepharospasm, an uncontrolled eyelid blinking,” Endl said. “In cases of lazy eye, we’ve been using it for 15 years. Secondarily, we noticed that some of the wrinkles were becoming much less. It also helps tension headaches.”

But what about the radio studio venue, and all the cautionary advisories?

“Certainly they have to say that, and I have to agree for the most part,” Endl said. “For the most part, we have just been doing it at the office. You don’t want to lose sight that it’s a medical procedure. My biggest concern is that people should treat medical procedures seriously. Nothing is risk free.”

Source: Buffalo News

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