At Oscar bashes, red carpet guests look their best, but at another party in Los Angeles, only those who feel they look their worst make the guest list.
Still, the plastic surgery party — like the Oscar celebrations — is a quintessentially L.A. event. The menu includes food, drinks and treatments with the popular wrinkle-zapper, Botox.
Debbie Rosenquist attended the party after discovering that she didn't like the changes she saw in the mirror.
"I'm 43 years old," she said. "I like being 43, but I don't like seeing what's happening to my face."
Pressure to Look Young
She is not the only one.
"There's a lot of pressure out there for women — especially in the professional world — to look like a magazine model," said Janet Fields, another patient.
Dr. Debra Luftman holds the exclusive, invitation-only plastic surgery party at her office. Lunch is served in the waiting room, while the Botox injection treatments are given in the office's rear rooms.
Botox is actually a form of toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which is known to cause food poisoning.
In the late 1970s, researchers discovered that the bacteria could be used for a good purpose, too. When purified, freeze-dried and mixed with saline, it can minimize involuntary muscle spasms by temporarily blocking nerve impulses. In 1989, the Food and Drug Administration approved Botox for people suffering eye-muscle disorders.
But later, researchers also found that tiny amounts of Botox can make wrinkles temporarily disappear by releasing the tension in surrounding muscles. Cosmetic specialists began snapping it up. It is particularly good on the upper third of the face, and patients like the way it eliminates frown lines, forehead lines and crow's feet.
"It is injected into the muscles, and by doing that it paralyzes the muscles for a period of time, usually about from three to six months," Luftman said. Hence, she has many repeat customers.
Where’s the Party?
Moms, driven to look their best, can't wait to get to Luftman's event. Upon arrival, guests are able to choose from the doctor's cosmetic party menu, with each "entrée" costing hundreds of dollars. They slip into the back room for the Botox and collagen injections.
One of the key attractions of the Botox procedures is that the injections are quick, and usually cause no ill effects.
About 10 percent of people receiving Botox injections receive some bruising, which can last as long as a week. Some people get headaches the day of the treatment. If the doctor performing the procedure uses poor technique, Botox can result in drooping eyelids or brows.
But compared to other treatments, it is fast and relatively easy.
"I can do it while my kids are in school," said Linda Leibovitch, another guest.
While Botox is used for wrinkles, collagen injections are often used for the lower part of the face, including the lips, where they provide a fuller look.
One of the party-goers, Joan Rubin, tried the Botox treatment for the first time at the age of 69.
"I feel youthful and I want to retain some of that, physically," Rubin said.
Seated in the operating chair, she is undaunted by the surgical procedure ahead. "Anyone who's had a baby can live through anything," she said.
Janet Field, Rubin's daughter got zapped with a $300 "photo-facial," an intense light that tightens the skin.
"She did my nose, and right down here, on either side of my cheekbones," Field said.
Another woman said that her daughter prompted her into the procedure.
"I have a daughter going off to college," said Jami Abell-Venit. "I don't want to look like I have a daughter going off to college."
Added to Social Calendars
What's unusual about the get-together is probably the fact that the patients would rather bond over Botox, than show up for the procedures solo. But it makes sense to the attendees.
"I think it helps reduce your anxiety," Leibovitch said. "And, makes it a little more fun, social."
One trio of friends has celebrated their 40th birthdays together, and the birth of their children. So why not Botox injections?
The only thing that puts a little damper on things is paying the bill. Even with the doctor's party discounts, one typical price tag was $725.
"The down side is the dog has to eat cheaper dog food, because we have to budget for it," Rosenquist said, laughing.
Partying Pays Off
A few days later, most of the moms believe their partying paid off.
"I'm just really surprised with this area," Leibovitch said, pointing to the sides of her eyes. "I feel like it took 10 years off my face."
Another woman, Lisa, noted that the procedure seemed to erase her frown.
"I definitely see a change," she said. "I look more awake; and I don't look like I'm frowning."
A few days after the procedure, Rubin was recovering.
"I do have some bruising, but I'm sure that time will erase that because it's just been a few days," she said.
One patient pointed out that the effects of Botox wear off in a few months.
"You know, the good thing about Botox: it's not permanent. So if you do it, and you don't like it, in three or four months, it's gone," Rosenquist said.
But Botox isn't for every mom.
"I"m just not going there," said Dena Wenzel, a mom of four. "I can live with these wrinkles … I've got four children — not a lot of sleep. This is just me."