End of the Lines?

Hollywood stars preening for the red carpet aren't the only ones who turn to Botox and injectable collagen to take a few years off their faces. Last year, more than 3 million Americans had their wrinkle-making muscles relaxed with Botox; more than 1 million had their lines and lips plumped with fillers.

That's a 35 percent increase over the previous year, and the spiking curve is expected to climb still higher in 2008. As word of mouth spreads, more physicians become adept at using injectables, and new fillers get FDA approval.

In fact, demand among ordinary folk is so high that you can get your fill at the mall: About 1,500 so-called medical spas (or med-spas) have opened across the country, most selling wrinkle-smoothing injectables in a spa-like setting, though not always administered by an experienced doctor.

To get the look you want -- and lower the risk of a temporarily frozen forehead or overplumped "trout pout" -- remember, that getting injected is a medical procedure, not just a beauty treatment.

Where to Go, Whom to See

To a generation raised on collagen injections to fill acne scars and to plump lips, having a lunch hour "face-lift" seems as simple as having your hair highlighted.

That's the kind of misconception that led to disappointment and embarrassment for Myriam S., a 47-year-old physical therapist in La Cañada, Calif. She scheduled an appointment for Botox injections shortly before Christmas, but it didn't go as planned.

Over the holidays, Myriam greeted friends with her right eye and face so badly bruised that she couldn't minimize the discoloration with makeup.

"The doctor said the nurse who gave me the Botox hit a blood vessel," Myriam says. Would she do it again? "Absolutely," she says, "but next time, I'm only letting a doctor do the injecting."

Caution should be your watchword, says Wendy Lewis, a cosmetic surgery consultant in New York City and London, and the author of "America's Cosmetic Doctors and Dentists."

Even when the needle is in the most experienced hands, there can be temporary side effects, such as bruising, swelling and tiny bumps along the injection site. But your risk of serious problems, including deformities that last for months, is lower when you go to an expert, Lewis says.

It's safest to go to a doctor who is board certified in dermatology, plastic surgery or an above-the-neck specialty. A head and neck surgeon, an ear, nose, and throat doctor, or an ophthalmologist may have a cosmetic surgery subspecialty. Just as important is experience with a variety of injectables.

Above all, don't let price or convenience -- or the appeal of a Botox or filler party -- sway you.

"Don't have it done in a hotel room," Lewis says. "These parties are the antithesis of the way it should be done. When you receive Botox or a filler, you want proper lighting and to know exactly what you're getting. You don't want people sipping drinks and watching. Getting injected is not a festive occasion."

More From Prevention:

Is Botox Safe?

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Take 10 Years off Your Appearance

Reverse Time With These Anti-Aging Tips

Here's how to find a doctor who will give you the look you want with the least risk of complications.

Make a List

Start by asking for recommendations from your family doctor, relatives and friends. People can be surprisingly open about sharing resources.

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