May 21, 2013— -- Frown lines, forehead creases and crow's-feet, oh my!
If the rise in Botox procedures is any indication, the fountain of youth might be found in a syringe, even for 20-somethings whose signs of aging are often invisible to the naked eye.
"I think as I've kind of gotten a little older, I've just kind of realized that my skin is not the way it used to be in my early 20s," Nicole Harper, 29, told ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV in Houston about getting her first Botox treatment.
And she's not alone.
The number of Botox procedures among 20-somethings rose 8 percent in 2012 to 92,955 from the prior year, according to the 2012 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Many of them targeted the forehead, between the eyebrows and crow's-foot areas.
All told, there were about 6.1 million incidents of Botox injection for Americans in 2012, making it the No. 1 minimally invasive cosmetic procedure across all age groups, the plastic surgeons report noted.
The procedure registered the second-largest percentage increase of all minimally invasive procedures for people age 20 to 29, after hyaluronic acid (Juvederm) treatment.
"I figure, why let it get worse, you know?"Lilliana Gonzalez, 24, told Houston's KTRK of her reasons for getting her first Botox treatment.
Others want to get a jump on the process, using Botox as a preventive measure to keep from getting wrinkles in the first place.
Dr. Michael Vennemeyer, a Cincinnati plastic surgeon and author of "Plastic Surgery Myths Dispelled: A Consumer's Guide," told ABC News that he has noticed the growing interest among young people.
He suggests thinking of skin as a piece of paper that gets folded into a crease over and over again, which creates the wrinkles. The longer people can stave off skin-creasing with Botox, for example, the less severe wrinkles will be at a given age, he says.
Although generally safe in appropriate doses, however, Botox can have side effects.
If the botulinum toxin travels to muscles other than the target, it can result in drooping eyelids or double-vision for a period of time, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website.
And then there are the less visible potential side effects, as in those to a young woman's psyche, clinical psychologist Nanine Ewing of Houston says.
"It's a mindset that's about externalizing one's sense of self by how one looks," Ewing told ABC News.
With that comes the concern that the more people externalize their sense of self, the more they lose touch with their internal, authentic self, she said.
Ewing acknowledged that there is nothing wrong with women wanting to look better. "Enjoying their beauty and adornment … is a classic part of the feminine," she said.
But she cautions that problems arise when cosmetic procedures become an obsession, as when people begin to "correct" their skin before anything is showing.
Dr. Robert Murphy, president-elect of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, is of a similar mind. "Don't start treating wrinkles for fear of developing wrinkles," he advised.
A plastic surgeon for the past 20 years, Murphy recognizes the cultural pressure to look younger but says people don't have to chase youth. For the wrinkle-free, youthful faces of most 20-somethings, he counsels that Botox is probably "best kept in the quiver until a time that is more appropriate."
Besides, there are several cheaper, noninvasive options to keep your face younger longer.
Author and plastic surgeon Vennemeyer recommends avoiding the sun, not smoking and maintaining a stable weight as the best preventative medicine for your skin.