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‘I Tried Natural Botox’

Because – yes – I am too afraid of the real thing

By Anna Saunders

Am I the only one not getting Botox? That’s the question I found myself asking after coffee with a former colleague recently. My friend, who is 10 years younger than me, arrived completely free of make-up – yet still looking fresh-faced and gorgeous, as I told her. “Oh,” she said, casually. “I’ve been having Botox between my eyebrows for years.”

She is, I think, 28.

Ever since, I’ve found myself peering intently at the foreheads of the women I know – only to discover that not only is Botox far more common than I’d realised, but that there is a definite divide. There are the women I meet through work who consider regular facials and a six-step ‘clean’ beauty regimen to be low-maintenance (and among whom Botox is de rigueur); and then there are my close friends, who if quizzed about hyaluronic acid, would probably guess that it’s something that goes into the engine of their car.

Until recently I had a foot in both camps. I take pride in being relatively low maintenance, but my job means that I’m lucky to be in the orbit of brilliant beauty editors, and I’ve incorporated their recommendations and treatments into my beauty routine.

But I’ve stopped short of anything invasive – partly because I’m scared of needles; partly because I’m dubious about the prospect of injecting toxins into my forehead; and partly because the very things that conspire to produce my fine lines and wrinkles – two small children and the start-up publishing site you’re currently reading – don’t leave much time for complicated beauty treatments.  It is also – if we’re getting down to the unvarnished truth – due to vanity.


I’m scared of needles and dubious about the prospect of injecting toxins into my forehead

I’ve lost track of the number of women I’ve met who have clearly had loads of Botox and who look… not younger or more beautiful, but different. Stretched, shiny and frozen. And then there are the women who dabble in Botox, only to quickly lose touch with what looks normal, and soon graduate to pumped-up lips, permanently arched eyebrows and weirdly pillowy cheeks.

And yet… it would be nice to look fresher. To look in the mirror first thing in the morning and not appear completely exhausted. To erase the lines between my eyebrows that make me seem grumpier than I really am.

It would be nice to look fresher… not completely exhausted

So when I received an email offering me the chance to try ‘natural Botox‘ (a combination of facial acupuncture and LED Light Therapy) it seemed like a no-brainer. And that’s how I found myself lying on a heated massage table one chilly Tuesday afternoon, my body bristling with needles and my face bathed in LED light.

I’d arrived at MO+ in Sydney’s Bondi Junction an hour earlier, and been welcomed by co-founder Barbara Choy, who explained that unlike standard beauty treatments (ahem, Botox), her practice aimed to offer a “holistic wellness philosophy” designed to “heal the soul”.

Barbara’s approach – which melds high-tech beauty science and traditional Chinese medicine – seems very ‘now’. After all, with half the beauty world toiling away in laboratories to create ever-more complex formulations, and the other half heading in completely the opposite direction to offer totally pure and natural ingredients, it makes a certain kind of sense to offer treatments that combine the two.

My therapist, Yvette Forbes, is the embodiment of this blend, holding both Western qualifications – a Bachelor of Health Science – and traditional credentials in acupuncture, massage and yoga. “We need to marry the two [approaches],” she tells me. “Chinese medicine is thousands of years old. We can learn so much from that. I feel like the combination is really necessary.”

Chinese medicine is thousands of years old. We can learn so much from that.

Tall, softly spoken and nurturing, Yvette invites me to lie down on the heated bed in the corner of the treatment room, which is painted black and festooned with plants wrapped in macrame pot holders. Natural linen curtains and carefully arranged rose quartz crystals complete the (very Bondi) effect.

Yvette then feels my pulse and looks at my tongue, explaining that this is where health issues and digestion problems will often show up, according to Chinese medicine. Next, she asks gentle questions about my digestion, stress levels and lifestyle before embarking on a light facial massage using a jade Gua Shua.

Then, it’s needle time. “I’ll look to see where the wrinkles are and whether they’re deep,” she warns me. “I’ll put the needles into acupuncture points but I also use motor points, where all the nerves meet.”  The needles will then relax over-active muscles (like those between my eyebrows) or “activate” the lazy ones like those along my jawline, to encourage a more sculpted effect.

Yvette tells me it will take around eight sessions to see the effects. My face must have fallen because she reassures me that the treatment is still superior to Botox. “Botox is quick – you get instant results, but it’s a bandaid. I’ve seen 30 year olds who get Botox and think they look really young and fresh, but they go and drink alcohol every night, drink loads of coffee and then by the time they’re 40 they look really trashed.

“Health is really important, and what comes from the inside radiates on the outside. It’s about working on the internal stuff, rather than getting a quick fix.”

In the end, the needles don’t bother me at all. In fact the tingling sensation is pleasingly reassuring; something’s obviously working. And when Yvette switches on the LED light (a treatment I’ve had before and which was developed by NASA as a way to stimulate astronauts’ skin cells while in space) the overall effect is relaxing and a little like being bathed in liquid sunshine. Almost immediately I fall asleep.

Twenty minutes later, my body is relaxed, my feet feel as though they’re floating above the bed. And my face? It is glowing and plump.

It is indeed no quick fix; my lines are very much still present, but the experience was relaxing and restorative, and after an hour and a half of self-care, my wrinkles somehow matter less. I leave the clinic less focused on the appearance of my face and more determined to build some relaxation and downtime into my life. Oh, and perhaps book another seven sessions of facial acupuncture.


We tried “facial rejuvenation acupuncture” at Sydney’s MO+



BY Anna Saunders

Anna is the co-founder of PRIMER, and thinks she would have fewer wrinkles if her children slept past 5.30am

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