Candidly Kate: Braving Needles for Botox

stethoscope, medical, health, doctor, macbook, laptop, computer, objects, office, desk
Photographer: Luis Llerena

Growing up I never really thought much about plastic surgery.  I also considered botox to be plastic surgery.  I liked my face even if it was a little too chubby for my liking.  I liked my hair until high school when I found it boring.  I hated my body, but what teenager doesn’t?  I played sports and danced all my life, but apparently that wasn’t enough!  In grade 12 my parents signed me up for a gym, so my perspective on liposuction changed from what I thought was my only option to drop the weight to something about which I didn’t really care.  Now that I’m back in the gym regularly, I wouldn’t consider liposuction unless it would fix up the mess from my appendectomy.  As far as implants go, while I may be a card-carrying member of the “itty-bitty titty committee”, I don’t know how I feel about adding stress to my back with the kind of fun-bags I’d need on my 5’8″ frame.  My nose is fine, and while I have had some issues with allergies and my deviated septum, I’d rather just leave well enough alone.

Saturday was a pretty busy day!  We opened up some new floors at school, so immigration requested that we all get new health checks.  It seemed awfully silly to me, but with the time crunch and my schedule this week the only time I was available to get the health check done was on my own time on the weekend.  Not ideal, but it’s over now.  Having had a health check last weekend as well, I wanted to get this one over with quickly.  I stayed in on Friday night and made sure to fast on Saturday morning.  I got to the giant, glamorous MEDICHECK clinic, where they spoke little English and tried to overcharge me.  After getting my wonderful colleague on the phone, they changed the kind of health check I was getting and wrote a special note to get me through the lines quickly.  That was great, because I had an appointment at VIP Plastic Surgery Center in Sinsa-dong (Gangnam) Seoul.  My health check consisted of a height and weight check (where they squished me down to get my height), a hearing test, a vision test, a dental test (where they had me lay down, asked me if it hurt when I bit down, and promptly sent me on my way), a blood test, a urine test (see the above conveyor belt in the bathroom), and some x-rays.  It’s pretty standard and I appreciate having certain tests done, but others kind of just seem like a waste of time.

Saturday July 16th I took part in a commercial that was shot for the same plastic surgery center.  I had never had any work done at that point, and was simply asked about some of my perspectives on plastic surgery and about my hopes and dreams.  I’ll make sure to update you all when the ad is up and running.  As you can see, they were into super dark, big eyebrows and super light skin.  Because of my participation, I have a credit toward certain treatments.

After my medical check I flew into Jamsil Station and made my way over to Apgujeong.  I didn’t have time to have a proper meal, so I just grabbed a sugary coffee beverage to get some calories and caffeine before my appointment.  Upon arrival I was greeted by some very friendly faces who spoke to me completely in English.  There were 3 ladies who offered me water, tea, or coffee, and let me know that the doctor was not quite ready yet.  I had dedicated my entire afternoon to this consultation and time in Gangnam.  I even had my laptop with me ready to perch at a coffee shop and write all afternoon).  I let them know that time was not an issue for me and that I was perfectly fine waiting.  Then, they offered me a complimentary Vitamin C facial treatment.  This facial involved a light chemical peel which itched like crazy, and then a “cold hammer” which was designed for calming down the skin after peeling.  The idea is that this treatment will lead to more youthful, clearer-looking skin.  As you can see above, the final mask of the facial is pretty frightening!

Guess who had surprise #botox today? Went in for a general #consultation (halfway expecting them to suggest #lipo) and they were running a bit behind so I got a #free #facial. Then I went in and they said I didn't need any actual #plasticsurgery. The #doctor was surprised I had never had any botox or #fillers before. I was really nervous, so they gave me a teddy bear LOL. The #needles hurt a LOT but it was short and the pain was gone once the needle was removed. There was some bruising and swelling but it's gone down a LOT over the past half hour. Just looking at my #selfie, I'm pretty happy with the results so far. My #crowsfeet I've been so self-conscious about have been reduced dramatically from my perspective. Let's see how I feel in a few hours! I don't feel stiff or like I can't smile or express myself. Can't wait to see how doing #makeup goes over tonight since I've been #makeupfree all day…yes, even in #Apgujeong! #Sinsa #Gangnam #Seoul #seoulplasticsurgeryclinic #skincare #신사 #압구정 #모델 #강남 #외국인 #셀카 #Korean #Koreanstyle #lifeinism #SouthKorea #셀스타그램

A photo posted by Kate Carter Hickey (@torontoseoulcialite) on

My intention was to simply come in and have a consultation before weighing out the pros and cons of botox.  I’m on a bit of a “try anything once” kick right now, and when they said they had time to just go in and do it I pretty blindly agreed having dozed off during the facial.  I had to ice the injection areas in advance of the procedure, and then I was plopped in a chair, given a teddy bear to squeeze, and we were off to the races.  I didn’t realise that I would be having approximately 30 injections into my forehead and the sides of my eyes.  It’s actually pretty scary to think about, and I’m pretty sure that’s why this topic has been so popular in the comments on my instagram posts.  Around the age of 26-29 we’re all starting to see the effects of smiling, laughing, being surprised, and grimacing.  The aging process smacks you right in the face – literally.  The needles hurt, which came as a surprise to my friends who have had botox in Korea and in Canada.  I have a pretty high threshold for pain.  Maybe it’s because I had only consumed 157 calories by the procedure at 2 PM, but after the first 10-12 needles I started to feel very woozy.  The doctor lowered the surgical chair, and at my request of “JUST FINISH ‘EM” got the rest over and done with.  He then guided me to the area where I had had my facial so that I could lay down until I felt ready to head out.  After the doctor left, I was told to ice the areas and that bruising cream was available at the clinic, but that they didn’t think I’d need it (hey – I like the honesty rather than the upsell, but looking in the mirror perhaps I should have gotten the cream).

On Sunday, you can see that the big, bad bruise is there in all its glory.  I took it easy yesterday and enjoyed a 30 Rock marathon.

It’s now Monday afternoon.  This morning I was joking around with my colleague trying to raise my eyebrows (an impossible feat right now).  You can see that the dreaded crows feet are almost gone, and any lines on my forehead have all but disappeared.  While the sensation is a little bizarre still, it’s certainly not (yet) like the botox jokes on the Real Housewives or pretty much any Eva Longoria TV show.  I can move my face.  I can be expressive, just not quite as normal.  I think that’s the point.

beach, sand, summer, doll, toy, girl

I know several people who have had botox and don’t keep it a secret.  It’s pretty run-of-the-mill in Seoul, to be candid.  When I came into work and mentioned what I did on the weekend one of my colleagues squealed in delight and said “congratulations!”.  I’m still evaluating the process and am not ready to say I swear by it quite yet.  The value of the botox procedure was quoted to me at approximately $400 USD and the Vitamin C Facial was $100.  The clinic also offers laser facials (I’m a huge fan of the Intense Pulsating Laser [IPL] Facial) and I believe that I will be getting one of those after my trip to Thailand as it’s not wise to be out in the sun too soon after.

**UPDATE: My 2nd round with botox was with a much smaller needle and just for my crows feet.  Definitely ask for a thin needle and don’t go overboard!**

Do you have any experiences with Botox?  How about Plastic Surgery in general?  Have you had anything done in Korea?  Let us know in the comments!

27 Comments Add yours

  1. marie says:

    You should NEVER get a bruise like that! NEVER,EVER! I’ve had botox for years but it has to be properly done by a cosmetic dermatologist or the results are a bit scary. I would love one of those Vitamin C masks. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I bruise from everything! Working with kids I constantly look like a Leopard from the slightest touch. I’m not at all surprised to have bruised.

  2. Chantell says:

    I am such a baby when it comes to pain and I have a really bad needle phobia – so I couldn’t help but cringe when I was reading through this. Also not to sound like your bossy Aunt – but I don’t think you needed any plastic surgery at all! Maybe I am just totally out of the loop these days with what is the norm (or maybe no one else talks about their botox). Nonetheless, it’s your body (of course!) and good on your for doing what you want. It’s very impressive that you are being so open about your experience.

    1. Oh yeah I’m an open book lol. I know this post isn’t for everyone, but I’m hoping it’ll provide some insight for other expats in Korea who have only had ancient posts about…weirder subjects! Thanks for the comment!

  3. rovingjo says:

    I am almost 40 and no botox yet. You are very brave indeed to do this. I would probably have spent years researching a facility and then chickened out. Not sure how I feel about doing it abroad even if it would save me money. But your results look great. Oh and I am a member of the biggie titties club (natural though) and trust me they are overrated. 🙂 Happy Roving!!!

  4. Ooh you are brave. I am not sure I would have attempted this at home, let alone abroad. I do like the look of the Vitamin C mask, Korean beauty products are the best.

  5. Megan Indoe says:

    I really appreciate your honesty in this one! I’ve always wondered what this was like, no one really is open about talking about it. Seeing how plastic surgery is so common I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about Botox or getting those pesky bags under my eyes fixed. I’ve only gone through with lasek which was a game changer for me. But if I ever decide to do any plastic surgery is way rather get it done in Korea than the US. Seriously they have the best doctors for it here and for a much more reasonable price. Also I’d get to come back and have a vaca in Korea. Haha

    1. Thanks! I feel like botox is one of those no-brainers that people talk about so casually. There were people at the clinic clearly on medical tourism trips who were getting much more than injections so it felt strangely normal…

  6. Ouch those bruises look sore! Korean dermatology is so much cheaper than back home. I had Fraxel Laser treatment this year and was really pleased with the results. I have a lot of acne scarring on my face and it reduced dramatically after just 5 sessions. I’m pretty sure it would disappear after 10 but I didn’t want to spend any more money or go through any more pain. The lasers actually also completely cleared up all my forehead lines which was definitely nice! Hahaha xx

  7. Alice says:

    You’re much braver than me! I think you looked great before, but I can see it made a difference and that also looks good too 🙂 I don’t think I could ever do it, but we’ll see. If I stick around in Korea and get any older, I’ll probably have to haha xD

  8. CityGirlSearching says:

    What an interesting post! I really found it fascinating! I’m not sure I would spend that much, but if it came with the perks of my blog I would definitely be up for it (got the readers, you know haha). I would love to see and try it for myself.
    I also have to say you look just as gorgeous before as after the needles (minus the bruising) 🙂 x

    1. Do you act in Korea as well?

  9. Emre Kanik says:

    I read this post with an open mind and I really don’t mean the following condescending. I’m not a woman obviously, so I am not going to judge you in any way. Everyone should do what makes them happy. I’m just honestly trying to understand what was going on in your mind when you did this, because I’m curious where your thought process comes from and it’s interesting to talk about.

    You’re saying that around the age of 26-29 the aging process smacks you right in the face, so I’m guessing you thought you needed Botox? Or did you do this so you would have interesting content to write about? Also, do you think that the decision to do Botox comes entirely from you or do you feel somehow pressured to do it due to unrealistic beauty standards of society? Do you think that living in Korea is a factor to do Botox, or do you think that if you had never lived in Korea you would have done it anyway?

    Lastly, I really think it’s a good thing you wrote this because it informs people about doing Botox so they can make their own decisions.

    1. Hey Emre! Wow – what a loaded comment. I’m excited to answer! I actually have not felt any pressure to get cosmetic enhancements here (keep in mind botox is not, in fact, plastic surgery). In Vancouver I think I felt more inclined to get real plastic surgery (but I didn’t). I woke up about a year ago in Osaka and while putting on makeup notices deep lines beside my eyes for the very first time. It was scary! That, more than anything, has made the aging process real for me. Yes – the idea of a story certainly was in the back of my mind as well. Did I need botox? No. Did I want to try something new that could enhance my appearance? Yes. Did I like the risk factor? Well…I’ve definitely been looking for new things to try.

  10. Jackie says:

    Wowowow! This is the first time I’ve ever read about someone having Botox and I’m really glad that I came by your post! I have always been worried about that and always thought it’d have long-lasting effects. The fact that you’re just so chill with it makes me feel that it probably isn’t as bad as I thought it was. Also, you look great!
    I’m also surprised at how the Koreans reacted. In my country people would be like, “oh my gosh she got botoxxx” as if it was such a bad thing. Good to learn the cultural difference, too. Thanks for sharing!

  11. oh man! you’re one brave girl! to answer your question about having any work done in Korea – a failed attempt at armpit hair lazering, I was too much of a chicken and ended at 2/5 sessions required due to pain. Never thought about getting Botox and seeing your bruises I dont think i will. Thank you for sharing, you’re brave!

  12. Laura says:

    Wow! You’re a badass for dealing with it. I don’t think I would ever get anything done to my face, but Sinsa-dong/Apgujeong area (or Seoul in general) is certainly the place if you’re looking to do that. I laughed out loud re: the Koreans saying, “Congratulations!” when they discovered the procedure. Very typical of the culture I’d say! I think you looked beautiful before and I think you look great after!

    I thought about hair lazering while I was there but never did it as I was saving for my big trip/post-Korea living. I also thought about veneers but again, just didn’t feel as though it was totally necessary. Keep us updated!

  13. abcdeghizzy says:

    Dude, the urine conveyer belt… I’m there with you on the “Oh Korea….” but. I’m completely in the same boat that I try anything at least once before I can make a judgement about it. And echoing Megan, props to you for actually writing about something that is a daily reality in Korea but still kept on the DL.

    1. Haha urine conveyor belt after the joke of a health test I already had was like the icing on the cake. Ohhhh Korea…

  14. Gina Bear says:

    That looks so painful! You’re so brave for doing this, but the great thing about South Korea is that you’re in good hands. How long did it take the bruises to fade?

    1. Just a week! Back to normal except I can’t raise my eyebrows still LOL

  15. Wendy Flor says:

    Korea is number one for medical tourism so it’s safe to be doing it here. I haven’t done any, though. Didn’t even think about it just because. I’m turninqqug 40 in a few days so I will be sounding like your aunt hahahaha… You’re beautiful and I don’t think you need any procedure:-). I think you have to maintain the botox injections from hereon since you have already started it. Oh well, that’s what they say.

    Cheers to the beautiful you!

  16. star lengas says:

    Having seen pictures and finally seeing you in person, I think it looks really good! You’ve pretty much convinced me to try botox or at the very least a chemical peel. I might need you to hold my hand, because I’ll be sure to freak lol

    1. I would suggest the teddy bear cause I held that thing reaaaaaally hard!!!

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