“I don’t want to look like I’ve had Botox” is one of the most common requests millennial women give Lauren Abramowitz, founder of Park Avenue Skin Solutions in New York City, at their first appointment. Abramowitz is among a growing number of beauty pros offering a less-is-more injectable experience: Botox that leaves you looking yourself, only fresher. Called Botox underdosing, baby Botox, Botox enhancement, or invisible Botox, this technique is all about giving you that Facetune-fresh look IRL—small tweaks that are barely discernible yet make you look younger (or, at the very least, less tired).
Traditionally, Botox has been used to relax the muscles that cause fine lines and wrinkles, an approach that’s given the treatment a bad rep for freezing faces beyond recognition. Increasingly, however, women are now asking for a different approach—one that subtly highlights facial features—subtle being the keyword. “Baby Botox, also referred to as Botox micro-dosing, is a great option for younger women who are often looking for a more natural result,” Abramowitz told Byrdie.
New York–based plastic surgeon Dara Liotta agrees that this growing trend of invisible Botox is a great option, particularly for younger women seeking a less obvious result. “Using this technique, we can help tweak features without drastically changing the way a woman looks,” she explained. “The results are natural and subtle. It’s essentially like semipermanent makeup.”
Practically, this method involves using smaller amounts of Botox to “underdose” or “microdose” very specifically targeted areas. You can basically fake your way to looking as though you’ve had a solid eight hours sleep, with a few micro-injections that relax the muscles that normally pull the brow. Professionals can also use as little as four units of Botox to manipulate the superficial muscle fibers around the lip—where you would apply lip liner—which allows the lip to flip slightly outward. This makes your pout look fuller without using any filler.
Another common way pros achieve this look is by injecting a tiny muscle across your jawline, called the masseter. “Injecting the masseter with Botox slims the face and makes the jaw less square, but requires as many as 50 units or more depending on the strength of the muscle,” Liotta told Byrdie, adding that this technique will cost about $1000.
Apart from reducing lines and reshaping your face, younger women are also turning to small doses of Botox to manage large pores and oily skin. However, while many women are reporting more even skin tone after their injections, the observation that Botox improves skin texture is still mainly anecdotal. “The theory is that Botox can weaken the muscle around pores the same muscles that create goose bumps, giving the skin a more taught, smooth look,” Liotta explained, noting that women are looking for the off-label benefits around their forehead and nose.
A small study back in 2008 backed up the belief that that Botox can help manage both pore size and sebum production, but Liotta pointed out that the study was very small, and Botox is not technically FDA approved for this type of thing. If you want to try Botox for skin texture, the T-zone is the best area to try this on, particularly on and around the nose and forehead.
There is one small catch: Using less Botox at each appointment means you will need to book in for more regular appointments, as the effects will wear off faster. Invisible Botox might look more natural, but it’s high-maintenance: A more traditional technique might take a full six months to wear off while a less heavy-handed approach could require updates every eight to 12 weeks.
If you’re deciding whether or not to ask for Botox at your next dermatologist visit, Liotta says the test is simple: “I usually recommend that the time to use Botox for any kind of wrinkles and lines is when you make a face, see the line, then relax the face, but still see the wrinkle,” she explained. When it comes to invisible Botox specifically, she told us, anyone who wants to “lift the brow, slim the jaw, or make the lips a little more full” could also be a good candidate.
Next, read why our editor got preventative Botox and isn't ashamed of it.