I'm sitting on a couch in a multi-million dollar, multi-bedroom apartment overlooking Madison Square Park in Manhattan with Vanderpump Rules star Stassi Schroeder and a dermatologist chatting about Botox culture, and the only thing that doesn't feel unusual about this scenario is the topic at hand. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, in 2016, Botox was the number one nonsurgical procedure, with over 4.5 million Americans opting in for the treatment—and that number is only steadily increasing (over 7 million Americans went under the needle in 2017).
While getting injected is clearly common practice and slipping it casually into conversation is becoming more, well, casual, there's still a stigma attached to Botox, as though admitting to artificially alleviating wrinkles is shameful and you're feigning youth, and thus, fooling society. (Though, it isn't possible to reverse fine lines without the help of something). Schroeder, refreshingly, is in the camp of destigmatizing Botox.
"The only thing that annoys me about the injectable culture is that people aren’t honest about it," she says pointedly. "They like to pretend that they’re just naturally wrinkle-free and it just annoys the crap out of me. I don’t know why it’s something that we can’t talk about. We color our hair, add extensions, get eyelash extensions, do all of this to ourselves, but we can’t just calm our wrinkles down a little bit? I’ve just never really understood why it has to be secretive. Let’s be up front about what we’re doing—there’s no shame in that."
Schroeder, myself, and today's guest dermatologist, Melissa Levin, MD spoke more about Botox, what to expect of it, and what's missing in today's conversations around it. (And, of course, we needed Schroeder to divulge her beauty routine and some behind-the-scenes Vanderpump secrets.) Our discussion, below.
BYRDIE: What’s your current relationship like with injectables?
STASSI SCHROEDER: I love them. That’s pretty much it. I’m the type of person that likes to do it conservatively because I’m on television and I really like to have expression and I always joke that I want people to know when I’m mad at them. I want to be able to give resting bitch face. But I love it. I feel like it makes me feel so much more fresh-faced."
BYRDIE: How old were you when you first got it?
SS: It was probably seven years ago. Season two of Vanderpump Rules, I think, is the first time that I did it.
BYRDIE: Were you nervous?
SS: I wasn’t really nervous because in L.A. it’s something that’s normal and everyone is doing it. I’ve never had a worry about it and it surprises me when I hear that other people have concerns. My brain doesn’t comprehend that.
BYRDIE: What questions did you ask your doctor?
SS: I don’t know that I asked enough questions, actually. All I said was, What are the risks? I can’t speak to what the risks are, but for me, he [didn't say anything] that made me scared, and I just said that I wanted to still be able to have expression—that was very important to me.
MELISSA LEVIN, MD: I think it’s important that people understand who their injector is. I think Botox can be a very simple procedure, but there are things that can go wrong and there are side effects and complications that can happen which is why it’s important for anyone who gets it done to understand there can be bruising, there can be asymmetry, that it doesn’t last forever, there’s a temporary effect to it, there can be an eyebrow droop or your eyelid going down… so you want to make sure that you’re getting Botox Cosmetics—there are so many other different medications that are available on the market, [but] Botox Cosmetics is the first to market.
It’s been around for 17 years; there are close to 500 publications about the safety and how to use it appropriately; it’s the only one that’s FDA-approved in three areas of the face. So knowing who your injector is, their experience, their training, [that they’re] board-certified, the risks involved, if it's the right thing for [you], what areas of the face [to get injected], and also, what product you’re getting is really important too.
BYRDIE: Say you went to a doctor for Botox while you were in L.A. but you live in N.Y. and then go to another doctor while you're home. Is it bad to go to different practitioners, especially if they're injecting into different areas?
ML: It’s always nice as a physician to know what someone has done in the past, but that won’t stop me from treating someone. That’s why it’s really important for you to know what’s been injected in your face. A lot of times there’s this trust, which Is great to trust your physician, but you also should own your own health and understand what products are being injected in [your] face, how long it's going to last (or the longevity of it) and if there are complications or you want to soften it or get rid of it.
So it’s not only about injecting and giving you a consistent, safe, beautiful result, but if complications happen or you want to change courses, you want to make sure your physician can manage these complications.
BYRDIE: [To Stassi] What is your entire skincare routine?
SS: People ask me this a lot, and my skincare routine is actually really simple because I have psoriasis and I have it on my face—most people don’t get it on their faces. So I don’t use face wash—I literally just take off my makeup with a makeup wipe and sometimes if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll use oil to take off the rest. But for the most part, I use warm water and La Mer to moisturize, and that’s it. And then I wake up in the morning, splash water on my face, and put that moisturizer on again, just because I’m really scared about irritating [the psoriasis] and making it worse, and I've just noticed that harsher chemicals just don’t work for me.
BYRDIE: How do you deal with breakouts?
SS: I kind of just ride them out. I don’t like to put too much on my face, so I’m even scared of putting tea tree oil on it because I feel like that could trigger something else with my skin, so I just let it go and just deal.
ML: I think Stassi’s experience with being scared is a common experience that a lot of people have whether it’s with psoriasis, eczema, sensitivities, or acne and not knowing what to do and being scared of things. And people think, like, ‘I’m even afraid to do tea tree oil!’ Tea tree oil can be quite harsh—it’s not a super soft product, and how it is in different oils can affect the strength of it, so I think it’s important, well, obviously I'm biased because I’m a dermatologist, but it’s really [important] to help someone kind of guide them through what’s okay to use.
You can treat your breakouts, you just have to have someone help you.
BYRDIE: Tell me about some advice or product recommendations you've gotten from other girls on Vanderpump Rules.
SS: I feel like Katie [Maloney-Schwartz] is the one with the most knowledge—whenever I have a beauty-related question, I go to her. She knows everything. To try and narrow it down, even my hair from all of the coloring has just been so dead and she will list off the products, like, "Go use Grow Gorgeous hair stuff, go get a keratin treatment." I literally just go to her for everything. It's hard to narrow down specifically what I've learned, but she's just a wealth of beauty knowledge.
BYRDIE: Who's your colorist by the way?
SS: Trace Henningsen.
BYRDIE: So good. Switching gears, has Lisa Vanderpump ever given you advice or tips?
SS: She says to always wear lashes and she says, "Don’t wear red lipstick," and I don’t agree with that! I’m like, Lisa, I look really good with red lipstick! And I’ve seen you wear red lipstick before! She’s just not a fan of it, but I personally love a good red lip. But, "Eyelashes for days," she says.
BYRDIE: There are different types of reds, also because there are the reds with blue undertones that make your teeth look whiter, but then there's the 'bad' reds, like the orange-y reds.
SS: You’ve gotta find your perfect red.
BYRDIE: Completely. So how has your beauty look evolved since season one?
SS: Oh my god, so I go through the different seasons and I’m so embarrassed by some, and I’m still learning. You would think after doing a show for seven years and seeing yourself for seven years that you'd have it down. I don’t. I look at the heavy eyeliner and everything from other seasons and I'm like, UGH, that looked awful. And then I still do it sometimes. [Laughs] Or I'll see my hair extensions in a shot and I still put them in my hair. I just don’t learn my lesson. I think the one thing I’ve learned the most from being on television is that less is more, kind of.
Because you would think, Cake it on, you’re going to be on TV. But my favorite scenes of any girl that I've seen on Vanderpump Rules (and myself) I think they look the most beautiful when it’s not so overdone.
Ed. note: Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.