Beauty business girls big on Botox

As a holistic therapist, Penny Slater believed wholeheartedly that natural was always best.

Now she spends her days advising women on how to cheat nature – with fast-fix injections of Botox and collagen.

"I know, I've gone from one extreme to the other," she laughs.

"I had always believed in growing old gracefully and the power of non-invasive treatments... until I started to grow old and didn't like it."

The self-employed holistic therapist spotted her first wrinkle between her eyebrows: "I actually went to bed with a piece of Sellotape over it for a few nights. Obviously, it made no difference whatsoever!"

Penny, now 43, became interested in the beauty industry's ever-growing range of non-surgical procedures... and found herself a job through it.

She is now a non-surgical patient co-ordinator for the Transform Medical Clinic at their base in Europa Court at Sheffield Airport.

"All my friends were amazed at my about-turn. There was no-one more surprised than me though. I have laughed about it – and I'm not ashamed to admit I was wrong to rule things out."

After joining Transform a year ago, Penny had soon had that wrinkle treated with muscle-freezing Botox. And it hasn't stopped there.

"When you see the great results you want other treatments. I started at the forehead and worked my way down," she says. "I've just had my nose to mouth lines done with fillers and in January I had micro-dermabrasion done.

"It works like a little vacuum cleaner on the skin. Afterwards you have a real glow."

Penny is one of many women who are getting more out of their careers in the cosmetic procedure and surgery industry than just a salary cheque.

And while most women prefer to keep their Botox and collagen injections a secret, the girls in the beauty business are totally up-front about it.

"There are a lot of women out there who won't talk about what they've had done because they prefer people to think they look that good naturally," says Emma Read, another patient co-ordinator at Transform. "If they want to be discreet, that's their right, although I do think celebrities who deny the work they have had done put pressure on ordinary women.

"But we are happy to talk about it – after all, we are adverts for our profession."

Emma is just 34 and a Botox and filler veteran. The former beautician started at 26.

"Yes, I was young, but the frown line between my eyebrows was pretty deep and it made me look angry," she says. "Afterwards I also noticed my migraines reduced."

Eight years on, it is becoming commonplace for women in their 20s to have procedures.

Some are like Kerry Redfern, a former midwife who works at the Doncaster Elements Medispa. At 34, she is trying to put right premature ageing caused by regular sunbed use in her twenties.

"A growing number of women start around 25 now. And there is some evidence that starting younger has a preventative effect on skin wrinkling and sagging," says Emma, who has fillers in her lips and the lines from nose to mouth. She has Botox in her forehead, which doesn’t move much, but it’s fair to say her face looks naturally unlined.

For some of the clinic girls, treatments are perks of the job, or given at a discounted rate. Sometimes the women act as guinea pigs in teaching sessions.

Cheryl Barton, the boss of one of South Yorkshire’s most reputable cosmetic clinics, was happy to be a guinea pig for what is currently a controversial treatment in the beauty industry.

A pocket of fat in her double chin has been injected twice with a drug the makers claim will make it disappear.

Cheryl is 10 months in months in – and “delighted” with the results.

It is similar to the Flab Jab treatment, which was taken off the market several years ago after claims the drug was untested for that particular use. Although it had long been used in the NHS to treat fatty livers and dissolve fat in blood vessels, there were concerns that it had undergone no long-term tests for body fat reduction.

But Cheryl, director of Anston-based Aesthetika, medical and dental specialists in anti-ageing and rejuvenation procedures, says the new version, Lipo-therapy, uses a derivative of the drug in a safer form.

“I read all the research and decided the treatment has a place. At Aesthetika the treatment is carried out by a doctor who has insurance for Lipo-therapy,” says Cheryl.

“After my treatment my neck swelled up a bit and I looked like I’d got a huge love bite, but I could see a difference in fat within 12 weeks. After the second treatment my jawline looked very different - much more slimline. I’m very impressed - this is one treatment I could get addicted to.”

Cheryl is a nurse and registered midwife and had worked for 27 years in the NHS before going into private practise nine years ago.

She now has Botox three times a year – and light chemical facial peels and filler injections three times a year, too.

“It’s my regular maintenance. They are only little treatments but I think they make a huge difference,” she says.

But she would never consider surgery: “One in 5,000 people die every year under anaesthetic – why run the risk?” No-one ever guesses Maria Thomas is just a year off her bus pass.

An elegant blonde with high cheekbones and barely a wrinkle in sight, she looks 10 years younger than 59.

"A lot of customers say they want to look like me when they come for a treatment," says the Polish mother of two, a patient co-ordinator at Sheffield's Transform clinic.

"It's very flattering - but I always tell them what helps me stay young-looking. I have Botox, I have fillers, but not too much - as you can see, I like to look natural. I'm very open about it. Why not?" she says. "If this is cheating, what is mascara and lipstick?"

Unusually, Maria can credit husband for geting her into it. He was a manager at Transform in Sheffield. She was a civil engineer with British Coal. "A world apart, yes," she smiles. "But when the pits started to close I took a job with him."

Maria had relied on a good beauty routine and body massages to stay youthful. "Then I realised: we buy nice clothes, we pay to have our hair done; why not improve your face?"

Just turned 40, she had her lips enhanced with fillers: "My upper lip was quite thin. Afterwards they were so lovely, I kept looking at myself in shop windows and pouting!"

At 50, she decided to have liposcultpure to remove stubborn fat on her abdomen, outer and inner thighs... and her kneecaps.

Facial peels every few years, occasional Botox injections and six-monthly collagen injections have helped to preserve her skin, she believes.Botox changed my careerAn injection did more than change Sandy Green's face - it changed her career around.

The former registered midwife and family planning nurse now runs the Elements Medispa on Thorne Road in Doncaster.

Two years after that first bout of Botox on frown lines between her eyebrows, Sandy was an injectables advocate - and the owner of Elements, a clinic which combines medical beauty technology with spa therapies.

"If I hadn't had Botox I wouldn't now have a thriving business," says the 44-year-old director and independent prescriber, who employs a team of 13.

Neither would she have such a smooth, unlined complexion. She had Botox to lessen crows' feet around her eyes and her frown lines every four months, regular chemical skin peels and yearly lip enhancement.

She went under the knife two years ago - and now has bigger breasts and a more attractive nose.

Did being in the industry pressure her into it?

She assures me it didn't. "My nose had bothered me since I was a teenager and after having children there was little left of my breasts," she says. "I haven't gone mad - they are now a C cup and I'm happy with that," she says.

"Working in a cosmetic clinic doesn't make you more aware of your imperfections - I think being a woman and getting older does that all on its own.

"There is an awful lot of pressure on women to stay younger-looking for longer. Procedures can certainly help - but I strongly believe in disuading people from getting obsessed and going too far."

Julie Dunker, 49-year-old receptionist at Aesthetika, couldn't agree more.

Despite the fact that she's only been in the job six months and has already had Botox, tooth whitening and a skin peel, she's determined not to go too far.

Julie says: "I've seen women on TV who look dreadful - like they've just come out of a wind tunnel."