She was a self-confessed addict of face-freezing jabs, so what made Sally Windsor decide to embrace her wrinkles?
‘Breast implants at 22, full dental veneers at 26. I’ve never been shy of a little ‘cosmetic enhancement’. Little ‘helping hands’ that, as far as I was concerned, allowed me to face the world with more confidence. So perhaps it was inevitable I’d try to banish my wrinkles as soon as they appeared.
I had my daughter Ruby in 2008 when I was 28 years old, and afterwards I felt my appearance and my confidence had taken a battering. Six months of sleepless nights were followed by a stressful break-up with Ruby’s dad, James, 40. On top of that, having a baby in my 20s had led to stretch marks, leaky boobs and permanent dark circles under my eyes.
Despite having a gorgeous little girl and a supportive group of friends, I was at an all-time low.
Given that I’d turned to surgical treatments in the past, it felt like a no-brainer to try to fix my problems with a complete image overhaul. Ironically, Botox hadn’t even entered my thoughts at that time.
My first priority was to, literally, wash all my issues out of my hair.
Sitting in my favourite salon and ordering my close friend and stylist Jonathan to chop off my long brown locks and replace them with a bleached-blonde bob felt liberating.
It was a way to escape my ‘frumpy mummy’ self and the sadness of my break-up. When I looked in the mirror I saw someone new and edgier – someone ready to embrace life again. How could I possibly be the old Sally any more?
As Jonathan was snipping away, he quipped: “If you are doing all this, I’m surprised you’re not having Botox too.”
It’s funny how a throwaway comment, meant in jest, changed everything. For the first time I really looked hard at my face.
I hadn’t thought I looked particularly old before – I was only 29 – but after having Ruby I looked less fresh and girlie. I started to wonder if Jonathan might have a point. Did I need Botox?
Whether I did or didn’t, the seed was planted. I went home and booked into a cosmetic surgery clinic. I had friends who’d tried Botox and I couldn’t see what was holding me back from giving it a go.
Later that week, I had a consultation and health check with the doctor at the clinic, who said I was a suitable candidate and prepped my skin. We agreed I’d have three areas injected – my crow’s feet, forehead and between my eyebrows.
Were there possible side effects? Yes – bleeding behind the eyes, droopy eyelids, a swollen, lopsided face. Did I care? Not really. All I could think about was feeling better about myself.
As the needle scratched my skin, it felt medicinal rather than vain, and I left the clinic as a Botox convert.
The effects were almost instant and when I got home and looked in the mirror, my skin already appeared fresher and smoother. I felt more ready to face the world than I had in months.
It was as if all the sadness I’d lived with would be hidden behind my frozen face. And if my worries were less visible, surely they’d become less prominent mentally, too. Plus, it was nice to think that even on a bad day, my face didn’t give me away.
When I bumped into people I hadn’t seen for a while they’d tell me how well I looked. Although my close friends and family knew I’d gone under the needle, I wouldn’t always volunteer the truth to other people. Still, their compliments were yet another validating boost.
But with the pristine smoothness came paranoia. The slightest sign of a line reappearing on my forehead would provoke a sense of panic – so much had spiralled out of control in my life that my smooth skin was the one thing I could sustain and, at the time, I felt I had to.
At £250 a pop every three months, it wasn’t cheap. But I was hooked.
Not everyone approved. I’d excitedly announce to colleagues on the magazine I wrote for that I was off to get my quarterly fix and they’d roll their eyes or sigh that I didn’t need it and that I was beautiful without it. One even told me I was going too far and putting poison in my body too often. But in my head they were either jealous or naive. There was no possibility I might be getting carried away.
That was until one afternoon with Ruby in July 2011, after watching an episode of TOWIE on TV. Naturally at three and a half, she knew nothing about Botox. But what she said next was a turning point.
‘You and those ladies have all got the same shiny face, Mummy,’ she said. ‘No lines. Will I get a shiny face when I’m grown-up too?’
I stopped in my tracks. How could such a little girl have noticed this? What had I done?
I did have the same expressionless face as the TOWIE clones, but Ruby was only a toddler and there was no way I wanted her to grow up thinking that she needed to look like that too. I didn’t say anything, but I knew it was time to stop.
Right then, I pledged not to have any more top-ups, but weening myself off Botox wasn’t easy. By September, I winced every time I saw emerging laughter lines around my eyes. By November, I hated putting foundation on my forehead as the liquid clung to the lines I had forgotten were there. Day by day, as the Botox disappeared, my resolve to stop was fading. All the old excuses started sounding reasonable again – it doesn’t cost that much, why shouldn’t I do something that makes me look and feel better?
But all I had to do was remember Ruby’s words and I was back on track.
My non-Botoxed friends were proud of me, and the frozen ones attempted an unsuccessful eyebrow raise.
Loving my lines
And what’s wrong with me looking like the 32-year-old woman I am today? Not-so-fresh faced, with lines to be proud of after working in hectic newspaper and magazine newsrooms for the last 10 years, and being a busy mum.
I found it hard to accept that those lines were part of me because I’d disguised them for so long. But they were the real me and I wanted Ruby to realise they were normal. I made a point of highlighting them to her so she knew it was fine for me to have them.
I also realised that although I didn’t feel confident about my reflection for a long time, other people didn’t seem to notice as much as I thought they would. No one told me I looked tired or one of those other euphemisms that really translate as ‘you look rough’.
Now, almost a year later, I’m still Botox free. Ruby even said recently ‘I like your lines, Mummy.’
I do look more dishevelled, yet I’m a lot happier. I’m relieved not to be scrutinising my face every day to see if the Botox is wearing off, and my bank balance is thanking me for it, too!”