Andrea Rodgers sits on an exam table and regards herself in a hand mirror. Turning slightly into profile, she pokes her index finger around the contours of her eye socket, raising her brows in great surprise or furrowing them in mock distress. She moves along the perimeter of her face, pushing and prodding until she’s completed her grand tour.
Looking into the mirror, she smiles and says, “I’ve always been a cheeky person.”
For Rodgers, 38, this isn’t always a positive attribute. She has come to Georgetown’s Hela Spa to, quite literally, save face. As a business consultant (who counts Hela as one of her clients), the personality behind the e-magazine Ask Miss A, and, as she likes to claim, a self-made socialite, Rodgers is out in the public’s coolly appraising eye almost every night.
“I’m being photographed all the time,” Rodgers says, placing the hand mirror in her lap and revealing a Botox logo on the back. “So I have to look my best because those photos stick around.”
For Rodgers—whose upcoming week begins with an on-camera interview for Politico and ends with an appearance at the annual Blondes vs. Brunettes football game—looking her best doesn’t include having a face with crow’s-feet, age spots, or lines that run from the corners of her nostrils down to the sides of her mouth.
“Those are your nasal labial folds,” says Melanie Erb, a nurse practitioner who previously worked in the department of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The ruffles on Erb’s taupe taffeta blouse stick out of her white lab coat, giving the appearance of clinical formal wear.
“Well,” says Rodgers, “they are really bothering me.”
Erb snaps on a pair of rubber gloves and takes a closer look. She plants her thumbs on the apple of the cheeks and tugs at the skin around the cheekbone. Erb delivers her verdict: “Let’s do some filler. I think you’ll look more refreshed. Especially when you smile.”
On this Saturday, Rodgers will receive two syringes of the dermal filler Juvéderm. (Restylane is another frequently used filler.) But nasolabial lines aren’t the only thing bothering Rodgers. Erb also injects a total of 50 units of Botox along the lines in Rodgers’s forehead, around the outer corners of her eyes, and into the parallel furrows between her brows—known in the beauty biz as “the elevens.”
The cost for this ephemeral clock stopping—the effects of fillers last 6 to 18 months, Botox 4 to 6 months—will come to about $2,000. That’s not counting the $120 Rodgers drops on a starter kit of Latisse, the Brooke Shields–endorsed product that makes eyelashes grow like weeds.
“It’s the smartest way for women to spend money,” says Erb. “We are career women; we can afford to look our best.”
Erb first numbs the inside of Rodgers’s upper lip, as if she’s about to give her a root canal.
“Being beautiful is not for wimps,” Rodgers says, clutching the sides of the table in a death grip.
“It’s a full-time job,” adds Erb, reaching for another needle.
To some people, the idea of spending so much time fighting time is eyebrow-raising. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Botox injections were the most frequently performed non-surgical procedure in 2008, with more than 2.2 million administered, followed by dermal fillers.
Wallis Simpson famously said a woman could never be too rich or too thin. But what about too preserved? On a continuum of beauty care that ranges from a simple swipe of ChapStick to Nicole Kidman’s oddly augmented pillow lips, how much maintenance is too much?
“Do you know what costs a lot?” sighs DC dermatologist Tina Alster when asked to reveal the most expensive cosmetic procedure she does. “Maintenance costs a lot.”
Alster, whom Maureen Dowd once dubbed the Queen of Lasers, says her highest-maintenance patients are the ones who request more than what they clinically need: “They come to me saying they need the latest fillers and the greatest lasers. They drive themselves and everyone around them crazy because they really don’t want to age at all. They want to beat the clock—and that’s a bit unrealistic.”
So is thinking that eyebrows can remain in a fixed position without attracting a bit of skepticism.
“There’s nothing worse than when people mistake your Botox or brow lift for utter, constant surprise,” says fashion publicist Barbara Martin. “I think the fatal flaw is when DC women think it’s Miami and try to take 20 years off their face in one fell swoop.”
Rachel Weingarten, a Brooklyn-based image consultant who works with “high-wealth individuals” in both New York and Washington, says that when she rides the train between those cities she notices two kinds of faces: “The aesthetic in DC is very Junior-League-with-a-perpetually-unfurrowed-brow. It’s a moneyed look that’s worn more as a status symbol.”
New York City women are more trend-conscious and, like their counterparts in Los Angeles, more youth-obsessed. “They all want to look like supermodels,” says Weingarten. New York women as young as 22 are getting Botox, she says, and she’s convinced that 20-year-old singer Taylor Swift is doing something to her face: “I think it’ll come out that she’s much older than she claims.”