Botox is finally becoming popular in India, outside of the select circle of superstars, socialites and sundry residents of Antilla. In September this year, Raghu Kumar, managing director at Allergan India, told The Economic Times that 20 per cent of its new users were men — up from five per cent a few years ago. DrMadhuriAgarwal, who has been with Kaya Skin Clinic for nine years, says, “Initially, Botox was perceived as a procedure with adverse effects and something that was only accessible to celebrities.” DrAakritiMehra, dermatologist at New Delhi-based Enhance Clinics, says, “The taboo is still attached to it, but a gradual change is taking place. Earlier, when we would suggest Botox to a male patient, the initial reaction was invariably an outright no. Now they are more accepting of the treatment. It will take years before Botox is culturally accepted in our society, especially by men. Till then, a gradual warming up to the idea is welcomed.”

Extracted from bacteria called clostridium botulinum, Botox has a good cop/bad cop personality — it’s a protein and a toxin. The toxin side of it, in fact, can be lethal if not injected properly. 45-year-old banker AshwinRai (name changed) did have some reservations. “I realised later that a very tiny dose of toxin was being injected and it was safe in the right hands,” he says. After dabbing a numbing cream on the areas, Botox is injected. Rai continues, “I felt the prick, yes, but it felt like an ant bite. In fact, it hurt less than a tetanus shot I had gotten last year.” A Botox injection can cost as little as Rs 5000 per injection, while there are Groupon options online, starting from Rs 3000.

For some reason, Botox is a source of embarrassment for the middle-aged, just like braces are for the teenaged. Rai says, “I’ve only told my wife and kids. I don’t want to be judged. I feel the world doesn’t look too kindly upon men who use Botox.” Two years since his first treatment, 52-year-old YashwantPatil has told a total of 25 people — close friends and immediate family. A professional Odissi, folk and western dancer along with being a senior manager in a pharmaceutical firm, Patil went under the needle because “I like to present myself neatly”. For Rai, it was a mix of the personal and the professional. “I was not happy with the way I looked,” he says. “My confidence was being affected and it was becoming difficult to face my clients daily.”

Botox is also gaining followers because, as DrMehra says, “With today’s demanding lifestyle, constant work on computers, late nights and irregular sleep patterns, we tend to look older and more tired than we actually are. The emphasis, in fact, has moved from looking young to looking refreshed. With Botox, especially, a rejuvenated appearance rather than a plastic, frozen look is appreciated.” DrAgarwal says, “Men are usually worried about their forehead, frown lines and jaw line. Underarm and palm sweating, which can be successfully treated with Botox, is also an issue. Men use Botox for taking care of ageing lines and maintaining their youthful look, whereas women get it done for changing their features. So, for men it is about correction and, for women, about enhancement.”

While we’re all for the use of Botox, its advertising could do with being less fake. Kaya Skin Clinic regularly features women who are more marble than skin, and private cosmetic clinics often make its models look like their own wax figures. No one wants to look like a character from Zoolander, after all. One of its many pluses, though, is that as a lunchtime procedure, it can be done while someone’s ordering dessert. Patil, who has been going for follow-up treatments every six months, has the perfect sales pitch — “Everyone should try it at least once, especially those who like to look good.”