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Black women are spending more than $1,000 on Botox to avoid sweating out their edges while exercising

Lauren Edmonds   

Black women are spending more than $1,000 on Botox to avoid sweating out their edges while exercising
  • Some Black women use Botox along their hairline to stop sweating and achieve smooth "edges."
  • One dermatologist said the procedure takes 10 minutes and can cost more than $1,000.

Former "Big Brother" contestant Kemi Fakunle typically works out three times a week and does cardio daily — partially to tire out her mini Dalmatian, Billion. Exercise is a part of Fakunle's lifestyle, but the 30-year-old told Business Insider she could live without sweat ruining her edges.

"Edges," also known as "baby hairs," are the short wisps found along a person's hairline. They've been the cultural standard of beauty for the Black community for decades. Recently, however, they've sparked a plethora of online tutorials showing how women meticulously style their edges, typically done by coating their hair with gel before brushing them into place with a toothbrush or edge styler. One video posted by TikToker @destineewrayy in June 2022 has more than 4.4 million views.

@destineewrayy just me chatting away while i show you my favourite ways to do my edges #braidhairstyles #edges #edgetutorial #boxbraidshairstyles #boxbraids #knotlessbraids #grwmblackgirl ♬ original sound - des

Eventually, Fakunle had enough.

In May, she booked an appointment with medical spa BESO Aesthetics in Manhattan, where she received Botox along her hairline and about two inches of her scalp. Fakunle collaborated with the medical aesthetics clinic by posting a video of the experience on her TikTok, so she did not pay for the treatment.

Fakunle, who only had one appointment to get her desired results, is among a community of Black women now turning to Botox to style their hair. She says it's worth it.

"I love convenience. It's like switching from dairy to oat milk — it's such a subtle change in your life," she said. "Botox definitely has me as a full-time customer now."

The procedure takes about 10 minutes but can cost more than $1,000

Injections of Botox, or Botulinum toxin, block the nerve signals to muscles, which stops them from contracting and eventually causing wrinkles. According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, Botox temporarily blocks secretion from the chemical responsible for activating the body's sweat glands.

Dr. Jeanine Downie, a dermatologist in her 50s based in Montclair, New Jersey, said the procedure is gaining traction among patients. She told BI she started administering Botox along her patient's hairlines after trying the technique on herself.

"I like to joke and say I'm my favorite patient," she said. "I exercise seven days a week, and because of that, I sweat in my head. I've been using a micro Botox technique for roughly three and a half years."

The typical hairline Botox patient requires between 25 and 35 units of Botox over 10 minutes. Downie said the number of injections a patient receives depends on their muscle mass, so it varies from person to person.

Afterward, Downie hands her patients an ice pack and reminds them to avoid exercise for the rest of the day. Although patients might experience slight bruising or tenderness at the injection points, they can go about their day.

"It lasts the typical three months. Many times after you've done it for one or two times, then it starts lasting more like six months," she said.

Downie's practice charges anywhere from $800 to $1,500 for each hairline Botox treatment, depending on how much of the scalp is treated.

Black women who received the procedure say Botox has given them more freedom

One of Downie's patients, Wendy Pittman, has received Botox treatments for more than two decades but started requesting Botox along her hairline in 2019.

She's a longtime believer in cosmetic treatments, having been in the aesthetic medicine industry for 23 years and recently opening Peel Haus Aesthetics & Plastic Surgery in Washington, DC.

Like Fakunle, Pittman said she regularly exercises, and styling her hair became exhausting.

"I always had to flat iron my edges so that I could blend them with my sew-in extensions. My edges became a lot more frail, thin and weak," Pittman, 54, said. "When I started getting the Botox from my edges, I noticed that one, it reduced the sweating, and then I felt like my edges were more dense."

Pittman added that after getting Botox along her hairline, she didn't need to heat her edges to straighten them, which can cause heat damage to the fine hairs. Now, she does the procedure about twice a year.

Both Pittman and Fakunle acknowledged that the procedure is not FDA-approved for the hairline but still plans on continuing to get injections.

The procedure faced criticism online in January when a TikTok video of a woman discussing Botox as a means to avoid frizz went viral on Twitter, prompting some users to argue the procedure is too extreme. At the time of writing, the video has over 2.5 million views.

Despite some online pushback, Fakunle said she's seen more Black women try Botox in real life.

"A few of my followers on Instagram reached out to me to mention that they got it," she said. "One girl got her sideburns done, and that has been working really well for her. Another girl messaged me and said that she ended up getting her entire hairline done as well and how she loves it."

The Black community's emphasis on edges may be a symptom of navigating white beauty standards

Historically, Black women have relied on several tools to slick edges, like gel, hairspray, silk scarves, toothbrushes, and more.

Lori Tharps, a co-author of "Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America" and host of the "Read, Write, and Create" podcast, told BI the Black community sometimes uses edges as a barometer for "good hair." The cultural discussions of "good hair" and "bad hair" are typically steeped in colorism and texturism, with praise heaped onto those with straighter, less coarse locks.

"It's simply a visual testament to how well you have your hair 'under control,'" Tharps, 51, said. "It keeps coming back to this idea that there's something inherently wrong, uncivilized, unattractive, or unacceptable for polite society with our hair being not under control."

But even so, Tharps and Cheryl Thompson, an associate professor at Toronto Metropolitan University in Canada, told Business Insider that people shouldn't be condemned over getting Botox. It's complicated, they said.

"The reason it feels complicated is because we're simultaneously trying to please a white gaze and intrinsically satisfy ourselves as well," Tharps said.

Thompson, author of "Uncle: Race, Nostalgia, and the Politics of Loyalty" and "Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada's Black Beauty Culture," added that many Black women begin picking up beauty standards when they're young.

"When you're coming of age, you just want to be like everyone else," Thompson, 46, said.

Thompson added that Black women altering their hair to enjoy exercise is nothing new.

"There's more women than we'd like to admit who get Botox — and at young ages. It's not just middle-aged women now," Thompson said. "There's more women that like fillers in their face and their cheeks."

Thompson noted that chemical relaxers boomed in the mid-1900s because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in public facilities based on race or color. Black Americans could finally use spaces they'd previously been barred from, like state parks and swimming pools.

While exercise played a role, women often underwent chemical relaxers to avoid discrimination from their non-Black peers at their jobs, schools, and other places. In 2019, California became the first state to install The Crown Act, which outlaws discrimination based on hair style or texture.

For people like Pittman, getting Botox is about confidence and recognizing her autonomy.

"What I'm learning about myself, more so than any other time in my life, at 54, is that women have a really hard time being selfish with themselves," she said. "We have a very difficult time doing things for ourselves, and that has to change."

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