NEW YORK – A woman goes into a room with a man she's just met, chats for a while, lets him give her a shot, then rejoins the party.
No, it's not the return of heroin chic. It's a Botox party — the latest trend for those chasing the fountain of youth.
These parties typically consist of wealthy women — and the occasional man — who gather at a plastic surgeon's office or a private home for hors d'oeuvres, cocktails, music and Botox. Sometimes they just learn about surgical and nonsurgical plastic surgery options, other times the procedures are performed at the party.
The injectable form of botulinum was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration to temporarily smooth out crow’s-feet and frown lines that furrow faces. The toxin paralyzes the injected muscle for approximately six months and costs about $400 a session.
Dr. Joseph Eviatar, an ocular plastic surgeon at Chelsea Eye Associates in Manhattan, administers Botox injections for patients who host these parties for friends.
"We only do Botox at people's homes. It's simple and you need very little equipment," Eviatar said. "The guests get educated on the procedure and fill out medical history and consent forms. I take them into another room to meet with them privately and give them Botox injections."
Alcohol is only served after procedures are completed so guests aren't hazy about what they're signing up for.
Chelsea Eye Associates also hosts seminars in their medical office-cum-art gallery. Guests enjoy the artwork and learn about cosmetic procedures from the staff.
Dr. Debra Luftman, a dermatologist in Los Angeles, closes her office for half the day to host breakfast, luncheon or evening fetes for groups of about 20 women.
"It's a comforting way to see that the office is not a scary environment and learn about the procedures," said Luftman. "A cosmetic company comes and brings samples and gift packets for the guests and we take their pictures with a UV camera."
After Luftman gives a talk about the dangers of sun damage, a "Cosmetic Party Menu" is passed out. Guests choose from several cosmetic and spa treatments including Fotofacials, collagen, bikini waxes and Botox.
Friends can even go into the exam room together. "They feel more interested in having things done that they may not have even thought of before because they see their friend doing it," Luftman said.
This bonding over Botox is exactly what worries some experts.
"Botox is one of the best things since sliced bread," said Dr. Darrick Antell, spokesperson for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "But it needs to be more of a personalized experience. Parties can encourage people to think about cosmetic surgery, but it should always be a well-thought-out decision."
Nearly 8.5 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2001, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, an increase of 48 percent from the previous year.
"People think this is a lark and certain physicians feed into it," Robert Bernard, vice president of the ASAPS said. He added when he first heard about these cosmetic surgery soirees he was "quite taken aback."
Around 50 people attend a monthly "Botox Cocktail Party" at the Spa at The Palms Casino in Beverly Hills, Calif., where Dr. Paul Nassif, a plastic surgeon to the stars, explains various procedures and demonstrates some on chosen revelers.
"The concept is to have people come in and get Botox and then stay for a massage or some other treatment to relax," said Keri Printy, spa director. "The parties have definitely been getting us more clients."
These beat-back-the-clock parties have another advantage: There are discounts for getting shot-up en masse. Eviatar gives guests a 10 percent discount; Luftman knocks $100 off every procedure over $200.
But these jovial events aren't appropriate for medical procedures, said Bernard. "There are complications, while rare, most common of which is passing out from seeing the needle or feeling it when it goes in. There are rare cases of allergic reactions as well.
"The appropriate place to treat any complication is not on a dining room table of someone's house, it's in the doctor's office."
The most important part of getting cosmetic surgery is choosing a qualified doctor, Bernard and Antell said.
"There should be a doctor-patient relationship established before procedures are performed," said Bernard. "And there's a presumption that if you go to one of these parties you are going to get Botox, but not everyone is a good candidate."