After Fox & Friends aired a segment about Christie Brinkley looking flawless in a swimsuit at 63, meteorologist Janice Dean decided to fix a perceived flaw that had long been bugging her — her wrinkly neck.
Dean, 46, said she had already been using Botox to smooth wrinkles on her forehead — “Believe me when I tell you if you don’t see wrinkles on someone over the age of 45 it’s not because they have a great new face cream!” she wrote in a blog post — but wanted to do something to smooth her neck, a body part she had been self-concious about for most of her life.
“Every time I would see my doctor would ask if there was anything he could do with my neck,” she wrote. “I’ve had a bad relationship with my neck since I was little. There are weird lines around it like a tree trunk — they’ve been there since I was a baby. But now at age 46, I’ve started to notice excess skin gathering like an accordion in the middle. So now along with being able to count the rings around my neck to guess how old I am, there’s also some crepe paper attached to it.”
Dean’s doctor told her about a procedure called fractora, an outpatient laser procedure that takes under an hour and promises to regenerate natural collagen and tighten skin. She was told she would be healed in five days, and that results would last five years or longer.
“I started to imagine myself in V-neck dresses without feeling like I should be gobbling to Thanksgiving dinner,” said Dean, who decided she would try the relatively new treatment.
While the procedure took place without incident, her recovery process did not go as smoothly.
“The left side of my face was puffed out like a chipmunk,” recalled Dean. “I followed the doctor’s instructions and elevated my head and took more Tylenol to minimize bruising. The next day I took off my bandages. The left side of my face was still very swollen and I was finding it hard to talk out of that side of my mouth. I couldn’t chew properly. My bottom lip had looked like it had vanished. My smile was lopsided.”
It was only after having her procedure that Dean read all the possible side effects on the forms she had signed off on without worry. One of the side effects listed was “nerve injury, marginal mandibular nerve palsy, inability to depress lower lip, temporary change in smile or facial expression.”
“Yes, this looked like what I might be experiencing,” said Dean. “I was suddenly mad at myself. Why didn’t I read the fine print? Why did I just gloss over these many side effects without asking questions? How many times do we glance through pages of paperwork without fully reading it and nonchalantly sign on the dotted line? This was on me.”
Dean’s doctor assured her that she would eventually heal and her smile would go back to normal, but that it may take a few weeks.
“Lately I’ve been thinking about this: If I could choose between having a smooth neck or getting my smile back to normal, there is no question. My smile means everything to me,” she said. “They say the eyes are the window to the soul. I disagree. My smile is my window. I was near tears. This is not what I signed up for.”
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Dean’s reaction was very rare — it happens to only one to two percent of patients that undergo fractora — but that was of little comfort.
“I went to work the following week, but I couldn’t go on air,” she said. “My words weren’t coming out right. I wasn’t able to smile, laugh and deliver the weather with my Fox & Friends family. At first I was embarrassed. Then sad about what I had done. And then shame. Why was I so vain to do this to myself? I had to start admitting to my colleagues and friends what happened.”
Dean says the friends and colleagues she did tell were very understanding.
“There has been overwhelming support, and I’m hearing stories about other people that have also had complications with cosmetic procedures,” she said. “It happens a lot more than we hear about. But, we don’t talk about it because we live in a society where we are all supposed to look healthy and beautiful and young ‘naturally.’ ”
“I know I work in a business where that is magnified to a certain degree. But I don’t want to be ashamed [of] what I did,” she continued.
Nine weeks after her plastic surgery, Dean is not 100 percent healed, but she has improved. She decided to blog about her experience to explain her absence from the show.
“Here’s what I’ve learned: These new lasers, injections and cosmetic procedures that look as if they can turn back time? There’s a little more to it,” said Dean. “There are risks. It takes a while to heal. It’s also expensive. There are many possible complications that we need to be aware of before we sign on the dotted line. We should ask our doctors the worst-case scenario so we’re prepared.”
“The other thing I’ve realized?” she concluded. “I think we spend too much time focused on our flaws instead of embracing the things that make us all shine.”