I Got Fake Botox at an Unlicensed MedSpa—And It Could Have Cost Me My Life

On April 15, 2024, the CDC announced that fake Botox had been found in at least nine states, affecting 19 people in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, and Washington. The 19 individuals reported adverse reactions, with nine undergoing hospitalization for conditions such as blurred vision, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, constipation, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

One of the 19 victims, who has requested anonymity, agreed to speak with Glamour about her experience developing botulism, a serious illness caused by toxins attacking the body’s nervous system, after she was unknowingly injected with counterfeit Botox at a New York City med spa. Ahead, she details her symptoms, her misdiagnosis from two hospitals, and her progress on the road to recovery.

It’s been three months since I got botulism from fake Botox. Three months and this is the first week I’m starting to almost feel normal again.

It all started when I got “Botox” in February. I went to the same med spa I’d been going to for three years. It’s in Manhattan in New York City, and I heard about it through word of mouth—a friend of mine went there. It had been advertised to me as licensed and looked so legitimate. The place is so nice and the injector wore a white doctor’s coat. They have an Instagram, carried reputable skin-care brands, and everything.

The main reason I went was because it was so much more inexpensive than my dermatologist, who I never ended up seeing for injections, though obviously I should have. My dermatologist charges about $1,500 for armpits, which I didn’t want to pay. This med spa was $500 and it seemed legit, so I was like, Whatever, I’ll do it.

I also had a great experience the first few times. I’d been getting Botox in my armpits for hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating. I went every nine months or so. I also got injections in my face about once every six months. I had been going there with no problem since 2021.

When I got sick, I’d had my armpits injected. I went to the appointment and at the time I didn’t notice, but looking back, I was numbed for much longer than usual. It was also a lot more painful than it was before. I thought maybe I was sensitive because I was getting my period. I justified it in my head. I didn’t try to make it out to be strange, but it hurt a lot. After finishing my armpits up, I pointed something out on my face, and the injector took the same syringe and put some in my forehead.

After about five days, I got this weird wave of dizziness that wouldn’t go away. I thought I was just hungry and needed to eat, but food didn’t help. Within that hour I started seeing double. I thought maybe I just needed glasses or something. I just didn’t think anything of it and went to bed.

I woke up still dizzy but had to go to work, and by the end of the day, I felt even dizzier. I was very weak and couldn’t catch my breath. It felt like there was someone sitting on my chest. I was having difficulty breathing so I thought I was having a panic attack. Not once did Botox cross my mind, especially since I’d gotten it so many times before.

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