In February 2010 Debenhams, the high street department store shoppers usually associate with fashions and furniture, became the first chain to banish customers wrinkles by selling Botox jabs to its customers. For a flat fee starting at £170, shoppers can spend their lunchtime improving their looks with a Botox procedure that generally takes around 45 minutes, including a total of 10 minutes for the jabs and a consultation with a physician in a private consulting room.

The Mediskin Cosmetic Laser Clinic was first rolled out in the Newcastle store. With the use of Botox for cosmetic enhancement in the UK up 2,500 percent in a three-year period, Debenhams is planning to make the clinics available nationwide in the near future. In addition to Botox, the clinics will offer other popular cosmetic treatments such as dermal fillers, age and sun spot reduction, and removal of thread veins.

Botox works by blocking the signals from the brain that cause muscles to contract and move. Tiny injections into the sites where lines and wrinkles appear effectively freeze the muscles, causing a noticeable smoothing effect within three days. The effect lasts for three to four months for the first treatment, and up to six months for subsequent procedures.

Botox treatment has become wildly popular for eliminating crow’s feet and worry lines on the forehead, and gossip columns are rife with stories of celebrities such as Simon Cowell, Victoria Beckham and pop singer Fergie having Botox injections. It’s no wonder that ordinary British men and women are turning to the needle to get a quick and relatively cheap shot of youthfulness. Although some dermatologists warn against the long-term side effects of Botox, the injections have been used for 20 years to prevent eye squinting and it is clear from Debenhams’ move that consumers have come to regard Botox enhancements as a routine cosmetic procedure.

With the UK market estimated at over 100,000 Botox users a year, the Debenhams initiative may be the first sign of a rush to take advantage of the fastest-growing beauty lift in the cosmetic industry. Debenhams spokeswoman Ruth Attridge stressed the advantages to customers of being able to have the procedure done as part of their regular day, while stressing that the Botox jabs will be “all under the guidance of medical practitioners.”