City Informer: Was Botox Really Invented in Vancouver?

Legend has it that the magic of Botox was discovered here—by accident.

Have you ever seen the Vancouver coat of arms? It features two hot white guys, confidently wearing high-waisted pants and pulling it off. (That’s part of what makes them so hot.) One is holding an axe, representing the lumber industry; the other is holding a mesh bag, representing either the fishing industry or the fact that he’s just been to the Kitsilano Farmers’ Market. Either way, as much as I admire these strapping young men and as many fan-fiction masterpieces as I’ve been inspired to pen (spoiler: there’s a lot of kissing!), I think it’s time to update this iconography to better represent Vancouver’s economic foundation. Move over, Resource Hunks, and make way for Alastair and Jean Carruthers: pioneers of cosmetic Botox.  

Picture it: the married duo could be proudly wielding syringes as they flank the Vancouver crest. The motto below currently says “By sea, land and air we prosper,” but with a few tweaks we can easily change that to “Eternal youth through strategic facial poisoning.” It’s the least we can do for the people who discovered and popularized the now-ubiquitous treatment for vanquishing wrinkles and frown lines—the Carutherses never were able to get a patent. Let them have this.

Illustrator Byron Eggenschwiler’s rendition of Vancouver’s new and improved coat of arms. Someone get the mayor on the phone.

As the legend goes, Vancouver eye doctor Jean was using tamed botulism toxins back in 1987 to treat eye spasms, a revolutionary treatment she learned working under Californian ophthalmologist Alan Scott. One patient noticed that the injections were giving her not just relief from her twitches, but also a “beautiful, untroubled expression,” as Jean said in a 2014 Maclean’s interview. Naturally, Jean went to her receptionist the next day and, in what can only be described as the height of lean-in-girl-boss confidence, asked if she could inject her with the Botox to test it out. 

(Obviously, everything worked out great for everyone involved here—the receptionist got rid of her frown lines, Jean made an incredible discovery, I got a weak excuse to talk about the thirst-trap coat-of-arms boys in the first paragraph of this column—but I would just like to interrupt myself to remind all entry-level employees that if your boss asks to inject your face with something, you are allowed to say no. Also, you should maybe call WorkSafe?)

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By 1990, Jean and Alastair (who ran his dermatology clinic out of the same office) had treated 10 very trusting patients, and by 1992 they were presenting their bold methodology to rooms full of skeptics. Their haters wouldn’t be raising their eyebrows for long. The couple travelled through Europe and Asia demonstrating their technique—a crusade for smoothness, if you will—and quietly gained a following from beauty devotees who were happy to blast their wrinkles into submission. The results spoke for themselves, and importantly, not even one receptionist regretted their decision to get injected in the forehead on their lunch break. Success!

Now, 30 years later, the FDA-approved Botox has become the most popular non-invasive cosmetic procedure, with 4.4 million performed in the U.S. alone in 2020. But if Jean and Alastair are upset that they weren’t able to patent the cosmetic usage of Botox, you wouldn’t know it: there’s no evidence of frowning on their beautiful, untroubled faces. Get these ageless mugs on that coat of arms already. 

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