Originally used to treat migraines, muscle spasms, and disorders of the nervous system, botulinum toxin (or Botox) has been used since the 80’s to treat wrinkles as well. While it is one of the few treatments for wrinkles that actually works—unlike many creams and other topical treatments—it is not without its risks. Here’s a closer look at Botox—and its benefits and drawbacks.
How it Works
Botox isn’t right for everyone—and it’s important to consult a doctor in deciding whether this treatment appropriate for you.
Botox is made from a purified protein from botulism—a bacteria that usually makes people sick. In this form, however, the protein binds to nerve endings, preventing the activation of certain muscles.
If it’s injected into the right place, Botox can paralyze small muscles in the face that cause creases in the skin over time—creases that cause crow’s feet, frown lines, and other facial wrinkles. Once the muscles are frozen, the lines can’t form—and they smooth out and reduce in appearance over time.
Benefits of Botox
Botox is one of the few wrinkle treatments on the market today that actually works. It produces real, visible, and sometimes dramatic results. It isn’t an invasive procedure, like a face lift—the treatment can take only minutes, depending on the size of the treated area. No anesthesia is required. The effects of Botox usually lasts approximately three to six months.
One of the benefits of Botox is that the results generally look natural. Since only the muscles that specifically cause the wrinkles are targeted, the results tend to be localized. In addition, recovery is usually light; there is often no pain after the treatment, although some patients experience headaches or bruising.
Drawbacks of Botox
Botox doesn’t work well on every type of wrinkle. It’s best on fine lines that are caused by repeated muscle use. With wrinkles and folds caused by the weight of sagging skin, it tends not to be as effective. In these cases, a wrinkle filler may be a more effective treatment.
In addition, the results are sometimes not as effective for muscles that are used frequently—to eat, open the eyes, and perform other functions. In some cases, Botox can cause a blank, frozen look that arises from the inability to use certain muscles in making facial expressions. Generally, Botox works best on wrinkles that are dynamic—caused by moving muscles—while wrinkle fillers work best on static wrinkles.
There are other, more serious side effects, too. In some rare cases, Botox can paralyze the muscles that hold up the eyelids—causing the eyelids to droop. Some patients have experienced other side effects such as blurred vision, eye pain, bruising and bleeding, dizziness, and more severe headaches. Side effects can last anywhere from several weeks to several months, or until the Botox wears off completely.
For both side effects and cosmetic results, the skill and experience of your doctor makes a big difference. Even though Botox injections can be fairly expensive—ranging from several hundred to a thousand dollars or more per treatment—it’s important not to just go with the cheaper option. A dermatologist with a long history of success in Botox treatment will give you better results than a doctor specializing in a different area who holds a license to inject Botox on the side.
Botox isn’t right for everyone—and it’s important to consult a doctor in deciding whether this treatment appropriate for you. Choose a doctor with experience, and you should be able to ensure a better result, fewer risks of side effects—and a better chance of feeling healthy, happy, and good about your looks.