Botox – we’ve all heard of it, many of us probably know someone who’s had it done. And some of us may be sorely tempted to put it to the test of smoothing out our wrinkles. But what is Botox? What does it really do? And if you decide to try it, what sort of an experience can you expect?

What Is Botox?

Botox is a refined, medicinal version of one of the most poisonous substances known to man – botulinum toxin type A (BTX-A). Although this toxin produces the life-threatening food poisoning botulism, Botox is generally safe as an injectable treatment as it is administered in small quantities and injected directly into specific sites.


Although Botox is one of today’s cutting edge treatments in appearance medicine, its roots go back to the beginning of the 19th Century when the botulinum toxin was described as “the sausage poison” due to the fact that it was often found in badly made sausages (botulus is Latin for sausage). The neuromuscular blocking properties of BTX-A were discovered in 1949 and the toxin was first officially used therapeutically in a human in 1980. It’s use as a cosmetic agent for the smoothing of facial lines was not approved by the American Food and Drug Administration until 2002.

How Does Botox Work?

Muscles are triggered to move when the nerves that feed them release the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. By preventing the release of acetylcholine, Botox effectively paralyses the muscle. The effect is temporary as nerve fibres usually regenerate after a few months.

What is Botox Used For?

It’s well known that Botox is used cosmetically to create a smoother, less-lined appearance. By preventing various facial muscles from contracting, the skin flattens and wrinkles diminish or disappear. Areas that are often cosmetically treated with Botox include:

• The “number 11″ lines between the eyebrows (glabellar lines).
• Crow’s feet.
• Forehead creases.

But Botox also has therapeutic uses too, in fact its use as a treatment for certain medical conditions pre-dates its cosmetic use by 20 years. The nerve blocking action of therapeutic Botox applies well to afflictions involving muscle spasm. These include:

Cervical Dystonia – a condition where neck muscles contract involuntarily causing pain and abnormal posture.
Blepharospasm – spasms of the muscles around the eye that cause uncontrolled movement of the eyelid.
Strabisimus – commonly known as crossed-eyes, this condition occurs when muscles on one side of the eye are too tight.
• Muscle spasticity associated with cerebral palsy.

The Cosmetic Experience

Botox should only be used by a medically qualified professional as it can be dangerous if administered incorrectly. A typical treatment will involve a doctor using a fine needle to make a series of injections into specific muscles. The number of injections varies with the area being treated, the forehead, for instance, may require 5 or 6 shots.

A typical treatment lasts around 15 minutes and the patient can return to normal life immediately. The full effect of the treatment will take up to 2 weeks to become apparent and the results will last between 3 and 6 months.

Though Botox is a relatively safe treatment the patient may experience certain side effects. These include:

• Bruising at the injection site.
• Headache for a few hours after treatment.
• Nausea
• Flu-like symptoms
• Drooping of the eyelid.
• Spread of the toxin outside the treatment area.

Most of the above symptoms are mild and temporary. However, if you experience trouble swallowing, slurred speech, muscle weakness or breathing problems you should contact your practitioner immediately as these may indicate spread of the toxin to other areas of the body.

Are You a Candidate?

Botox won’t reverse sun damage and it isn’t generally recommended for lines around the mouth as these muscles are needed for eating and speaking. The thickness of your skin, your skin type and how pronounced your wrinkles are will also all play a part in determining whether or not this form of cosmetic treatment is right for you. If you are a candidate, though, and you share in the common desire to look younger, Botox may be just the thing you need to help you turn back a few of those years.

Is Botox the Right Cosmetic Treatment for You?, 4.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

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