The truth about Botox

Botox, the magic potion that makes age seem like just a number, is the most talked-about and misunderstood. Read on to understand it better

woman administering botoxWhat is the similarity between Vanessa Williams, Kim Cattrall, Kylie Minogue and several big Bollywood actors? They all use Botox [though few Bollywood celebs will admit it]. Until a few years back, the B word was used in hushed tones, because of which there is some mystery and many myths surrounding it. Here we try to clear some of the most common ones.

What is Botox?

Botox is a purified protein derived from Clostridium botulinum bacterium. It is a non-surgical, physician-administered treatment that can temporarily reduce moderate to severe frown lines between the brows in people between 18 and 65 years of age. A small amount of Botox injected into a muscle blocks nerve signals that instruct your muscles to contract. In doing so, it temporarily weakens or paralyses the facial muscles and smoothes or eliminates wrinkles in the skin for a few months.

Now, let’s get down to clearing the air surrounding the use of botox for skin treatment.

Myth 1: Botox is painful.

A Botox sitting involves administering a few tiny injections to the affected part on your face. It does not require using anaesthesia. An attentive doctor, however, will provide an aesthetic cream or ice pack prior to your treatment to make it as comfortable as possible for you. Talk to your doctor about your fear, as s/he can alleviate your concerns through proper education.

Myth 2: Botox causes a frozen face with no facial expressions.

There is a harmonious balance between the muscles of the face. If too much Botox is injected, one can easily lose the action of muscles of expression. However, if this muscular balance is maintained, by only injecting small doses into specific muscles, you can have a natural softening of unwanted lines and wrinkles without compromising your facial expressions.

Myth 3: Anyone can administer Botox.

Botox should only be administered by experienced aesthetic-speciality physicians, including plastic surgeons and dermatologists, in appropriate medical settings.

Myth 4: Botox poisons.

For cosmetic use, the typical patient receives an average of 20 – 70 units of Botox per treatment. Over time, the body naturally eliminates the administered Botox. This is why the effects are temporary. As with every medication, excessive amounts can be dangerous. The lethal dose of Botox is 2800 units, 100 times the average dose given for the treatment of lines and wrinkles.

Myth 5: Botox is a toxin and can be harmful for cosmetic use.

It is not. It is, in fact, a medical prescription product. It is also one of the most widely researched medicines in the world and millions of patients have used it. Moreover, the product is allowed to be handled only by trained specialists. In micro quantity, botulinum toxin type A provides good results for fine facial lines, masseter hypertrophy, hyperhidrosis etc. A Botox bottle contains highly purified form of this toxin, in very small quantity [100 units].

Myth 6: Stopping Botox will make you look different than before.

Botox effects can last up to four months. When the drug wears off, your face returns to the pre-treatment condition.

Myth 7: Botox isn’t for men.

Men constitute nearly 10 per cent of all Botox treatments and the number keeps growing.

Myth 8: Botox can have serious side-effects.

Botox has a long-established safety profile and has been approved to treat a variety of medical conditions and cosmetic procedures. Its side-effects in the treatment of wrinkles, in particular, are minimal. At the most, there is the possibility of a small bruise or some redness at the injection site. However, if you are using it for treating a medical condition, talk to your doctor about the potential benefits and risks.

Note: You should not use Botox if you are pregnant or are breast feeding.


Myth 9: Botox can cause botulism.

Botox is made from a purified protein. The harmful part is lost in the purification process and what remains is protein in its purified form. Also, Botox is not expected to cause botulism at the doses recommended on the labels.

Myth 10: You can get Botox treatment only once.

Botox treatment can be repeated as long as your condition responds to it. In most patients, each treatment typically lasts up to 3 – 4 months. Although most people continue to respond to Botox, some respond less over time. Your doctor will do two things to help you maintain your response. S/he will:

  • Give you the lowest effective dose
  • Determine the proper time between injections
  • Your doctor may not repeat the treatment if you experience serious allergic reactions or other significant side-effects.

Myth 11: Botox can only be used cosmetically.

In addition to smoothening wrinkles, Botox has many medical uses. The Food and Drug Administration [FDA], USA has approved Botox to treat:

  • Cervical dystonia [CD]—head tilting, neck pain and spasms
  • Blepharospasm, or eyelid spasms
  • Strabismus, known commonly as crossed eyes
  • Severe underarm sweating despite anti-perspirants.

Myth 12: Many creams are better than botox.

The creams available on the market for smoothing wrinkles and frown lines are topical creams meaning to be applied on the surface, externally. But Botox permeates the skin to work on the muscles beneath it that actually cause frown lines to form. Botox causes the muscles to relax which eases the lines and makes the skin looks smooth.

Rekha Sheth
Dr Rekha Sheth, MD, DVD, Cosmetic Dermatologist, is the founder and present President of the Cosmetology Society [India]. Dr Rekha, the pioneer in beauty technology like Laser, Botox®, Fillers, runs her own clinic in Mumbai.


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