Botox: The good, the bad and the ugly

Long considered the realm of celebrities whose career depends on their appearance, botox treatments are becoming more and more mainstream. It’s also becoming more publicly accessible as clinics become more accessible and affordable. However, is botox the best way to fight the effects of aging? Will it freeze your face so that you can never smile properly again? Or is that just an urban legend? We explore how botox works and whether or not, as the saying goes, beauty is suffering.

What is botox?

Botox, or botulinum toxin, is a neurotoxin derived from bacteria. It’s one of the most poisonous substances on the planet, however, when used in extremely small concentrations, botox can be used to paralyse targeted muscles without significant side effects.

What is botox used for?

Botox is used for both cosmetic and medical purposes. In medicine, botox is used to treat problems caused by overactive muscles and nerves, such as debilitating spasms. Cosmetically, botox is used to smooth out wrinkles and make the skin appear younger.

What types of botox are there?

There are eight different types of botox. Types A, B, E, and in some cases F, cause a life-threatening disease called botulism in humans, while C and D cause illness in other animals. Botox types A and B are usually the types used for both cosmetic and medical purposes.

Does botox work?

Botox is quite effective for temporarily smoothing out wrinkles and creases. It’s important to note that not all wrinkles are the same. Botox does not work on wrinkles caused by sun damage or gravity. Research also shows that botox is less effective for those other than 65 years old. The effect is usually only temporary, so to maintain your preferred look, you’ll need to regularly top-up your botox injections.

guide to botoxHow is botox administered?

Botox is generally administered through injections. The botox is diluted in saline solution and injected directly into neuromuscular tissue. The procedure is pretty quick and straightforward, taking only a few minutes, and doesn’t require anaesthesia. It usually takes about 24-72 hours for the botox to take effect.

How does botox work?

Botox stops nerve signals from reaching muscles, effectively paralysing them so that they can’t contract. This relaxes the muscles, preventing skin creasing which in turn creates wrinkles. The most commonly targeted areas are ‘expression lines’ on the forehead, crow’s feet around the eyes, and lines on the throat.

The effect generally lasts three to six months. When the botox begins to wear off and muscle action returns, lines and wrinkles will reappear. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that wrinkles will become worse if you stop using botox. Your face will gradually return to the way it was before you began injections.

Is botox safe?

As a neurotoxin, botox can be extremely dangerous if injected incorrectly. If its effects spread away from the injection site, it can have adverse effects on muscles that control swallowing, speaking, or breathing. This is rare, however.

While botox is prescription-only, many clinics have it administered by non-doctors, with prescriptions given by doctors who may not actually be on site and are ‘supervising’ multiple clinics. If you want a botox injection, choose where you get it done wisely. Don’t rush for the bargain bin – it’s best to be treated either by a doctor directly or with a supervising doctor on site.

Botox is not safe for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or those who have a neurological disease.

How much does botox cost?

The cost of a botox treatment depends on what areas you wish to target, and how many units of botox product are required. This means prices can range from $90 to over $700 or more for a single treatment. It’s also important to consider the ongoing costs of botox. To keep the effect, you’ll need to re-inject every 3-6 months. For more accurate pricing, you’ll likely need to go in for a consultation and a personalised quote. It can be worth shopping around for quotes, as prices for similar treatments can have huge variation.

What are the pros & cons of botox injections?

PROS

  • Safe if done in a reputable clinic with doctor supervision
  • Side effects are generally short-term and relatively mild
  • Effective at smoothing out wrinkles

CONS

  • Risk of ‘frozen’ face. Injecting too much can leave you with a limited range of emotional expression, which can make it difficult for you to express yourself and for others to connect emotionally with you
  • Side effects include bruising, swelling, headaches, skin tightness, muscle weakness and numbness
  • Expensive, and requires regular upkeep

What should I do before getting botox?

When choosing a clinic, look for one where services are administered by a qualified medical doctor, or have a supervising doctor present on-site. Go for a consultation to discuss how much work you’ll need for your desired outcome, how often you’ll need to return for top-ups, and what the ongoing costs and risks are. Once you have a treatment plan with your clinic, take plenty of time to consider whether the treatment is right for you before committing to anything.

If you do choose to go ahead, make sure you have spoken to your doctor about what you need to do to prepare for the treatment and how to care for it afterwards, to minimise discomfort and maximise effectiveness. It’s ideal to avoid alcohol for at least one week prior to an injection, and anti-inflammatory medications should not be taken in the two weeks prior to treatment to avoid bruising.

Should I get a botox injection?

Wrinkles are a natural part of aging. This shouldn’t be considered a bad thing – wrinkles make faces more interesting and human. For instance, laugh lines help your smile spread across your face.

Moreover, botox injections run the risk of limiting your ability to express yourself. If you can’t emotionally express yourself through your face, it can make it harder to connect with other people. Be careful not to overdo it!

If you’re really bothered by your appearance, consider other less risky options with fewer side effects before going ahead with botox, and have a long conversation with your doctor about the pros and cons. Some clinics are more ethical than others – for example, some may decline to inject clients if they believe that botox is not a good choice for them. These are the best kinds of clinics to go to, because they care more about a patient’s well-being than a patient’s money.

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