Botulinum toxin (also known as Botox or Botulinum Toxin Type A) is a cosmetic injection that blocks the nerve signals that cause muscles to contract. This effect relaxes and smooths the look of lines and wrinkles caused by repetitive movements on the face—most commonly, between the brows, crows-feet around the eyes, and horizontal forehead creases.
Botulinum toxin is also used cosmetically to balance facial asymmetry and relax tight neck bands, as well as medically to reduce perspiration and to treat migraine headaches and muscle spasticity.
Botulinum toxin is a safe, non-surgical alternative to other anti-aging treatments. Each treatment session takes only a few minutes in a doctor’s office.
Botulinum toxin weakens the muscle into which it is injected. When a muscle normally contracts, such as when someone squints or frowns, it causes the skin above to crease. A botulinum toxin-weakened muscle leaves the skin smoother and less prone to wrinkling. The lines that result from frequent muscle contractions gradually fade, and in some cases, disappear.
Botulinum toxin is frequently used for the following:
- Frown lines between the eyebrows
- Horizontal forehead creases
- Crow’s feet around the eyes
- Lines on the upper lip caused by pursing the lips
- Downturned corners of the mouth
- Neck wrinkles and bands
Your doctor will determine where to inject and how much medication to use. Following treatment, you will see start seeing results in about 3-5 days, with peak results in 7-10 days.
Over a period of 3-5 months, the botulinum toxin slowly wears off, and the affected muscles regain their ability to contract fully. Repeat injections are performed when muscle function returns.
Side effects of botulinum toxin injections include minor discomfort, redness, and occasional bruising at the injection site. These usually resolve in a few hours to a few days. Rarely, temporary drooping of an eyebrow may occur. This usually resolves after a few weeks.
You may wish to discuss potential side effects with your doctor.
Although botulinum toxin has been FDA-approved and used safely for fine wrinkles, the treatment has received some bad press due to occasional poor outcomes or dangerous results. Keep in mind that most of these unfortunate events were due to the medication’s use by unqualified individuals (non-physicians) or the use of a non-FDA approved source of botulinum toxin.
Tell your doctor if you have any concerns about receiving botulinum toxin treatments.
Image courtesy of Gerald Goldberg, M.D.
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