Most people know that Botox is used for smoothing frown lines and other wrinkles, but this injectable is much more than just a wrinkle treatment. The main ingredient in Botox was discovered over a century ago and it has been studied for decades. Botox is used for many medical and cosmetic uses, but you may not know exactly what it does. Here are the basics of how Botox works and how it can be used to improve your appearance and health.
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History of Botox
The active ingredient in Botox is botulinum toxin A, which is one of the strains of toxins found in Clostridium botulinum. The clostridium bacterium was discovered in 1895 after an outbreak of botulism from eating an improperly cured ham. There were seven strains of toxins identified, labeled A through G. Botulinum toxins A, B, E and F were the only ones that caused human illnesses.
Once identified, Clostridium botulinum was of interest at first to the military. The U.S. Army commissioned scientists to conduct studies on the bacterium, and in 1946, they were able to purify the botulinum toxin A (BTX-A) into a crystal form. This led to more studies on this particular strain, including tests in 1953 that proved the relaxing effect that occurred when injected into a muscle, which began the journey to how Botox is used today.
Over the following decades, BTX-A was studied extensively for medical use. In the 1960s BTX-A was used in clinical trials on monkeys to correct strabismus (cross-eyed), which was successful. It was not until the 1980s that FDA approval was given to begin testing BTX-A on humans. In 1988, BTX-A was FDA-approved for the treatment of strabismus and eye spasms. The company Allergan bought the formula and named it Botox.
The 1990s found more uses for Botox, including treatment for many types of muscle cramps and spasms. It was found to be useful in hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating, as well as bladder spasms. It was in the 1990s that the cosmetic benefits were accidentally discovered – patients experienced wrinkle reduction on their forehead when they received treatment for eye spasms.
Botox became an off-label cosmetic treatment in the late 1990s, resulting in the needed studies to prove its safety and effectiveness for cosmetic use. Botox Cosmetic was FDA-approved in 2001 for the treatment of frown lines. From there, it has been used in many cosmetic treatments and other use have been found, including treatment for migraines.
How BTX-A Works
BTX-A is a neurotoxin that affects nerve signals to the muscles. The toxin seeks nerves that use the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and binds to these nerves. BTX-A disrupts the transmission of nerve signals, which causes temporary paralysis in the muscles. While this could be deadly if C. botulinum is ingested in larger quantities and paralysis affects vital organs, in tiny doses in specific areas, this action can be useful.
The purified form of BTX-A in Botox is safe for temporary paralysis of targeted muscles. It can be injected into muscles that cause eye, neck, bladder or hand spasms. Botox can relax muscles that contribute to cerebral palsy spasticity or cause migraines. The same mechanism that works to calm muscles that cause pain or physical impairments can also be used for cosmetic purposes.
Cosmetic Use of Botox
The muscle relaxation effects of Botox can be aesthetically beneficial when properly injected. The first uses for Botox Cosmetic were on the brow. The muscles in the forehead that cause the “11s” or frown lines between the eyebrows and the horizontal “worry” lines across the brow can be relaxed with Botox injections. Exact placement with the correct dose is needed to relax the muscles enough to smooth these lines while still allowing for normal facial expression.
Botox cosmetic treatments can be completed in about 15 minutes and no downtime is needed after the procedure. Multiple injections may be needed to obtain the desired result. Botox dosage is based on units, which is a measurement of volume. The units are mixed with saline before they are injected into the desired area. The dosage used depends on many factors and can be different for each patient and treatment. Dosage varies depending on:
- Gender. Men tend to need higher doses than women due to larger muscle size and other factors.
- Metabolism. Individuals that have a higher metabolism or activity level may need a higher dosage or more frequent treatments to obtain the desired results.
- Treatment area. The dosage for treatment of glabella lines is different than the treatment for hyperhidrosis. Glabella lines may require 15-20 units while hyperhidrosis treatment is usually 200 units.
- History of use. Those receiving Botox regularly may need different a dosage than newcomers. Botox will weaken the muscles over time, which may require fewer treatments. Some people also build up a tolerance to Botox and may need to try another form of BTX-A to get the desired results.
When Botox treatment is given, the results are not immediate. It takes time for the neurotoxin to bind to the nerves and create the paralysis effect. Most patients notice the targeted muscles relaxing in about 3-4 days, but it can take a week or longer. The effects tend to last about 3-4 months before another treatment is needed. Those who have routine Botox injections for wrinkles, brow lifts, gummy smiles or neck bands may only need treatment every six months once the muscles begin to weaken.
Cosmetic Uses for Botox
There are many aesthetic benefits to using Botox. While smoothing dynamic lines like frown or worry lines were the first approved treatments, there are many other cosmetic procedures that can be completed using Botox injections. Some of the popular uses of Botox Cosmetic include:
- Reducing the appearance of crow’s feet around the eyes
- Smooth bunny lines on the nasal sidewalls
- Reduce the appearance of neck bands or cords
- Shrink the masseter muscles for a slimmer or more feminine face
- Reduce a gummy smile by relaxing the top lip
- Increasing the “pink” and fullness of the top lip with a “lip flip”
- Chemical, non-surgical brow lift – relaxing muscles that pull down the eyebrows can give them a “lift” for a more youthful brow appearance
The list of cosmetic treatments continues to grow. Many younger individuals are using Botox as a preventive wrinkle treatment – relaxing muscles that form dynamic lines before the wrinkles appear is becoming more common. This is called “micro” or “baby” Botox, where a diluted dosage is used with fewer units to slightly relax these muscles.
Botox injections are safe and widely used. Over 1.5 million Botox treatments are given each year in the U.S., and this continues to grow. There are possible side effects, but these are very rare. The most common side effects are slight swelling or bruising from the injections, but these will quickly dissipate in the days following the treatment.
Phoenix Botox Treatments
Now that you know exactly what Botox does, are you ready to experience it for yourself? Our team at Arcadia Wellness Center in Phoenix, AZ includes cosmetic injector experts that can help you achieve the best results from your Botox treatment. To schedule a cosmetic consultation, call our office and speak to one of our friendly staff members to book your appointment.