BOTOX® is one of the world’s most in-demand cosmetic treatments. It’s estimated that providers perform more than six million injections each year, mostly to combat common signs of aging on the face. The product has been authorized by the FDA as a method for correcting fine lines and creases that form on the upper third of the face, such as crow’s feet, furrows between the brows, and forehead lines. BOTOX® also has some off-label uses, which include improving the look of bags under the eyes, smoothing out bunny lines on the nose, and lifting the brows to freshen the facial appearance. Dr. Holly Happe provides BOTOX® treatments in the Boston area, where she routinely explains its many uses to women and men alike.
In addition to its cosmetic, skin-smoothing abilities, BOTOX® is often employed as a treatment for severe underarm sweating, migraines, muscle spasms, and eye disorders, along with other medical conditions. Though the medication can’t cure these problems, it can help to temporarily alleviate the symptoms of such disorders.
But how exactly does this injectable work? And what sets it apart from other cosmetic treatments? To understand how BOTOX® functions, it’s helpful to take a focused look at the type of wrinkles it treats and what causes them to appear in the first place.
Getting older is inevitably detrimental to your skin in some way. As we advance in age, the skin’s structural integrity weakens, and it becomes dry, brittle, and thin as important molecules—like the proteins collagen, which forms connective tissue—are depleted. The moisturizing components of the skin that keep it looking smooth, radiant, and dewy begin to diminish once we reach our 20s.
We are capable of conveying a large range of emotions through our faces, but repetitive motions like frowning and squinting can unfortunately form creases known as “dynamic wrinkles,” especially in skin low on collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid. This is because thin, aging skin that has lost much of its prior elasticity is no longer is able to completely spring back to its original position. Thus, the “expression lines” on our faces become permanently etched in over time.
The potent botulinum toxin, which is the primary ingredient in BOTOX®, is produced by the clostridium botulinum bacterium. This organism occurs naturally in environments such as soils and lakes, and lives in low-oxygen conditions, often existing in a dormant state.
Unlike dermal fillers that add volume to the skin, BOTOX® smooths and softens the complexion from the inside out by hitting the “pause button” on muscles. The contractions responsible for the overlying skin forming fine lines or deep creases slow, then stop for months at a time.
The science behind it is simple, yet fascinating: Once injected, BOTOX® acts on the nervous system, blocking the release of the chemical messengers that tell the muscles to contract. This prevents the muscles from pulling on the skin as they usually do when your face is animated, thereby minimizing the appearance of existing wrinkles. The break in regular contractions may even help to delay the formation of additional creases.
BOTOX® is well tolerated by the body. No anesthesia is required, and the medication typically causes only minor discomfort at most during and just after the injection process. In most cases, patients don’t need any downtime after a treatment session and can go back to their daily activities right away.
If you have any questions about costs or side effects associated with BOTOX®, how to prepare, or what to expect from the treatment, it’s best to discuss these with your provider during your initial consultation. This is also the time to talk with your injector about any allergies you may have, as well as your overall medical history, to ensure BOTOX® is an appropriate choice.