Whether you've tried it or not, we've all heard of Botox and its wrinkle-reducing abilities. But what actually is it and how does it work? What conditions does it treat and how long does it last? We've tapped up the experts in the business to answer every question you could ever have about the popular cosmetic treatment.
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WHAT IS BOTOX?
Botox is actually a trade name for Botulinum toxin, a neurotoxic protein that temporarily paralyses muscles when injected. When Botulinum toxin is injected into a muscle underneath the skin surface, it relaxes the muscle and causes a smoothening of the overlaying skin, making it a popular anti-wrinkle treatment in the cosmetics industry.
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WHAT IS BOTOX USED FOR?
Alongside its strong association with the cosmetics business, Botox has many other uses within modern medicine.
According to , UK cosmetic doctor and founder of , Botox is approved for the treatment of Bruxism (teeth grinding) by relaxing the jaw muscles, and excessive sweating, known as hyperhydrosis, by blocking the nerves that control the sweat glands and many, many more medical conditions. "It is effective in treating squints, unstable bladders, anal fistures and vocal chord spasms," he adds. Recenetly, Botox was also approved to treat chronic migraines, too.
But by far the most common use is as a non-surgical cosmetic treatment, to smooth wrinkles as well as prevent new ones from forming, known as preventative Botox.
"The aim is to subtly lift key points using small amounts of Botox to create a fresher appearance," says , renowned cosmetic doctor. "All the muscles and structures of the face are linked, so you have to consider how they move together in order to create a natural look."
As well as wrinkles, Dr Esho note that Botox has further cosmetic abilities that you may not be aware of. "Botox can be used to raise the eyebrow, the lip and the tip of the nose. It is also used for the treatment of a gummy smile and to slim the jawline by treating masseter hypertrophy [a condition where the jawline muscles are enlarged]."
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WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
While Botox has been deemed safe to treat all of the above conditions, no medical or aesthetic procedure is without risks.
"Some are purely due to the needle such as bleeding, bruising and infection," explains Dr Esho.
Other risks involve undesired effects on the surrounding muscles, for example, a droopy eyelid when Botox is injected into the forehead. While these results would be disappointing, they wouldn't be permanent, as Botox is a non-permanent treatment.
However, Dr Esho warns that even though the results don't last forever, there could be long term consequences. "Overuse of the toxin repeatedly can result in excessive thinning and weakening of the muscles involved." Therefore, it's important to wait until the toxin has completely worn off before having more injected, and to use a skilled and experienced practitioner who is careful about the amounts they use.
HOW LONG DOES BOTOX LAST?
The results of Botulinum toxin start appearing only a few hours after treatment, with the full effect setting in at around the three day mark. These results last around four to six months. "Botox is self limiting and normally lasts between 4 to 6 months and isn't accumulative," notes Dr Esho.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Depending on where you have the Botulinum toxin injected, which clinic you attend and how much is used, the prices can vary dramatically from around £100 to £500.
As a rule of thumb, you should not automatically choose the cheapest clinic - a low price shouldn't be the deciding factor when considering where to go. Your decision should be based on finding a qualified practitioner with adequate medical experience. "Make sure you are seeing a medical practitioner. Unfortunately, in the UK, non-surgical aesthetics like Botox and fillers are unregulated, meaning that anyone, including you, could inject it with no legal consequences," warns Dr. Esho.
WHAT ARE SOME ALTERNATIVES TO BOTOX?
If the idea of injectibles freaks you out, or you're simply unsure, there are some Botox alternatives to consider (which don't require needles). There's Ultratherapy, which uses ultrasound technology to send energy into the deeper levels of the skin to stimulate collagen and elastin and tighten muscles. Chemical peels, which addresses fine lines and wrinkles, while smoothing the skin's texture. As well as at-home treatments like mirconeedle patches and retinol.