There are many facts about cosmetic Botox, but one of the most important is this: it is a medical procedure that carries risks along with its rewards. You may not like the crow’s feet, brow creases and laugh lines that come with age, but before you choose to address them with this popular treatment, be sure you’re informed. Here are some answers to common questions to help you on your way to making a decision that’s right for you.
How does Botox work?
To understand how the treatment works, it helps to have a grasp on how wrinkles develop in the first place. When you move your face—furrow your brow or squint, for example—your skin creases, then bounces back once you’ve return to a neutral expression. As you get older, however, skin becomes less resilient, and those same creases start to remain even after you relax your face.
Botox, or botulinum toxin type A, temporarily blocks nerve impulses in muscles that help you make facial expressions. This limitation helps keep what are known as “dynamic wrinkles,” such as brow lines, at bay. Deeper wrinkles, the kind that appear even when your facial muscles aren’t at work, are less likely to be affected by Botox, though they may appear softer with the treatment. Also, research suggests that results in people older than 65 may not be as significant as they are for younger people.
Who can administer Botox?
Board-certified dermatologists and plastic surgeons with special training and experience in Botox therapy are qualified to give you this treatment. Seeing a doctor who does not have the proper training may increase your chances of side effects, such as severe limitation of facial expressions (some limitation is normal). The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has a searchable database that can help you find a qualified doctor in your area. Be sure to always go to a medical facility or office for treatment. Botox parties—during which a doctor administers injections in an informal setting to several people—have become popular in some areas, but they can be unsafe. After you choose your doctor, consider booking a consultation to ask questions, express concerns and hear the doctor’s recommendations for you before you get your first injection.
Can I have Botox injected into any part of my face?
The FDA has approved Botox for cosmetic use, but only to treat wrinkles between the brow. (Botox is also approved to treat medical conditions, including migraines and a neurological disorder that causes neck and shoulder contractions.) Off-label use, however, is common: Some doctors use Botox to smooth forehead lines and crow’s feet; it is also sometimes used to treat lines on the lower half of the face, which has been associated with facial numbness, drooping lower lips and other more serious complications. You can talk to your doctor about the risks of off-label use, but in general, know that limiting treatment to only the approved area can help safeguard against side effects.
How often can I get Botox?
The effects of Botox can last up to four months, and receiving injections more frequently than once every three months may give you that expressionless, frozen appearance you are likely hoping to avoid. Likewise, it’s key to talk to your doctor about using the smallest dose possible. Err on the side of caution, especially during your first treatment.
While it may seem that many people you know are getting Botox, ask yourself if it’s the best choice for you and evaluate the alternatives. If you’re simply trying to improve the look of your skin, altering your diet, starting an exercise regimen, staying hydrated and trying a new skincare regimen may deliver the refreshed, youthful appearance you’re after—and with far less worry.