The Simple Truths About Botox

Woman receiving botox treatment

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Injection of botulinum toxin type A, also known as Botox, has become one of the most common non-surgical cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S.

Yet, amid its unflagging popularity, there remain many myths about the procedure, the most common being that people who get Botox are being injected with botulism (a bacterial form of food poisoning).

It is this and other types of misinformation that can lead consumers in the wrong direction when deciding whether or not to use Botox.

The History of Botox

Botox is the brand name of a type of toxin produced by a form of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. The toxin has different medical purposes based on the specific type used, ranging from type A to type G.

Type A, the most potent, is marketed under the name of Botox. A similar product, also using type A, is available under the brand name Dysport. Both have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for the purpose of reducing facial wrinkles.

A third, using type B botulism toxin, is marketed under the name Myobloc.

Botox has largely become the generic term for all of these products, even among those receiving Dysport or Myobloc injections. Although the results can vary, all three work quite similarly,

How Botox Works

Despite what many will tell you, Botox doesn't actually remove wrinkles. In fact, you should be wary of any doctor, nurse, or aesthetician who claims that it does.

Instead, Botox works by temporarily disabling the facial muscles that cause wrinkles (specifically, those associated with crow's feet and the frown lines between your eyes). Botox is able to do this by directly blocking the facial nerves that tell your muscles to contract.

Once injected, that muscle is basically paralyzed, leading to the reduction of so-called "dynamic wrinkles" (wrinkles that are only present when muscles contract). This is why Botox is so effective on the wrinkles around the mouth and cheeks (when we smile) and the corner of the eyes (when we squint, frown, and grimace).

Not all wrinkles are treated equally. As we get older and lose elasticity in our skin, a permanent crease can sometimes develop even when the muscle is relaxed. While Botox cannot erase these deep creases, it may help to soften them.

Botox isn't reversible once it has been injected, but it does wear off. Its effects typically begin within 48 hours of injection and become noticeable within five to 10 days. However, the effects only last from between three to five months, at which point you would need another treatment to maintain the anti-wrinkle effects.

A Word From Verywell

Studies have shown that people who get Botox injections are generally satisfied with the results. However, it should never be considered a miracle treatment. While you can certainly expect some noticeable improvement, it can't turn back the clock 20 years.

In the end, it is always important to be realistic about what Botox can and cannot do.

Moreover, the improper use of Botox can result in what many call a "frozen face," a condition which ends up highlighting the procedure rather than the wrinkles it is meant to conceal. Always check the credentials of the professional who plans to give you the shots and ask for references from current or former clients.

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