Botox Myths Busted

There are quite a few myths, misconceptions and scary stories floating around about BOTOX™ and I felt that it was time to clear some of that up. Is it dangerous? Will it give me Botulism? Will other people be able to tell if I’ve had BOTOX™ or even worse, will I look frozen and expressionless? The list goes on and on, but the good news is that most of the bad things that you have heard are just myths. Only you can decide if BOTOX™ is right for you, but below are seven of the most common myths that I have addressed to help clear things up:

1.  Botox is not safe and can be dangerous.

BOTOX™ received approval by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in 1989 for the treatment of some eye disorders such as strabismus and blepharospasm (eye spasms) and has had approval for cosmetic use since 2002. Since then, it has been safely used by millions of people and is the number one non-surgical cosmetic treatment in the US. In 2014, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that over 6.6 million treatments were done using Botulinum Toxin Type A (BOTOX™ & Dysport) and these numbers keep growing each year with a 6% increase from 2013.

Aside from the treatment of wrinkles, BOTOX™ is also used to treat other conditions such as migraines, overactive bladder, muscle spasms and excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis). In fact, there is new research which suggests that BOTOX™ may affect the skin structure in a way that could possibly have direct anti-aging benefits. In the article “Botox Injections May Affect Skin Structure” found on medscape, the author Anne Harding from Reuters Health, presented the findings of how BOTOX™ may affect the structure of the skin by increasing its elasticity and pliability. One of the studies authors, Dr. James Bonaparte from the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada reported that there were changes observed in the skin that suggest that fibroblasts have receptors that may cause cells to produce more collagen and elastin when they interact with BOTOX™. Collagen and elastin are proteins that give structure to the skin and are responsible for keeping the skin firm and tight. While more research needs to be done, this could be very useful information with the advancement of anti-aging strategies and for scar management.

BOTOX™ is very safe when administered in the correct dosage by qualified medical professionals. At Pacific Plastic Surgery, our staff has had extensive training and years of experience with administering this product. Recently, our Physician Assistant Jessica Barker became a certified trainer with Allergan (the company that makes BOTOX™) and now travels to different practices and actually trains physicians and other injectors on how to properly administer BOTOX™ treatments along with other injectables.

It is also important to keep in mind that any reputable doctor and practice would never inject something that would be harmful for a patient just for an aesthetic benefit. Our patients safety is our primary concern above all else.

2.  Botox can give me botulism. 

BOTOX™ is a purified protein that is derived from Botulinum Toxin but it is NOT Botulism nor is it toxic when administered correctly by a qualified provider. BOTOX™ is administered in a precise manner, with minute and controlled amounts of the product, leaving the effect of the treatment only at the site of injection. It would take a massive amount of BOTOX™ to cause any type of systemic effect and this would not occur in the hands of a reputable medical provider.

3.  Botox will make me look “frozen” and expressionless. 

Not true! Most of our BOTOX™ patients say that they hear that they look “refreshed” and get tons of compliments on their appearance. We even have had many women state that their friends and family have no idea that they even do these treatments. When administered correctly, It will allow a natural look that makes our patients look great but with the ability to still express emotion.

The treatments we do are individualized to each our of our patients unique needs. For example, many women complain about looking angry when they focus on something and their eyebrows pull inward to form the “eleven lines” or those vertical lines that many people see between the eyebrows. If this was the only concern, we could target just that area or do other areas at the same time, leaving the treatment customized completely to improve what areas bother you. If you are new to BOTOX™, we can also start with a conservative amount and go from there. Our goal is to listen to your needs and concerns and then customize a treatment plan to help you look and feel your best.

4. I should wait until I have wrinkles to consider Botox.

BOTOX™ actually works best before a wrinkles become deep because it works to prevent specific muscle movements that form those wrinkles. To understand how BOTOX™ works, it helps to understand wrinkles and how and why they form. There are two types of wrinkles: dynamic and static. Dynamic wrinkles are a result of habitual muscle movement while static wrinkles are present regardless of muscle movement and are caused by a loss of volume seen with aging. BOTOX™ works on dynamic wrinkles by inhibiting the overuse of specific muscles. Then those wrinkles do not form or worsen because those lines form as a direct result of how the muscles move. This explains why so many patients are making the decision to use BOTOX™ before they appear to have wrinkles. These patients identify certain wrinkles that are beginning to form and by targeting those muscles, never allow that wrinkle to form or worsen.

While it is ideal to treat wrinkles before they form, most of our patients have already missed that window of opportunity and have existing wrinkles that they find bothersome. The good news is that BOTOX™ is still a great option as long as those lines are caused by movement and not loss of volume. Treating existing wrinkles with BOTOX™ will dramatically soften the appearance of those lines and in some cases even make them go away. Unfortunately, if a wrinkle is deep, it may not go away but will still look better and you will prevent it from getting worse.

5. I will look worse if I get Botox and then stop. 

After the effect of BOTOX™ wears off, the face and muscle activity return to how it was prior to the injection. If anything looks “worse”, it is only because the wrinkle is now visible again due to that muscle movement returning. The treatment area simply goes back to how it was prior to the injection.

On average, BOTOX™ lasts about 3-4 months when injected with the recommended amount, although that can vary with several different factors. It tends to last longer in patients that do BOTOX™ treatments consistently and many of our patients prefer to schedule their next treatment before leaving the office to ensure optimal results. Other patients who desire a “lighter” treatment with some movement,  will still look great but may not have results that last quite as long.

6. Botox is painful. 

BOTOX™ is administered with a needle and that is one thing that we cannot change. However, most of our patients report minimal, if any, discomfort. The needle that is used is small and fine and we also offer topical anesthetic and ice to our patients although many of them say that they don’t even need it. Technique is also important. I remember feeling like I was a dartboard with my first treatment because she wasn’t gentle and a lot can be said for being gentle when using needles and using a little TLC!

7.  Botox is addictive.

The only addicting thing about BOTOX™ is that people love the way that they look and feel which is why they are likely to continue with getting more BOTOX™ in the future.  It is impossible to become physically addicted to Botox and there is no scientific data to support this myth.

To read more information about this treatment and to see a video where Dr. Mackenzie discusses BOTOX™ injections click here.

Douglas J. Mackenzie, MD

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