Q&A: Botox Fear?

Q: I’ve been thinking about trying Botox, but I’m afraid.

A: When we evaluate elective cosmetic procedures like Botox treatments, we should carefully consider the pros and cons. BOTOX® Cosmetic is a physician-provided treatment derived from a bacterial toxin, Clostridium botulinum, which paralyzes muscles. It has been used for decades to treat spastic muscle conditions (such as cerebral palsy), following trauma and injury, and even the symptoms associated with cluster headaches. 

Facial expressions – frowns, smiles, squints – etch muscular grooves over time, causing furrowed brows, crow’s feet, and smile and lip lines. Botox is injected directly into certain facial muscles to block the transmission of nerve impulses, reducing muscular activity and giving the skin a break from constant flexing and tweaking. It works, and it’s the anti-aging treatment of choice for millions. There are growing numbers of Botox providers, and some people even organize “Botox parties,” where a doctor visits and administers treatments to guests. But what are the risks?

It might hurt. Because Botox treatment is by injection, there may be some pain – reactions differ by individual and are impossible to predict. Any time a needle goes into delicate facial skin, there’s also the risk of infection along with some level of discomfort. Most doctors place a gel ice pack on the area prior to injection to help numb the skin and minimize discomfort.

Your face might “freeze.” Even small overdoses of Botox can create the effect of a “frozen” face, devoid of expression, which can look strange and unnatural. A relaxed looking face is the goal with Botox.

You might damage your system. While very rare, there are sobering reports about Botox treatments that have gone awry, leaving patients gravely ill. Experts are studying the effects of introducing C. botulinum into the system, even in small amounts.

Most of us know regular Botox users who look great, feel great, and are thrilled with the results. And there are those, like you, who are thoughtfully pondering the risks. If you do decide to have Botox treatment, be sure to go to a doctor who is an expert in skin care and facial anatomy. Are there alternatives to Botox? Yes, and you should learn more about them to help guide your decision.

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Published on 03/31/2009 | Last updated on 01/05/2017