What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “botox?”
If it’s shows like “Botched” or frozen, expressionless faces, you’ve only heard one side of the story.
We aren’t going to mince words: bad botox does happen…but it’s nearly always caused by improper delivery, an inexperienced treatment provider, or even just a provider who won’t say no to you when it’s really not the right choice for you.
But the other side of this conversation is that people have a lot of misconceptions about cosmetic neurotoxins, how they work, and how they should be used. Like a children’s game of telephone, those myths and ideas tend to warp and mutate over time.
Eventually, the info gets so twisted, it’s pretty much entirely false.
So let’s talk about it and get to the truth. We’ll start by sharing the real benefits of botox; then, we’ll bust a few myths. Finally, you’ll learn about the five most critical need-to-know facts you must have to get great Botox results every time.
THE BENEFITS OF BOTOX
Botox is actually remarkably effective at treating fine lines, wrinkles, sagging, texture problems, and small muscle spasms. It can even be used to prevent problematic signs of aging if you start in your mid-20s or early 30s.
Over the past decade, the FDA has even approved neurotoxins for the treatment of certain health conditions, such as chronic migraines, blepharospasm, and overactive bladder.
Even Mayo Clinic, one of the most respected medical organizations in the country, has a lot to say about the benefits of botox. They explain that botox’s nerve signal blocking effects help treat conditions like hyperhidrosis (excess sweating), cervical dystonia (neck spasms), muscle spasms (often due to Cerebral Palsy), and lazy eye.
Admittedly, most people heading to a medical spa for botox probably aren’t seeking to treat health conditions – they want the cosmetic benefits, instead. But we thought we’d tell you about both as it demonstrates just how prevalent, well-tested, and beneficial this miracle substance can really be in the right hands!
THE SECRET TO BOTOX’S MAGIC
So what’s the secret? Why is botox so great, anyhow?
Botox (onabotulinumtoxinA) is extracted from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, the same germ responsible for botulism. If you were to ingest food contaminated with botulism, you would probably become very sick – but injectable neurotoxins don’t work the same way.
Because they’re injected, rather than ingested, the area of effect remains very small (within an inch or two of the injection site) with virtually no systemic impact.
Botox’s mild paralytic effect blocks nerve signals that tell small muscles to contract, triggering them to relax. The skin above the injection area appears smoother and more even with fewer fine lines and wrinkles.
Here’s a quick (and slightly silly) way to see just how much impact muscle contractures make on the appearance of your skin. Go to the closest mirror and make the biggest, most ridiculous smile you can. Pay close attention to how your skin looks around your eyes and the outer corner of your mouth as you contract these larger muscle groups.
Probably smoother at rest, right? Botox works on the same essential process, but it affects small muscle fibers instead. Delivered by someone who knows what they’re doing, this results in a subtle smoothing effect without limiting facial expressions.
BUSTING BOTOX MYTHS
Now that you know the truth about botox, let’s talk about those myths and misconceptions. These urban legends might sound scary, and people often blame “bad botox results” on them…but they just aren’t real.
Botox is toxic. Neurotoxin does not equal botox may be sourced from Clostridium botulinum, but it really contains just a tiny portion (the neurotoxin itself) rather than the entire germ. It can’t (and won’t) make you sick, put you at risk for fatal illness, or somehow affect the rest of your body. It’s also one of the most highly-researched, FDA-approved injectables on the market!
Botox is extremely painful. Nope, not true, either. In fact, most patients report only mild discomfort or slight stinging with injectable botox. The needle we use for cosmetic injections is extremely small – not that much bigger than an acupuncture needle, in fact. If you can handle regular vaccinations or injections, you can definitely handle botox.
Botox causes permanent “frozen face.” Also untrue. Assuming your treatment provider knows what they’re doing, you should never suffer from frozen face period. Botox doesn’t last forever, anyway – results stick around for somewhere between four and 12 months for most patients.
Botox is dangerous. The only shred of truth in this is the fact that botox can be dangerous if misused. As long as treatment providers use it judiciously and follow all recommended procedures, it’s incredibly safe. The dangers mostly stem from situations where people attempt to self-inject or turn to black market/underground injectors who aren’t licensed to save a buck.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR GOOD BOTOX
Alright – by this point, you’re almost a botox expert. But let’s take things one more level and teach you what you need to know to ensure good results.
1. Only consider licensed medical professionals. Probably 90% of all “bad botox” occurs at the hands of providers who either aren’t licensed or just don’t have the experience to get it right. They may rush, inject too much neurotoxin, inject too little neurotoxin, or even hit the wrong areas. THIS is where “frozen smile” and other problematic issues come from.
The ideal treatment provider is a licensed medical professional with at least five years’ experience working with botox. They should be able to show you a portfolio of past results, too – be sure to ask for it. Each injector has their own aesthetic, and it’s important you get to know their “style.”
2. Understand the role of location. No, we don’t mean which medspa you go to – although that matters, too. We’re talking about where you have injections and how the location can affect your results.
Over-paralysis is far more common in the forehead, for example, than around the cheeks or chin. Similarly, there is a higher risk for over-paralysis around the mouth than around the outer edges of the eyes. Don’t be afraid to research this on your own and talk to your provider about your concerns.
3. Have realistic expectations. If you have deep lines, wrinkles, and sagging, don’t expect botox to miraculously make you look 20 again – at least, not in a single session. Be realistic about the results you expect and just how far you can get without risking excess paralysis.
A good treatment provider will be entirely honest with you about what they can actually achieve – including saying no, if necessary. Someone who promises you the world or gives you guarantees probably isn’t honest.
4. Expect some pain. Okay, listen – botox isn’t really painful, but if you happen to be the girl from “The Princess and the Pea,” you may experience some discomfort. You can prepare for this in a variety of ways: take Tylenol, ask your treatment provider for numbing cream, or just use deep breathing.
Most importantly, never be afraid to tell your provider if you’re scared you might struggle with the discomfort. They often have solutions of their own to help you get through it, but honestly, it isn’t usually that bad.
5. Know how to prep and recover. Botox prep is pretty simple: don’t drink for at least a few days before your procedure, and avoid Advil, Aleve, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Tell your provider if you’re taking any blood-thinning drugs or if you have a condition like haemophilia. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can remove your makeup before you come – but your provider can help you do that, anyway. After your procedure, it’s all about self-care. It’s totally safe to put on makeup and use most skincare products, just be sure to be gentle with your skin. Avoid exercising or laying down for the rest of the day. If you’ve had botox injected around your eyes, try to avoid rubbing them even if they feel itchy; a cool cloth may help. If you happen to experience bruising, topical or oral Arnica montana supplements will help without risking additional bleeding under the skin.