Botox is the fastest growing cosmetic procedure in the United States. In 2001 alone, 1.6 million Americans underwent a botox procedure; a of 46% from the year before.

Many women turn to botox in order to prevent wrinkles; but how does botox really work? And does the cosmetic procedure have any risks or side effects that you should be aware of?

How Botox Works

Botox is made from Botulinum Toxin Type, a protein complex produced by a bacterium, which has the same toxin that results in food poisoning.

In small, medical doses, however, this bacterium blocks the release of a chemical known as acetylcholine that is released by the nerve cells, virtually blocking electrical messages sent by the brain (and more specifically, by acetylocholine) to the muscles to contract and move. Because these messages are blocked, there is less of a chance of developing fine lines and wrinkles.

Originally intended to treat eye spasms and eye misalignments, botox was approved in 2002 for cosmetic use.

The Procedure

During a botox procedure, several small injections are made into the muscles where fine lines and wrinkles appear; the exact location of the injection depends of the location, size and use of the muscles.

A general procedure does not use anesthesia, although sometimes an anesthetic cream will be applied to the area to be treated.

Botox procedures typically last for about thirty minutes, with results lasting anywhere from about three to six months.

The Benefits of Botox

Considered less invasive than cosmetic surgery and other cosmetic procedures such as a facelift, botox can greatly reduce the signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles.

While it doesn't completely eradicate the signs of aging, it can greatly reduce the appearance of moderate to severe frown lines, smooth wrinkles and even prevent new ones from forming. Skin often appears smoother and more youthful-looking.

Results of botox injections are most noticeable one to two weeks after the procedure.

Botox Risks and Botox Side Effects

While there is no risk of contracting botulism, if too much botox is injected or if it is injected into the wrong area, drooping eyelid muscles (ptosis) can occur, which can last for up to several weeks.

While many women turn to botox to make their skin more youthful and attractive, it's important to note that botox procedures aren't for everyone. People who should not have botox include: women who are pregnant or think they might be pregnant; people with infections on the area on which they want to treat; as well as those with potential allergies to the procedure. Similarly, women taking antibiotics, heart medication and other drugs should consult their doctor before undergoing any botox treatment.

Side effects of botox injections can include:

  • headache
  • respiratory problems
  • infection
  • nausea
  • flu syndrome
  • facial pain
  • redness at the site of the injection
  • muscle weakness
  • flu-like symptoms

However, these Botox side effects are generally temporary.

Before Getting Botox: Things to Know

If you're considering having botox done, make sure you find a qualified doctor who's properly trained. Ask any questions you might have about the procedure, no matter how insignificant you think they might be. Choose a medical office that has a sterile, professional environment.

Botox Alternatives

Botox can be used in conjunction with botox alternatives, including these injectable fillers:

  • Hylaform: this filler is made from hyaluronic acid found in the body and helps restore a youthful appearance to the skin
  • Sculptra: this injectable filler corrects fat loss, including sunken cheeks and eyes; it also helps skin look thicker, making it appear more youthful and healthy


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