Botulinum toxin type A is produced by Clostridium Botulinum and is a toxin that is similar to that which causes botulism. However, despite its unsavoury beginnings, Botulinum Toxin type A is now used widely across the world to treat various health conditions including severe perspiration in the axilla (under arm), cervical dystonia (muscle contractions of he neck and shoulders), chronic migraine and an overactive bladder. It is also widely used in the aesthetic industry for the eradication of wrinkles and as a key component of the non-surgical face lift. In this article, we describe how Botulinum toxin has gone from a sinister cause of food poisoning to an important medicine and integral part of the aesthetic industry.
Botulinum toxin’s effects on smoothing wrinkles was accidentally discovered in 1987 by Jean and Alastair Carruthers, two Canadian doctors. The story goes that Carruthers shard his Vancouver office with Jean, as he divided his time between his work caring for skin cancer patients and performing cosmetic procedures. At the time Jean was practicing as an optometrist for both adults and children. One condition that she helped to treat was that of blepharospasm, which is when the eye muscles spasm, making the eye continuously blink. This was treated with injections of botulinum. It was when Jean was about to inject this into her patient’s eyelid that she was told to inject it into the forehead instead. Jean later learned that Alastair had been injecting his parents foreheads with it in order to smooth out their wrinkles. This discovery then changed the aesthetic industry for ever.
Although the results were very clearly evident with regards to the its effect on smoothing wrinkles, it was a long time before the rest of the world began to embrace these injections and to include them as an integral part of the cosmetics industry. In 1991 Jean and Alastair Carruthers attended an American Society for Dermatologic Surgery presentation and, were told at the time that their work would amount to nothing. However, with many more clinical trials performed and an increase in credibility, people started to take notice. It was by 1993 that the name Botox® was developed. It was first licensed for use in 2002, with FDA approval for the use in reducing glabellar (frown) lines. Since then it has been widely adopted globally and treatments for other wrinkles (such as crow’s feet) have been also licensed. Furthermore, qualified doctors frequently use Botox® on other wrinkles and in treatments like the non surgical neck lift as off-license treatments successfully. Sadly, over the years there have also been unregulated uses by those who are not trained in the use of this treatment. However, today there is much tighter safeguarding and regulation. It is however very important that the individuals performing this procedure are fully regulated, licensed, trained and insured to do so.
Botox® has come a long way from its initial origins as a cause of botulism. Its effects on muscle relaxation have enabled it to be used for a range of medical and aesthetic problems. Furthermore, injections of Botox® into the sweat glands has become an increasingly popular and effective treatment for hyperhidrosis (excess sweating). As with any aesthetic treatment, results and safety should be prioritised by seeing an experienced and qualified aesthetic doctor. For more information about the use of Botox® for anti wrinkle treatment, liquid facelift or neck lift or hyperhidrosis, please visit our individual treatment pages.