POSTED: 21 Dec 2017


There’s still a lot of confusion as to what Botox is, what it’s good for and what it’s not. Whilst the popularity of professional aesthetic treatments like Botox and dermal fillers has exploded for the last decade, there hasn’t been much progress in terms of general understanding about these treatments. Fear not, we are here to dispell the myths and guide you through all the questions you might ever have had about Botox.

What Is Botox & How Does It Work?

First of all, Botox® is the brand name of Botulinum toxin made by a company called Allergan (who also make the Juvederm brand of dermal filler). In fact, there are many brands of Botulinum toxin which are also used for cosmetic and medical purposes (namely Dysport® and Bocouture®). So what exactly is Botulinum toxin? Well, its a protein that in nature is produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacterium. More precisely, it is a neurotoxin which causes temporary muscle weakness or paralysis. Which, is obviously quite scary sounding right? So why and how can anyone use it for cosmetic purposes? Well, Botulinum toxin has been used in medical treatment of muscle conditions in the face and body since the second world war. Since 1989, it received approval for use in the cosmetic treatment of wrinkles. The Botulinum toxin that is found in Botox and other drugs is produced under strictly regulated laboratory conditions. In addition, it can only be prescribed and performed by someone with a medical background such as a doctor as it is still classed as a pharmaceutical agent.

Botox works by blocking the transmission of the motor nerves and muscle at the junction where they interact. As a result, it causes weakness or paralysis of these muscles. Since wrinkling of the skin is related to muscles activity, weakening of the muscles which contract and cause lines or folds result in softening of the appearance of these wrinkles.

What Is Botox Best For?

From a cosmetic perspective, Botox anti-wrinkle injections work best on lines and wrinkles which are visible in motion but not at rest. Hence, relaxing the muscles responsible for these wrinkles will soften or even eliminate them. Popular areas for Botox anti-wrinkle injections are forehead and frown lines as well as smile lines around the eyes.  You can also use Botox to sculpt and define the face. Injections of the product to the lower face muscles can help slim down a square face and enhance the definition of the jawline as well as treat jowls. Furthermore, Botox injections can also be used to eliminate bands and sagging skin on the neck to help achieve a tighter and more sculpted neck. Other common uses include treating a gummy smile, excess sweating and tooth grinding. The results achieved are dependent on your face shape, health and the skill of your Doctor.

Does The Treatment Hurt?

If a fine needle is used and the injection is performed expertly then you should not feel any pain. Numbing cream or ice can often be used to help make you more comfortable.

How Long Does It Take To Work & How Long Does It Last?

In general, you should see the full effect of treatment at 2-3 weeks for wrinkle smoothing and 3-4 weeks for thicker muscles after the initial injection. Most people begin to notice a gradual change or improvement from a few days after the injection onwards. How long it lasts depends on your metabolism and the muscles injected. In general, Botox injections can last between 3-4 months for most cosmetic treatments.

Are There Any Risks Or Side Effects?

Yes, there are. Although Botox has been around for some time and has an excellent safety record, no treatment is without risks. The main complications are often related to injection Botox in or near a muscle which you don’t want relaxing. Hence you can get drooping of the eyelid after relaxing forehead muscles. If the treatment doesn’t take into account your facial muscles and shape then you can get asymmetry. Another problem is usually overdoing it. Injecting too much Botox can cause a frozen look which is unnatural and quite frankly appears strange. These complications are thankfully temporary and go when the Botox wears off eventually. However, they can be avoided or at least reduced by only going to an experienced and skilled doctor. More general and rare complications include allergic reaction, infection at the site of injection or an immune reaction. These problems can again be anticipated most times if you receive a proper medical assessment.

What’s The Difference Between Botox & Dermal Fillers?

Everything! So a lot of people tend to confuse the two or use one when the other might be more appropriate. Botox relaxes muscles and hence is effective at smoothing wrinkles which are apparent on making an expression. Dermal fillers like Juvederm are made up of Hyaluronic acid which is a sugar that helps plump up the skin. They are excellent for smoothing wrinkles which are visible when your face is static. They are also great for replacing volume loss and hence can be used to enhance sunken cheeks, treat under eye hollows and augment thin lips. Dermal fillers are also temporary (last 6-12 months) but you see the result immediately. They can also be used together as their effects are complementary.

What Should I Look For When Choosing A Botox Clinic?

Firstly do your research. Look at several different options and compare them. Important things are that you should ensure that you’re going to be treated by a qualified doctor. Look for things like an initial consultation and also whether they offer free follow up (this is super important). Also, if a free touch up is included after 3-4 weeks should you require more. Other important points to consider are that they focus on natural looking results and avoid a frozen look. Ensure that during the consultation you feel relaxed and encouraged to ask questions. You should not feel rushed or pressured into having a treatment. Your doctor should ask you questions regarding your medical as well as aesthetic background. They may also offer an alternative treatment if they think Botox isn’t appropriate. Lastly, whilst price is clearly important, try not to be tempted by extremely cheap offers. There is likely to be a compromise in either the product, treatment or service.

What next?

We hope that you enjoyed reading our guide to Botox cosmetic treatments. If you’re interested in finding out about the history of this treatment, check out our previous post. leave us a comment below if you want us to answer any other questions or there’s anything you would like us to cover. Also, if you’ve had Botox before, what was your experience?

Authored by:

Dr Amel Ibrahim
Aesthetic Doctor & Medical Director
Founder City Skin Clinic
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Associate Member of British Association of Body Sculpting GMC Registered - 7049611

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