Dr. Simon Ourian, a leading Botox authority, offers a new consumer fact report on the science and myths surrounding Botox.
In 2008 almost 4.2 million procedures were performed with FDA-approved Botox Cosmetic and in 2009 that number might double.
But despite its unrivaled popularity, Botox has also been associated with a surfeit of myths, rumors and frightening stories made up by people who either overreact or speculate regarding things about which they have very little or no knowledge.
Dr. Simon Ourian, M.D., one of the most experienced physicians in the United States in the use of Botox offers some insight on the science and myths surrounding Botox.
Botox is a simple, non-surgical, physician-administered treatment that can temporarily smooth moderate to severe dynamic wrinkles in people. It is the only treatment of its type approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
One 10-minute treatment—a few tiny injections—and within days there’s a noticeable improvement in moderate to severe dynamic wrinkles that can last up to 4 months.
Botox Cosmetic is a purified protein produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacterium, which reduces the activity of the muscles that create the wrinkles and lines caused by repetitive dynamic movements of the muscles.
Ten myths vs. facts about Botox injections
Myth No.1: Botox injections distort your facial expressions.
Some psychologists have opined that a person who has the crow’s feet near her or his eyes treated with Botox will experience difficulties with facial expressions. They argue that it’s possible for a patient to display fake facial expressions. Yet, does a youth’s smile appear false to you? A youth’s face usually has no frown lines at all.
According to Dr. Ourian, “Facial expressions may be distorted, but only in the case of an overdose or misdirected injection of the drug. Patients who want to look ten years younger are strongly advised to have their Botox injection administered by a qualified physician, as injections performed at salons or mall stores may result in dire consequences.”
Myth No. 2: Botox injections are toxic to the body.
Botox is a purified protein derived from the botulinum toxin, a serious form of food poisoning. The botulinum toxin lives in poorly preserved foods, including canned meats. This toxin primarily affects the central nervous system. The safety of Botox is ensured by its pinpoint administration into a certain muscle or a group of muscles. Because the concentration of the toxin is very low, a Botox injection is simply incapable of spreading its effects outside the given area. According to Dr. Ourian, “Aspirin and antibiotics are potentially more harmful than Botox.”
Myth No. 3: Patients often develop an “addiction” to Botox injections.
According to Dr. Ourian, “The drug does not bring about any physiological addiction. Furthermore, the effects of a Botox treatment are not permanent, usually lasting three to six months.”
A psychological dependence does not come about from Botox. A person will undoubtedly look and feel younger and more attractive as the skin becomes smoother and wrinkles are gone. Naturally, a person will come to love her or his new and improved look. However, the rejuvenating effects of Botox are temporary and a person simply does not want to see those unattractive wrinkles on their face again once the effects of Botox begins to fade. Should I go in for another injection? Does my desire to look good resemble a psychological “addiction” in disguise? This is a philosophical question. But a desire to look good is not a medical problem.
Myth No. 4: Botox injections induce a stressful experience for the muscles.
In reality, Botox does the exact opposite. People laugh, cry, and make facial expressions and all the while their facial muscles keep working. Often, they are unable to unwind and let their facial muscles relax even while asleep. These factors lead to the lines that develop in the face. “When a Botox injection is administered, it allows the muscles to relax for a period of time. How can that be considered a stressful experience?” asks Dr. Ourian.
Myth No. 5: Botox injections are painful, and have unpleasant sensations.
“They say getting a shot of Botox really hurts, “ states Jennifer, a 33 year-old teacher. “On the contrary, a Botox injection is practically pain free. For me, no unpleasant sensations are felt before, in the middle or after my treatments.”
According to Dr. Ourian, “My Botox patients typically compare their injections to a mosquito bite. A tiny bruise may form at the site of an injection sometimes, although as a rule, there is no bruising at the injection site.”
Myth No. 6: You should wait until you are 30-something to get a Botox injection.
According to Dr. Ourian, “Botox injections can be administered to persons of 18 years of age and older provided that there is a real need for getting a ‘shot of beauty.’ It is an open secret in the cosmetic world that teenagers sometimes develop severe mimic lines. It is a lot easier and more effective to tackle this problem at its early stage. It is best to treat mimic lines while the skin is smooth because the older you are the more difficult it becomes for your skin to get used to the effects of a Botox injection.”
Myth No. 7: Botox injections are only effective for facial lines.
Botox was originally used by physicians for the treatment of a number of neurological disorders prior to its use in eliminating or reducing the so-called furrows or frown lines. Botox has been used to treat dystonias (movement disorders), including writer’s cramp, facial spasms, head and neck tremors and hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). Recently, a study has been conducted to observe its use in treating chronic neck and back pain. Botox is successfully used to treat blepharospasm (involuntary facial movements), strabismus (crossed eyes), TMJ (Temporo-Mandibular Joint) pain, and even depression.
Myth No. 8 “Botox will poison my body”
As with any other drug, Botox is safe when administered in the proper dosage. For cosmetic use, the typical patient receives an average of 20-70 units of Botox per treatment. Over a period of time, the body naturally eliminates the administered Botox. As with nearly every medication, excessive amounts can be dangerous to one’s health. A fatal dose of Botox is 2800 units, 100 times the average dose given for the treatment of lines and wrinkles. According to Dr. Ourian, “Even Tylenol, one of the safest pain medications can cause liver failure and death when used in very large doses.”
Myth No. 9: Botox is a dangerous toxin.
Botox has a great safety record. According to Dr. Ourian, “Botox has been used to treat facial lines since 1987. With over 2.9 million procedures performed annually, no long-term side effects are seen, even with Botox injections among a group of patients who received 30 injection sessions over a nine-year period.” Botox is also an effective treatment for a variety of other debilitating medical disorders including migraine headaches, back pain, spastic limbs due to stroke, cerebral palsy, writer’s cramp, tic disorders, hand tremors, vocal cord disorders and excessive underarm sweating.
Myth No. 10: Well, what about “Better than Botox, ” the magical cream?
Many people hope that the next “works-like-Botox” product will really fulfill that promise. Yet, the lack of well-founded studies, the fact that the FDA does not require cosmetic companies to prove their claims, and the pure complexity of skin aging make it impossible for any cosmetic product to eliminate, or prove it can eliminate, wrinkles. As nice as it would be to get Botox-like results without a visit to a qualified physician and an injection, it just isn’t possible, ” says Dr. Ourian. “Despite the numerous ads, there is not a plastic surgeon or dermatologist going out of business due to the marketing of any anti-wrinkle cream being sold.”