Botox for acne – is it really a thing?
When you think Botox, odds are you think wrinkles, not acne. This treatment has spent years building its reputation as a go-to for smoothing out and preventing our fine lines. But as a solution for pimples and oily skin? Not so much.
Yet it has all the makings of a great acne treatment. By significantly reducing the amount of oil produced by your skin, Botox can stop breakouts in their tracks. And it doesn’t end there: relaxing the muscles that pucker the skin around a dying spot, it can even prevent scarring. But how exactly does it work? And does it work for everyone?
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What causes acne?
The key to finding the right acne treatment for you – whether that’s Botox or something else – is understanding why you’re getting breakouts in the first place. In most cases, acne is caused by blocked pores. Without a microscope, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly what is doing the blocking. Dead skin cells, dirt, bacteria, and even hair can all prevent pores from being able to breathe. Usually, however, you can blame oil.
Oil isn’t our skin’s enemy. Technically called ‘sebum’, it’s produced to keep our complexion healthy and hydrated. But sometimes our skin goes overboard. For those with an oily skin type – or those in a period where hormones are going haywire, such as puberty, pregnancy, or menopause – oil is produced in excess. With nowhere to go but your pores, it starts to accumulate and feed acne-loving bacteria. Cue the breakout.
So, can Botox prevent acne?
The logic behind Botox for acne isn’t the same as when you’re trying to eliminate fine lines. This involves injecting Botox directly into the muscle, so it can block the signals from your nerves and weaken muscle activity for several months at a time. As a result, it stops your face from contorting skin into positions that cause wrinkles.
Botox for acne isn’t quite as deep. Literally. When it’s injected into oil-heavy areas, such as the forehead, it doesn’t penetrate as far into the skin. And it doesn’t freeze the muscle so much as it fights off acetylcholine – a chemical that increases sebum production.
It won’t totally dry up the oil in your skin (and, for the sake of your skin’s health, you wouldn’t want it to), but the difference can be huge. Just as with wrinkles, it can take a few weeks to see any change – and perhaps even longer for this change to impact acne. But once it does kick in, you’ll start to notice that your skin is less congested, and your pores look more refined.
Eventually, however, your skin’s sebum-producing ability will bounce back to its former strength, and you’ll need a top-up. This usually happens after around three months.
One factor you need to consider is just how oily your skin gets. Botox only migrates around one centimetre from the injection site. If you’re looking to combat oil in multiple areas of the face, that’s a lot of Botox – even when you consider the fact that less product is used for acne than for wrinkles.
And even though it isn’t injected as deep, more injections increase the chances you might affect your facial movements. So, unless you’re looking to also tackle widespread wrinkles and Botox’s acne-busting abilities are just a welcome bonus, it’s usually advised to limit its use to just the forehead.
What about acne scars?
We’ve all heard (and ignored) the number one rule of acne: don’t touch it. Popping or irritating your spots can pull on the muscles around the wound, increasing your chances of scarring.
Unlike the scars we get from everyday bumps and scrapes – which are often raised and textured – these scars tend to be indented into the skin. While the former is caused by an excess of collagen, it’s a lack of collagen that creates the wounds left behind by acne.
Botox works to restore your skin’s appearance by lessening the strain on your blemishes. It’s injected into the muscle – so a tiny bit deeper than if you only wanted to reduce oiliness – but isn’t powerful enough to completely smooth out the deepest scars, also known as ice pick scars. However, they can be left softer and less noticeable.
What else can help?
Botox can make a huge difference to oiliness and acne scars, but if you’re very oily – or very acne-prone – it might not be enough to totally transform your skin. Depending on what you’re looking to improve, there are a few other tips and treatments that can help skin on its way.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking less moisture equals less oiliness; oily skin needs hydration just like any other skin type. Instead of thick creams, opt for oil-free gel moisturisers, or apply thin layers of hydrating products, such as hyaluronic acid serums.
If your skin looks oily within minutes of washing your face, you might want to try double cleansing. Start with a cleansing balm and follow up with your favourite cleanser. Avoid anything too harsh – this will just strip your skin of moisture and trigger even more oil.
LED light therapy
There are multiple colours available for LED light therapy – all serving different purposes – but blue is your best bet here. When its rays penetrate beneath the skin, they kill the bacteria responsible for acne and target oil glands, making them less active. To see the full impact, you’ll need several sessions in close succession and regular top-ups.
From at-home peels to professional treatments, a chemical peel can improve all aspects of your skin’s appearance. They all work by dissolving the top layer of skin – revealing the newer, healthier layer underneath – but different acids are better suited for different needs. As they’re especially good at clearing out pores, glycolic and salicylic acid are the usual recommendations for oily skin. Neither will stop oil production but can slow it down enough to make it more manageable.
Improving acne scars
Microneedling alone is a popular solution for acne scars. RF microneedling is even more powerful. Scar tissue is heated up and broken down by radiofrequency waves, and skin starts generating more collagen to help heal the pits left behind by your blemishes. Expect to see smoother, healthier skin in three to four sessions.
The benefits of microdermabrasion really depend on the depth of your acne scars. Anything that’s only slightly pitted can be improved with regular facials that buff away dead skin cells with abrasive diamonds or crystals. However, it’s not invasive enough to treat deeper wounds.
Deeper acne scars are best treated with filler. Injecting a gel-like substance into the depressed area, it can add volume and even out the surface of the skin. Collagen is the most used filler for this purpose – lasting up to five years – and is often combined with Botox to achieve the most radical transformation of acne scars.
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