Botox – how does it work and is it safe?
Botox injections can help reduce the appearance of facial lines and wrinkles and has the potential to help with a whole range of medical conditions too. Botox has become the most common cosmetic procedure carried out in the world today, with the number of Botulinum toxin treatments projected to reach US$6.8 billion by 2027.
1 session every 3-4 months
Duration of results
2 to 6 months
Back to work
Full recovery time
> 56 SAR per unit
Optional pain relief
What is Botox?
Botox is the brand name for Botulinum toxin, a substance that, when injected into the skin, can temporarily block nerve signals and weaken or paralyse the muscles that create wrinkles or folds. Depending on the dose used, this can minimise their appearance.
Generally injected to areas of the face – such as the forehead, ‘crow’s feet’, around the lips, frown lines, or neck – other brand names include Dysport, Xeomin and Jeauveau, but clinicians will almost always refer to the procedure as ‘Botox’.
How do Botox injections work?
There is no such thing as ‘Botox surgery’, as it is non-invasive and only classed as an aesthetic procedure.
How Botox injections work:
- There are several types of wrinkles or lines on our faces, generally split into two categories: dynamic and static.
- Dynamic wrinkles are formed when we make facial expressions, while static wrinkles remain on our face at rest – caused by gravity, elasticity, or sleep habits.
- Dynamic wrinkles can become static over time, so are best treated with Botox to curtail their development.
- When injected, Botulinum toxin blocks the signals traveling from your nerves to your muscles, ‘freezing’ them to some extent, and preventing them from moving or contracting.
- Eventually, the muscles in your face will become too weak to make wrinkle-causing expressions too harshly (such as frowning and squinting).
Who can have it?
Anyone, provided they are not allergic to Botulinum toxin and don’t have a muscular disease such as myasthenia gravis. If you are under 18, you will need your parents’ permission, although even with permission, some clinicians may refuse to treat you at this age.
Botox is suitable for anyone who isn't allergic to the ingredients and is commonly used to reduce facial wrinkles.
- In your 20s: it can be a preventative measure.
- In your 30s: it can prevent any expression lines from deepening and becoming static.
- In your 40s: it can help reduce deeper lines.
- From age 50 onwards: it can help you look rejuvenated.
Botox can be used to treat a wide range of medical conditions as well, including:
- Muscle spasms: an injection relaxes the muscles that usually contract uncontrollably. Commonly affected areas include the eyelids and neck.
- Migraines: Botox works by blocking chemicals called neurotransmitters that carry pain signals from your brain and often initiate migraine attacks.
- Hyperhidrosis: Botox in the armpits, hands, or feet can stave off uncomfortable excess sweating.
- Overactive bladder: an injection into your bladder helps the muscles relax, allowing more time to get to the bathroom.
- Lazy eye: Botox temporarily weakens the muscles, allowing them to realign and straighten.
- Teeth grinding: an injection into the jaw muscle can ease tension and slim the lower portion of the face.
- Acne, rosacea and psoriasis: Botox injected superficially into the skin instead of the muscles helps tame oil production and reduce the intensity of facial blood circulation.
There is also emerging research to indicate that Botox can help reduce symptoms of major depressive disorders.
Speak to your doctor first, to ensure you can have it. Remember to always seek out an experienced professional – our clinic listings can help you find the right one for you.
During the procedure
First, the area being treated will be cleaned, then the Botulinum toxin is injected using a very fine needle. Depending on where you’re having the treatment, you’ll likely need multiple injections. The total number of units and injections depends on your condition, your doctor’s experience, and the desired final result.
After the procedure
You probably won’t see results immediately, as it takes on average two to three days before Botox starts working – and it can be up to three weeks before you see the full effects.
Keep your head upright for four hours after the treatment, and try to avoid touching, rubbing, or massaging the area for the first three days. You should also avoid exercise and sunbathing – this includes sunbeds.
Your clinician will best advise you how to take care of the area following the procedure.
Is Botox safe?
While Botulinum toxin itself can be dangerous in large doses, the small amounts used in Botox injections are generally very safe, particularly when carried out by a trained medical professional. However, like any procedure, it does carry some risks.
Do Botox injections hurt?
Rest assured, the needles are very small, although you may feel a slight stinging around the part of your face being injected. Some clinicians numb the area with an anaesthetic cream, or apply ice beforehand. Steady breathing during the injection can also make it much more tolerable. Ask your practitioner for pain relief if you are nervous.
What are the side-effects?
Potential immediate side-effects include:
- Pain, bruising and swelling around the injection site. This is not a toxic reaction and should pass after a few hours but can last up to a few days.
- Headache. This should pass after a few hours but can last up to a few days
- Flu-like symptoms. These rare symptoms can occur during the first month after treatment and are mild.
Some effects are more common than others, and not everyone will have them. Your clinician will explain the possible side-effects and how you can treat them at home.
Most are temporary, and they should ease on their own. However, the below symptoms need immediate attention. Contact your practitioner immediately if you experience:
- Dry mouth or dry eyes.
- Drooping brows or eyelids, crooked smiles, or trouble swallowing caused by an excessive dose or migration of the toxin.
For more information, head to our full guide on Botox side-effects and reactions.
Seek an experienced licensed medical practitioner to reduce the risk of complications. If you are feeling unwell, you should inform your physician before your appointment.
You should not have injections if you are:
- Feeling unwell.
- Taking certain medicines (sometimes blood thinners can cause severe bruising)
- Dealing with a skin infection.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding. While Botox is generally safe, doctors may advise against its use for cosmetic reason during this time.
- Suffering from myasthenia gravis or another neuromuscular disease.
How to boost your Botox
How often should you have it?
The procedure needs to be done semi-regularly to reduce the visibility of facial creases.
Botox prevents your muscles from making those wrinkles forming expressions as aggressively. The more times you have it initially, the less you’ll need it later as the treated muscles become thinner.
That said, a single treatment still makes a difference – as the effects last well after it has worn off.
How to get more from your Botox
Lifestyle, skincare regimes and other treatments all play a part in making the procedure work better for you.
- Don’t smoke. Seek help from a medical professional if you are trying to stop
- Always wear a strong SPF and stay out of the sun as much as possible
- Limit your sugar intake.
- Practice a regular skincare regime using anti-ageing actives.
- Coach yourself to reduce the expressions that cause wrinkles in the first place and wear sunglasses when outdoors.
- Speak to a practitioner about other non-invasive treatments, such as restorative and regenerative facials
- Compliment your Botox by treating your static wrinkles with fillers or other rejuvenating treatments as recommended by your physician.
Alternatives to Botox
If you’re not sure you want to opt for the treatment, there are several alternatives you can try.
- Moisturisers: ensure you use a cream containing for example hyaluronic acid, which is the primary ingredient to retain moisture and reduce visible lines. Use on slightly damp skin for optimum results.
- Vitamin C and Retinoids: these actives are effective when it comes to slowing the ageing process.
- Microneedling, laser and PRP therapy: these help stimulate collagen and elastin production in the face, and it’s these proteins that help to tighten and plump the skin.
- Before it was Botox, it was ‘Clostridium botulinum’. Belgian scientist Emile Pierre van Ermengem discovered it following a botulism outbreak in his country.
- Botox was first used in the 1970s to treat strabismus (crossed eyes).
- Its cosmetic properties were stumbled upon accidentally in 1987 when it was used to treat blepharospasm (uncontrollable blinking and spasming of the eye). A patient said that when their forehead was injected, their wrinkles went away.
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