By Dr. Teo Wan Lin, Consultant Dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre
What is BOTOX?
BOTOX is short for botulinum toxin, a medical treatment for facial wrinkles and lines. Originally introduced to treat muscle spasms, further clinical studies have shown that BOTOX reduces wrinkling over the treated muscle.
How does BOTOX work?
BOTOX is a neuromuscular blocking agent that causes the injected muscle to be relaxed by restricting the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Without this “chemical messenger”, the muscle has no instruction, limiting its ability to contract when we make facial expressions. Thus, the lines that normally result from the contraction of these muscles cannot form, effectively preventing the onset of wrinkles. Given that BOTOX is localized (ie. It only affects the muscle that receives an injection), treatment is always targetted and will not affect the other muscles on the patient’s face and body.
How is BOTOX administered?
Tiny quantities of the toxin will be injected by the dermatologist using a fine needle into the affected muscles. It usually takes three to five small injections to treat a frown line. The injection is almost painless—in fact, most merely describe it as a little pinch.
For more sensitive patients, local anesthesia can be administered prior to the BOTOX treatment in order to prevent pain.
What can patients expect after treatment?
Most patients do not experience any side effects from the use of BOTOX. However, some patients may experience a mild headache immediately after treatment, which can be treated easily through the use of paracetamol. There may also be slight bruising at the injection area—which can easily be covered by makeup.
Over the week following treatment, patients may also notice that they no longer contract the affected muscles when they frown. This is perfectly normal—it indicates that the treatment is taking effect.
The effect of BOTOX starts wearing off within a few weeks but another dose of it is not needed until three to six months after, where expression lines will return. Another dose will then be required to maintain the effect of BOTOX. The effect of subsequent BOTOX treatments will typically last longer than the previous, allowing for more sporadic BOTOX treatments to maintain the same, desirable effect it has on a patient’s skin. Eventually, some patients may even be able to maintain the same effect without BOTOX treatment. This can happen because prolonged use of BOTOX has enabled them to break the bad habit that led to the frowning or squinting in the first place.
Is BOTOX for everyone?
BOTOX has the same efficacy, no matter of your gender and race. However, BOTOX is not recommended for certain groups of people, such as for women during pregnancy or breastfeeding, as well as those with certain neurological conditions such as motor neuron disease or myasthenia gravis.
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