The term ‘Botox‘ has entered common parlance in recent years, becoming almost a must have for any woman – or man – wanting to stave off the inevitable signs of ageing. So well-accepted is this magic anti-wrinkle bullet that it seems that patients are now seeking it out at a younger and younger age. Probably because they have read somewhere that starting Botox early can prevent ageing before it even occurs. In fact, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons statistics show that patients in their 20s make up approximately 30 per cent of Botox users.
So, what’s the truth about long-term Botox use?
Myth # 1: Botox isn’t safe in the long term
A leading neurophysiologist, Dr Peter Misra, of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, warned in an editorial in the British Medical Journal, that Botox was being used ‘ahead of clear scientific evidence’. His view is that the cosmetic applications of Botox have trivialised the use of what is actually a potent neurotoxin and that the long-term effects are still not known and ‘robust evidence for the action of botulinum toxin on sensory neurones is lacking’.
However, Botox has been used for many years to treat a range of medical conditions in far greater quantities that the amounts used to treat facial wrinkles. Botulinum toxin is used therapeutically to treat eye disorders such as strabismus (crossed eyes) and blepharospasm (uncontrolled blinking).
Botox can also reduce muscle spasms disorders, such as cervical dystonia or torticollis. It can also treat an overactive bladder, reducing leaking of urine or needing to urinate frequently. It can be injected intramuscularly, interdermally or directly into the bladder.
Myth # 2: Botox eradicates expression
For many years, the joke was that Botox equalled a frozen face, but is there a serious downside to this lack of expression, particularly in the trend for Botox use among the younger generation? A recent study in the Journal of Aesthetic Nursing claims that Botox use could actually cause developmental issues for younger patients. The researchers behind the study pointed to the possible problems that a ‘growing generation of blank-faced’ young people could give rise to and that therapy to build confidence should be the preferred option.
Cosmetic surgery procedures, such as a rhinoplasty or breast augmentation, can be hugely beneficial for a young person that may have suffered from lack of breast development or have a nose that is drastically out of balance to the rest of the facial features. However, this is not a step to be taken lightly and I always ensure that patient expectations are realistic and there are no psychological concerns that must be addressed. I would certainly not perform an anti-wrinkle treatment on a patient that had no need for it.
Myth # 3: Botox can actually make you look older than you are
Botox is an incredibly effective treatment, particularly for softening wrinkles in the upper third of the face. However, it is important to realise that it isn’t always our lines that makes us look older. Neglecting skin quality can actually be more ageing.
Overuse of Botox that creates the mask-like look favoured by some celebrities actually upholds this – they don’t look younger, they just look done. However, it is possible to create a perfectly subtle and natural rejuvenation with Botox but this is where practitioner choice becomes incredibly important. Discuss with your practitioner what you’re hoping to achieve and it should be obvious if they share your views on cosmetic intervention.