- Botox injections are made from toxins produced by a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum.
- Botox can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and make your lips look plumper.
- It can also help treat conditions like TMJ, migraines, and excessive sweating.
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Botox isn’t just for hiding wrinkles or making your lips look fuller – it can also help with medical conditions like migraines. It’s also one of the most common cosmetic procedures in the US – Americans get more than 7.7 million Botox injections each year.
Here’s how Botox works, which conditions it can treat, and the risks of getting it.
What is Botox?
Botox is a drug made from toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that can cause deadly food poisoning. Large doses of the toxin can make you sick, but the tiny doses used in Botox are generally safe.
Botox works by intercepting the message your nerves send to move your muscles, “so your muscle does not receive the message and therefore does not flex,” says Alexis Parcells MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon and clinical instructor at RWJ Barnabas Health.
Each time the muscles in your face move, they cause creases in your skin, which can turn into wrinkles over time. Botox can help you limit facial expressions like frowning or squinting that create wrinkles.
However, the effects of Botox aren’t permanent – over time, your muscles will build new channels to communicate with your nerves, which allows them to start moving again. “This takes about 12 weeks, and so we say that’s when Botox ‘wears off,'” Parcells says.
On average, Botox injections will cost you around $400-$500 per area treated, though the cost may be higher if you treat multiple areas.
The cosmetic benefits of Botox
- Facial wrinkles including:
- Frown lines between the eyebrows
- Forehead lines
- Crows feet wrinkles at the corner of the eyelids
- Lines above the upper lip
- Botox can also make your jawline look more defined, Rabach says, by relaxing your jaw muscles. Over time, these muscles shrink in size, making your jaw look slimmer.
- Botox injections can relax your neck muscles, reducing the appearance of neck bands that may stand out more as you age.
- Botox can make your lips look fuller through a procedure called a lip flip. The procedure involves injecting Botox into the muscles around your top lip – when the muscles relax, your lip will roll forward and look plumper.
The medical benefits of Botox
Botox isn’t just cosmetic – it can also treat several medical conditions, including:
- Migraine headaches: “Migraines are sometimes caused by various facial and scalp muscles being under extreme tension,” Parcells says. Botox can help to temporarily weaken these muscles, causing the tension to be released.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome: TMJ happens when the muscle that connects your jaw to your skull doesn’t work properly, causing pain and difficulty chewing. There are many causes of TMJ, including clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth, often while you sleep. Relaxing this muscle with Botox can help release tension in your jaw and relieve pain.
- Excessive sweating: Botox can be injected wherever you have excessive sweating, usually in your scalp, armpits, groin, hands, or feet. “Sweating is controlled by glands that are wrapped in muscles so Botox touching these ‘sweat gland muscles’ will stop the production of sweat,” Rabach says.
Botox is a quick and generally safe procedure. “However, it is still a medication, and should properly be administered by a board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist for best results,” Parcells says.
In some cases, you may develop bruising or swelling at the site of your injection that goes away over a few days, Rabach says. In very rare cases, the toxin can spread through your body, causing symptoms like weakness or breathing problems that should be addressed immediately by a doctor.
Most people tolerate the injections well, but if you’re pregnant, have myasthenia gravis (a nerve disease), or have milk allergies, you should avoid Botox. Talk to your doctor before getting an injection to make sure that Botox is safe for you.