Beautician expert injecting botox in female forehead.
Beautician expert injecting botox in female forehead. Credit: milkos via 123RF

In this day and age, everyone has heard of Botox, but do you really know what it is and how it works? More than just a popular treatment for wrinkles, Botox is approved to treat various problems, from sweating to migraines. If you’re curious about the procedure, here’s everything you need to know before reaching out to doctors for treatment.

What is Botox?

Botox is the most well-known brand name of the injectable neurotoxin Botulinum toxin type A made from the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. This is the same bacteria that can cause botulism from food, but the dose is not toxic due to its delivery method and amount. Doctors use Botox treatments for various procedures, including the smoothing of facial wrinkles, excessive sweating, uncontrollable blinking, misaligned eyes, chronic migraines, and overactive bladder. The FDA first approved Botox for use in 1989, with most cosmetic approvals starting in the early 2000s. The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that most healthy people over age 18 can safely get Botox, but those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid the injections.

How Does it Work?

Because Botox is a neurotoxin, it works to stop signals from the nerves to the brain. When injected into specific, targeted areas, the activity between that location and the brain stops, so the muscles relax. Botox can also inhibit some pain and inflammation signals, thus leading to a potentially effective treatment for migraines. This block in signal transmission typically lasts three to six months, depending on the area injected.

Pretty African girl receiving cosmetic.
Pretty African girl receiving cosmetic injection on her lips. Credit: HONGQI ZHANG via 123RF

Typical Procedures

Even though doctors can use Botox for several procedures (and more are researched every year), the most common and effective procedures are smoothing facial wrinkles. Some numbers say that doctors administer more than seven million treatments every year. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology explains that “dynamic wrinkles” are the areas best treated with Botox because they’re controlled by muscle movement. Think about the wrinkles that appear when you smile/laugh/frown/etc. as opposed to those that are always present. Treatment for these areas happens quickly during a single session in-office and typically lasts three to four months before patients need a repeat visit. Patients can resume their normal activities immediately (but should avoid exercise for 24 hours). The full effects of treatment can take up to two weeks to notice, so be patient!

Side Effects and Risks

Botox is generally considered to be a safe procedure with minimal risks and side effects. The most common side effects reported after treatment include “pain, swelling, or bruising at the injection site. You could also have flu-like symptoms, headache, and upset stomach.” In addition, you should avoid heavy physical activity for 24 hours after treatment to reduce the risk of Botox migrating to other sites in your body. The most important thing to consider to reduce Botox risks is choosing a reputable doctor/facility. While many doctors perform Botox procedures, there are risks involved with those who aren’t trained, including improper dosage or placement, asymmetrical results, and use of an unregulated, off-brand product. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends having a consultation with your doctor before treatment and asking a series of questions before committing.

What’s the Average Price?

The price of your procedure will vary depending on the specifics of your request and your physiology. Usually, insurance companies don’t cover any procedures, but checking for potential partial payments is a good idea, especially for non-cosmetic treatment. For the out-of-pocket expenses, plan to pay per unit. Minor procedures, like crow’s feet, use about 20-30 units and cost around $450. Your doctor’s expertise, the facility fees, and more can also contribute to the cost. Here’s a general breakdown of what you can expect so that you know how much to save ahead of time. Finally, make sure to consider the ongoing cost of treatment. You’ll usually need to return a few times a year to maintain your results, so the cost isn’t just a one-time payment.

If you’re considering a Botox procedure to address any of these common concerns, do your research and choose a knowledgeable provider who can produce great results!