Do you have frown lines that give you an unhappy appearance even when you’re having a great day? If you’d like your facial expression to match the calm, relaxed inner you then anti-wrinkle injections might be right for you.
Botulinum toxin has been around for centuries, but it’s only in the last decade that it’s been used as an anti-wrinkle treatment. It is now the commonest non-surgical cosmetic facial treatment performed in Australia.
What is botulinum toxin?
Botulinum toxin type A is a neurotoxin that paralyses or weakens muscle. It blocks neuromuscular signals and is sold in Australia under two different trade names. The toxin is a protein produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, and is a diluted form of the substance that causes the paralyzing disease botulism (a type of food poisoning).
Botulinum toxin is given by injection into the muscles, most commonly in the frown lines, forehead, crow’s feet, chin or around the mouth. The aim is to soften wrinkles and reduce the depth of facial expression lines. Botulinum toxin is specifically approved for cosmetic use in the frown lines, and cosmetic use in other facial areas is considered “off-label” use.
How long does it work?
The toxin takes 2-7 days to start working after the injections and up to 14 days to have full effect. The effect wears off after 3-4 months, although with repeated use in the same area it often lasts for longer (5-6 months). Lower doses will wear off more quickly than higher doses, and will provide a more subtle result. An experienced injector will individualise the dose used and the number and placement of injections to create optimal results. The cost of treatment varies according to the amount of toxin used and who does the injections. Men generally have to pay more for a treatment than women as their muscles are bigger, so they need a larger dose!
How does it work?
The treatment aims to reduce the movement of muscles that cause unwanted lines, wrinkles or expressions. The effect is to create a fresher, younger look – not a frozen look. It won’t work on “static” wrinkles, but it will work on “dynamic” wrinkles – so it can stop you from looking like you’re always frowning, but it won’t take away age-related wrinkles and lines.
What can go wrong?
The most common side effect is temporary bruising, swelling, discomfort and/or redness at the injection site. If the toxin is injected in the wrong place or migrates then it may temporarily paralyse unintended muscles, which can create a droopy eyelid or eyebrow, or uneven appearance of the face. This is why you will be advised to avoid massaging the area in the days immediately following the injections. Usually a droopy eyelid will improve after around 2 weeks, but it could potentially last up to 3-4 months until the toxin completely wears off.
Who shouldn’t have it?
Botulinum toxin should not be used on pregnant or lactating women as its safety profile in this setting is uncertain. Injections shouldn’t be given through infected or ulcerated skin, but otherwise there are no other major contraindications in healthy adults. As with any medical treatment, it’s wise to be fully informed about the pros and cons before you take the plunge.
When can I get back to work and exercise?
You can go back to work immediately after the treatment, but wait 24 hours before undertaking strenuous exercise.
Did you know: It’s not just for faces!
Botulinum toxin is used for a wide range of medical problems. In rehabilitation medicine it is used to treat muscle contractures in strokes and cerebral palsy. It is also used in the treatment of excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), chronic neck and eye spasms, anal fissures, squinting (strabismus), and oesophageal movement disorders (achalasia).