Botox: Killer or Fountain of Youth?

The answer is: both. Botox is formulated from a neurotoxin (specifically botulinum toxin A) produced by Clostridium botulinum. When ingested in food, such as improperly handled meat, the toxin leads to a condition called botulism, which in serious cases leads to respiratory failure in humans and animals. The first sign of botulism is paralysis of the facial muscles, which is precisely the effect of Botox injections, but in a controlled way.

The therapeutic uses of Botox have been well-established since the 1960s. The use of Botox as a cosmetic treatment, however, only received US Food and Drug Administration approval in 2002. Other medical applications received FDA approval in 1989. The most common usage for Botox includes treatment of:

  • Blepharospasm
  • Cervical dystonia
  • Severe underarm sweating
  • Strabismus
  • Wrinkles
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)

As mentioned earlier, Botox is a neurotoxin that paralyzes specific muscles or blocks neurotransmission, but the effects are usually temporary. Treatments are effective for up to four months in some cases, such as wrinkle removal, and require regular applications.

The rationale behind Botox is relatively simple: prevention of certain muscles from moving. Wrinkles develop through the regular contraction of certain muscles that become more pronounced with age and loss of skin elasticity. What Botox does is to paralyze the muscles in the forehead, for example, to keep them moving and continually creasing the skin. Over time with regular treatment, the depth of the wrinkles will decrease. Any remaining creases can be smoothened out using “fillers.”

The application of Botox may seem like a simple enough procedure, but it is best administered by a medical doctor specializing in cosmetic procedures or a dermatologist. There are cases when complications may arise. Botox is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, those on blood-thinning medication or certain food supplements, and those with Lou Gehrig’s disease.