• Elisabet Salmerón, science journalist

    Botox: forever young?

    16 Oct




    Botox is the treatment of choice for removing wrinkles and giving the skin a youthful appearance. Its use was known to Hollywood stars, but since approval in 2002, Botox use has reached addictive levels among the general public. It is “inexpensive”, effective and painless and requires minimal aftercare. Is it the perfect treatment?


    Last July the case of an illegal clinic came to light in Barcelona. The owner, who had no licence, was giving botox injections without any health guarantees and in unhygienic conditions. There was a similar case in Florida (USA) in 2004; four people showed symptoms of poisoning after they were treated with a substitute botox product that was cheaper but not authorized for human use.

    But these are isolated cases. Botox has become so popular that people in some places in the USA hold Botox parties.


    Simple, fast and non-invasive

    Botox is a product containing botulinum toxin type A, a neurotoxin that generates Clostridium botulinum bacterium, which is fatal in high doses. Injected in small diluted doses, it treats the lines that appear when facial muscles contract and cause the skin to crease, for example, crow’s feet and wrinkles on the forehead and between the eyebrows. It cannot treat wrinkles that develop from excessive exposure to the sun.

    Botox blocks electrical stimuli to the muscles, which relax; the wrinkles eventually disappear, taking up to 15 days after the injection to do so. The effect lasts for an average of up to six months, although minor touch-ups are necessary after the first session in 95% of cases. Over time the effects are more durable. Professionals guarantee that stopping the treatment will not lead to the appearance of more wrinkles or faster ageing.


    A booming business

    Botox was approved in the USA in 1989 exclusively to treat eyelid muscle spasms and strabismus (squinting). In 2002, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the green light to Botox Cosmetic as a treatment for frown lines between the eyebrows. Since then sales have grown exponentially worldwide.

    Adverse effects theoretically do not amount to more than slight bruising, drooping eyelids or headaches. But badly applied or excessive quantities of botox can cause serious damage – although almost always reversible – such as asymmetries, temporary loss of facial mobility, changes in facial expression, etc.

    Experts advise patients to choose qualified professionals who will inject the substance in suitable conditions. So if you decide to inject botox, always choose an accredited centre with a good track record. Improving our personal appearance is a legitimate and mainstream aspiration – but not at the risk of the health of our skin.