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Is Botox the All-Around Drug?

What’s behind the popular beauty drug


By Dr. Kaycee Reyes


A face frozen in time? Unsafe for health?Scary side-effects? These are just few of countless misconceptions about botulinumtoxin, or Botox as what we have all called it since it was first used for cosmetic reasons in the ’90s. A derivative of the bacteria clostridium botulinum that is found in contaminated food, it is indeed toxic when ingested. In small doses, however, it has been proven to be beneficial in relaxing muscles, and when it does, it can help with a lot of aesthetic and medical problems from deep wrinkles, migraines, and yes, even depression.

Botox’s foray into the beauty industry was accidental—it was originally intended and FDA-approved for eye-related issues such asblepharospasm(blinking uncontrollably) and strabismus (cross-eye). What was once named Oculinum was changed into Botox after pharmaceutical company Allergan bought the company in 1991. It was FDA-approved 11 years later (and much research on its cosmetic use)for the treatment of glabellarlines or the 11 lines (vertical frown lines that form in between eyebrows), and as they say, the rest is history.

Time Magazine’s extensive report on Botox says that procedures have increased 75 percent from the turn of the century until 2015. Until recently, it is still the top injectable worldwide, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), with more than five million patients injected with the drug in 2017 alone.

Botox treatments are generally safe to be performed on individuals from as young as 16 years way up to 80.

Aside from treating wrinkles, this rising number of procedures may also be attributed to a lot of off-label uses for the drug and an expanding market base that now includes the younger set.

What was once a procedure to stop aging is now becoming a preventive measure. Botox has become increasingly popular that even Millennials add Botox injections to their beauty regimen. And why not? Botox treatments are generally safe to be performed on individuals from as young as 16 years way up to 80. Botox works by temporarily preventing the release of neurotransmitter acetylcholine that then stops the nerves that signal the muscles to contract. This is what sets itself apart from fillers, as Botox targets dynamic wrinkles (wrinkles caused by repeated movement of the muscle), while fillers target static wrinkles (wrinkles caused by sagging or volume loss). And as Botox grew in popularity, so did its applications both for medical and aesthetic purposes. Botulinum toxin is currently applied for the following approved and off-label uses:

Approved uses include:

  • blepharospasm
  • strabismus
  • idiopathic rotational cervicaldystonia (neck and shoulder muscle spasm)
  • chronic migraine
  • severe primary axillary hyperhidrosis (excessive sweat)
  • glabellar lines
  • canthal lines (crow’s feet)
  • overactive bladder.

Off-label uses include:

  • masseter reduction
  • migraine
  • pore size reduction
  • scar reduction
  • bruxism
  • hyperhidrosis
  • trapezius reduction/shoulder contour
  • calf contouring
  • allergic rhinitis
  • depression
  • cold hands
  • cleft lip scars in babies.

Side effects of botulinum toxin are common but usually tolerable. These may include allergic reactions, rashes, itching, muscle stiffness, or nausea, among others. At the injection site, bruising, bleeding, swelling, or redness may also occur. Botox is not allowed for pregnant or breastfeeding women, as well as patients with a compromised immune system or with low immunity. Physical activities such as exercising are not allowed 24 hours after the procedure. Results are gradual and come in full effect after seven days, lasting for three to four months until the muscles go back to function and move the way it used to. But if you keep using Botox for one to two years, Botox might last for six to nine months. For a lot of patients, this is the answer to their medical and aesthetic concerns.

The Philippines is not new to botulinum toxin, and cosmetic procedures in the country are on the rise as well. Yet, it is important to understand and know each procedure before deciding to do it. While botulinum toxin is not permanent, an incorrect procedure or using a noncertified product may not yield the best results, just like those expressionless and “frozen” faces that some fear of. Allergan, Dysport, and Xeomin are the most popular and certified providers of botulinum toxin that are safe for cosmetic use. If you are interested, make sure that you only get your treatments from a reputable clinic and dermatologist.


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