What Botox REALLY does to your face: Experts reveal surprising facts about the anti-ageing jab – from thinning the skin to making you feel HAPPIER because it stops you frowning
- Department store John Lewis will start offering botox injections from just £50
- The jabs will be available in six locations including London and Edinburgh
- Botox is known for its anti-aging effects on the face, but what else does it do?
- FEMAIL reveals some of the potential long term effects of using the toxin
Anti-aging procedures have become increasingly common in recent years, with more and more people choosing to have ‘tweakments’ to retain their youthful looks.
One of the most popular treatments is having botulinum toxin, a type of poison generated by bacteria, injected facial muscles to paralyse them, therefore reducing their ability to move and causing a smooth look to the skin.
In fact, the jabs have become so popular, that department store John Lewis has revealed it will start offering them in six of its UK stores, including London, Edinburgh, Milton Keynes, Southampton, Kingston and Cambridge.
While jabs containing botulinum toxin are popularly known as ‘Botox’, this is actually the name of a particular botulism product made by manufacturer Allergan, while other manufacturers have their own products.
Botox’s use as an anti-aging product is what it is best known for, but it also has other uses.
For example, it can be injected under the armpits to stop sweating, or in the masseter muscles in the jaw to cut down on tooth grinding, or around the head and face to reduce migraine pain.
And while many people swear by it to create a fresh faced look, they may not know exactly how it creates the effect it does, or about some of the potential side effects of using the product.
Here, FEMAIL reveals how Botox really works, alongside five lesser possible side-effects of the toxin.
Botox is a popular treatment people use to reduce the signs of ageing – but many people aren’t aware of how it works, and what some of the potential long term effects are (stock photo)
1. Its main ingredient is a toxin that paralyses muscles
Botox’s active ingredient is a form of botulinum toxin, created by a microbe that causes botulism, a type of food poisoning.
Botox is a brand name. There are other products, made by different manufacturers, which contain a very similar main active ingredient, and are used in similar ways, including Dysport, Jeuveau, and Xeomin.
However, these products aren’t totally interchangeable as there are some differences in the way they are produced which affects their potency, however, they all work in a similar way.
The product is sold as a powder, which practitioners mix with liquid, before injecting it directly into muscles.
While it is used in numerous muscles around the face and body, for a range of reasons, it is commonly used in the forehead and around the eyes to reduce the appearance of wrinkles in these areas.
These injections block chemical signals from nerves that cause muscles to contract, which largely paralyses these muscles.
Stopping the activity of the muscles then makes the skin look smoother.
The effects of Botox are not permanent, and usually wear off around three-four months after the injections, though this can vary between individuals.
The basics of Botox: Jabs work on lines caused by muscle contractions but won’t tackle gravity of sun damage
Botox is an anti-ageing procedure that involves injecting Botulinum toxin into the face to relax the muscles.
It is a type of ‘neuromodulator’ – it reduces muscle activity by acting on motor neurons.
As the muscles relax, lines and wrinkles in the face are smoothed out – such as frown lines and crow’s feet around the eyes.
It is effective on lines caused by muscle contraction – for example, the ’11s’ between the eyes, but does not reduce lines caused by sun damage or gravity.
Although effective, Botox injections are not permanent and have to be topped up every three-to-four months.
Botox does not have an instant effect. Results start to show from around three days after the injections, and peak around 10-14 days after.
While many people have Botox for cosmetic reasons, it can also be used to treat medical conditions.
Some people who live with cerebral palsy can have Botox injections to relax their muscles, which helps to ease the effect of the limbs being pulled towards the centre of the body.
Another condition which can sometimes be relieved with Botox injections is bladder dysfunction. In this case, Botox is used to reduce incontinence which is caused by an over-active bladder.
2. Prolonged use of Botox may cause thinning of the skin
A rare, but potential side effect of having regular Botox treatment over many years is skin thinning.
Common in natural ageing, skinning thinning becomes more obvious when people start to notice veins which were not visible before.
Those who start using Botox very young, for example, in their 20s, may be more at risk of this, according to dermatological surgeon Dr Patricia Wexler.
‘The skin of the forehead [can] get prematurely thinner, and the muscles weaker,” she told Birdie.
‘Sometimes, after many years of use, this can even result in the look of heavier brows and eyelids, making the toxin more difficult to continue using.’
However, integrating appropriate skincare into your routine, which includes using skincare daily, can help mitigate this risk.
3. Using Botox long-term can weaken muscles, preventing wrinkles
Despite some people thinking that using Botox will make you look older in the long run, the opposite can in fact be true.
This is because repeated use of the toxin, and the resulting paralysis of the muscle, can lead to the muscle becoming weaker.
After all, a muscle will naturally become smaller as a result of less activity, and this effect will last even after a Botox injection has worn off.
This is more likely to happen, and to a greater extent, when Botox is regularly topped up, with little time for the muscle to move between top ups.
As the muscle moves less, it therefore causes fewer lines and wrinkles, so even though movement returns after the injections wear off, the reduction in movement over the time period Botox was being used means
This is why some people are proponents of using the toxin in a preventative way, as freezing the muscle, which makes you unable to make particular wrinkle-causing expressions means wrinkle formation will be much slower.
5. Repeated use of Botox may ‘train’ your muscles to move less
Another way Botox is thought to reduce wrinkle formation is that it changes the way you make expressions, according to dermatologist Dr Mara Weinstein.
Because your facial muscles get used to making ‘smaller’ expressions after years of using Botox, they become ‘trained’ to keep doing so, she believes.
She told Byrdie that getting used to the feeling of making smaller movements as a result of Botox, means that you can become more aware of those movements.
‘Once you are used to the feeling of having less movement in the forehead after neurotoxin, you will be more aware of making the movement when the toxin wears off,’ she added.
4. Botox may cause facial muscle atrophy if use starts from a young age
However, this does not mean that rushing out to get Botox jabs at the youngest age possible means you will reap the best rewards.
While some people promote the benefits of preventative Botox – i.e. reducing the facial movements that cause wrinkles to prevent the wrinkles ever appearing – others exercise caution when it come to what is a safe age to start having the injections.
For some experts, having Botox too young can result in some unwanted aesthetic side effects – notably, facial muscle atrophy.
Atrophy is when a muscle is not used, and therefore starts to wither, which can affect the shape of parts of the face.
It is more noticeable in areas where muscles contribute to the facial shape, including the jaw, chin and brow.
Dermatological surgeon Dr Patricia Wexler told Vogue: ‘If you do too much Botox on your forehead for many, many years, the muscles will get weaker and flatter.’
She added that when muscles become weak, they can rely more on surrounding muscles to complete movements, which can then cause wrinkling in those areas.
She explained: ‘If one stops using their forehead muscles, they may start squinting using their nose and have wrinkles along the side of their nose.’
The effects of this type of atrophy are unlikely to be permanent, and often wear off between three and nine months after getting the injection.
6. Not frowning could make you happier
Perhaps one of the most surprising findings when it comes to Botox is that it can actually make people happier.
A 2019 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that having the procedure correlated with having a more positive mood.
Researchers set out to test the idea that Botox can be used as a treatment for depression.
They reviewed a psychological theory which suggests that when certain muscles involved in frowning are paralysed, this leads to less facial feedback for negative emotions.
This, in turn, means it can be more difficult to maintain a negative mood, leading to a person to feel more positive.
Comparing the impact of Botox on mood to other treatments, including glycolic peels and laser treatments, the researchers found that having Botox, and being unable to frown, was correlated with reduced negative mood.
So if you’re somebody who frowns a lot, and you think that affects your mood, perhaps anti-frowning jabs could help!
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