Botox is a cosmetic form of botulism toxin that is injected around expression lines -- the creases caused by frowning, scowling, smiling or looking surprised -- to diminish their appearance or keep them from forming.
Botox works by blocking the nerve impulses that tell a muscle to contract. The amount of Botox that is injected determines how much expression you have. More Botox means less expression.
The three most common areas for Botox injections are between the eyebrows, the forehead and next to the eyes, where "crow's feet" form. Botox can improve your appearance and prevent the formation of deep expression lines that make you look older. Botox will not help fine lines or wrinkles that are not due to facial expressions.
What To Look For In Spas That Offer Botox
What should you look for when getting Botox injections at the spa? Sue Yang, M.D., who gives Botox and filler injections at Suddenly Slimmer Day Spa in Phoenix, AZ, has the following suggestions.
- Make sure the spa is using real Botox from Allergan.
- Ask when the Botox was diluted with sterile saline solution. It's best to get your injection the same day, though it will last up to a week. After that the Botox is less effective.
- Ask the qualifications of the person who is doing the Botox injection. He or she should be a medical doctor (M.D.), physician's assistant (P.A.) or registered nurse (R. N.)
- Make sure the spa asks you fill out a form that helps the doctor identify any contraindications, or reasons why Botox wouldn't be appropriate for you. It should also inform you of risks.
- Make sure there is a consultation so you both agree on where the Botox will be injected, how much will be used, what the results will be, and how much it will cost. Ask how conservative or aggressive they are in the amount they use.
- Watch to make sure the person doing the Botox injection follows proper sanitation standards. This includes working on sanitized surfaces, washing their hands, using fresh needles just out of an opened pack, cleansing the skin with alcohol before the Botox injection, and wearing gloves during the injection.
How Much Does Botox Cost?
Prices vary greatly. Some spas charge by the unit -- $12 - $15 is common -- and the cost will depend on how much they use. Dr. Yang takes a conservative approach and starts with 8 to 10 units between the eyebrows and 10 to 20 units in the forehead. Other spas charge by area -- $300 for one, $575 for two, and $800 for three, for instance. Generally paying by the unit is more cost-effective.
Prices might also come down now that a competitor called Dysport is on the market.
How Long Does Botox Last?
The effects of Botox usually last three to six months, gradually wearing off. You can use the period of inactivity become more conscious of your expressions and retrain your muscles not to frown. The muscle also gradually gets weaker, and you may not need as much Botox.
A small percentage of people develop antibodies to the Botox and it becomes less effective, or ineffective, with time.
What Are Botox's Risks?
If the Botox is injected too close to the eyelid, it can droop. This is not that common, however.
When Should You Start Using Botox?
This depends on the person. If you habitually scowl or make another expression that is already causing expression lines, consider Botox to retrain your muscles. But you can't prevent fine lines and wrinkles by starting young.