When looking at your face in the mirror have you ever wondered about botox injections? Or have you been getting them already?
There is a lot of emphasis on beauty these days, although it is an age-old thing, more or less depending on the time period and location. The pressure to look young and beautiful may be felt more acutely now in women with all of the exposure to movies, TV, magazines, and social media parading flawless, air-brushed, gorgeous people.
Recently I was surprised that so many of my friends have gotten Botox injections. Here is the scenario. The room had 5 women; I was one of them. The subject of botox came up. Guess how many have had botox injections? Four. I was the only one who hadn’t. Those who know me can imagine my shock. But then a few minutes later another gal walked in. She had just come back from getting a botox treatment that morning. That makes five out of six women between the ages of 30-60.
I was dumbfounded that anyone would want to inject a toxin into their body?
You just have to know that I am not big on any kind of injections or other pharmaceuticals – not antibiotics, not steroids, not vaccines, etc., although, admittedly, they do all have their place and their needed use at times, maybe even Botox.
Now, I don’t want to sound judgmental at all. I think it is fine and good to feel confident and attractive and to care about how you look. I know I care. A lot. (And by the way, my husband cares how I look too!) But is Botox the answer? Is it safe? Is it a tool we should use in our beauty regimen if we so desire?
A Crash Course in Botox
But first, for those of you who do not know much about Botox injections for wrinkles and sagginess, here is a little rundown.
- What is Botox? Its generic name is onabotulinumtoxinA. (2) Its uses are medical and cosmetical. Botox is a neurotoxin derived from the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D., states, “It is the most lethal toxin ever identified” even in extremely small amounts. C. botulinum causes botulism, typically a food-borne illness, a medical emergency. It prevents the release of acetylcholine, a critical neurotransmitter, which leads to paralysis and, then often, death. (1, 3)
- How does Botox work cosmetically? The injections work by paralyzing certain facial muscles thereby reducing the appearance of the wrinkles, creases, or crow’s feet.
- How often is Botox needed? Each Botox treatment lasts about 3-4 months, sometimes a little more.
- How much do the treatments cost? I found some deals on Groupon that had offers for 20 units for $159-$192. My friends say they spend on average about $400 per session for 40 units. This the amount the people I interviewed say they get. But the cost really does depend on who you go to, with certain Beverly Hills estheticians, for instance, charging much more.
- How many injections are given at one treatment? It varies, but one friend told me that she typically gets 6 to 8 in her forehead and frown line between her eyes, and then 3 more for each eye for the crow’s feet, for a total of 12 to 14 injections.
Here’s the Problem
According to Ballantyne, who has poured through many studies and thoroughly researched this issue, very few studies have looked at repeated treatments, the long term effects, and the compounding effects of Botox injections. She claims that most of the studies done to date do not go beyond the first couple of years of use. She states further that it is important to know that it appears that at the 10th or 11th dose is where more adverse effects tend to occur. This would be after about 3-4 years of regular use. Thus the risk of an adverse reaction increases over time. (1)
Botox can cause local reactions, but it can also travel down through neurons where it can cause more serious reactions in other parts of the body.
Side effects — Ballantyne describes side effects as more self-limiting, minor effects such as:
- Drooping eyelids
- Crooked smile
Many of the above side effects occur because Botox can diffuse into adjacent areas causing greater effects than desired. (1)
Long term side effects and adverse reactions — These are more serious and can be life-altering or life-threatening, such as:
- Systemic reactions that can cause fatigue, double vision, headache, fever, neck pain, flu-like symptoms, hives, rashes, and even anaphylaxis. (1, 4, 6)
- Botulism-type symptoms that include vision loss, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, severe muscle weakness, loss of bladder control, and flaccid paralysis. (1)
- Other: Botox can both diffuse into adjacent tissues, and migrate, traveling from one neuron to another. And it can also cause immune effects that can impact the immune system, causing inflammation to various areas in the body. In addition, it can dampen emotions and blunt emotional expression because the person has a lack of feedback from their own facial muscles, thus loses the ability to pick up on social cues. (1, 6) Botox can also cause chest pain, vomiting, shortness of breath, and palpitations. (1, 4, 6)
Granted, many of those long term side effects and adverse reactions are thought to be rare, and tend to occur more with the higher doses used for medicinal purposes, yet it still does give one pause.
According to Sayer Ji, “Proponents of Botox claim the amount of botulinum toxin administered is far too low to cause safety concerns. But the margin of error when it comes to safety is exceptionally hard to determine with botulinum toxin because it is the most potent neurotoxic substance known. In fact, it only takes 75 billionths of a gram (75 ng) to kill a person weighing 75 kg (165 lbs). It has been estimated that only 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) would be enough to kill the entire human population.” (6)
On the other hand, just to be fair, there are some studies that indicate Botox for cosmetic use is safe, it is FDA approved (although that does not mean much to me), and many doctors and cosmetologists advocate for its use. But because qualified people who I respect have looked at the preponderance of the evidence that Botox can be harmful, along with my own research, I am taking the better-safe-than-sorry approach with my position, and I maintain it is risky.
Medicinal Uses for Botox
There are medical conditions that Botox (onabotulinumtoxinA) is used to treat, which include chronic migraines, strabismus (crossed eyes), overactive bladders, blepharospasms (eye twitches), and hyperhidrosis (severe underarm sweating), just to name a handful. (2) The therapeutic dose is usually a lot higher than the cosmetic use of Botox, so there is more risk for serious side effects with medical use. (1) As with every medical treatment, the risks have to be weighed against the benefits.
13 Natural Alternatives to Botox
Thankfully, for those of us who want to age gracefully, and without using possibly unsafe products and procedures, there are things that can help:
- Avoid alcohol. If you are a moderate to heavy drinker you can look many years younger just by giving up alcohol, or at least drinking very minimally.
- Invest in a good skin care regimen. Certain skin care products can have anti-aging benefits. They can, not only improve the appearance but, actually improve the skin quality and reverse the damage.
- Intermittent Fasting (IF). IF induces autophagy which helps your body rid itself of damaged cells and increases cellular repair. IF also lowers inflammation, insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels which can cause your skin to age at a faster rate.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking is a known ager for a number of reasons.
- Avoid other toxins.
- Exercise – Here is an interesting article about studies done that show exercise can lead to younger-looking skin.
- Bone broth and consuming collagen
- Avoid sun exposure to your face. Use hats, umbrellas, and safer sunscreens.
- Eat nutrient-dense food.
- Avoid processed, junky, chemical-laden foods; sugar; fried food; and processed vegetable oils.
- Reduce stress. Stress shortens the telomeres, altering your DNA. Cortisol also decreases collagen.
- Use infrared saunas. They can detoxify the skin of toxins which cause wrinkles and increase circulation.
- Get adequate sleep. This is when your body does the majority of repair work.
Of course, these are mostly great things to do for your health in general, so be sure to incorporate as many of them, and as often, as possible to not only look younger but age well with vibrant, optimal health.
Plastic surgery. Yep, it’s an option. Not one that I plan on taking, but then again, no judgment here.
Dysport: Dysport, another injectible, is not really a viable alternative in my mind as it is made from another type of botulinum toxin, and works in much the same way as Botox and comes with pretty much the same side effects and adverse reactions. Dysport is manufactured differently, dosed differently, and its potency is different as well. It was approved for cosmetic use in 2009, whereas Botox was approved in 2002. (5)
Please know that if you read this article and still decide to get Botox injections there is no judgment or finger-wagging at you. I feel like my mission is to bring you the best information I can so that you can make decisions for your body and health with eyes wide open, with the information necessary to decide wisely. The danger is often things are FDA approved, and they may not be as innocuous as we are lead to believe.
Here are some other articles I have written that might interest you:
8 Ways to Deal with Sugar Cravings
And if you would like help implementing making desired changes in your diet and lifestyle I know that I can make a difference. I have a new, affordable, online 30-Day program that can get you started on the right path. I invite you to learn about it here.
I am also consultant with Beautycounter, a skin care and makeup company that has safer products that REALLY DO work in helping you look your best, and without 1800 harmful or questionable ingredients. You can go here to check out what Beautycounter has to offer.
Here’s to your confident, vibrant beauty!
(1) Ballantyne, S. & Toth, S. (2019). Must-know botox info. Paleo View Podcast, episode: #349, 4/25/19.
(2) Multum, C. (2018). What is Botox Used to Treat. (2019) https://www.drugs.com/dosage/botox-cosmetic.html
(3) Brunner, S. (2018). Botulism: What is it and how can we prevent it? Medical News Today. Retrieved 2/23/20. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/173943
(4) Cunha, J. (2019) Botox Cosmetic Effects Center. https://www.rxlist.com/botox-cosmetic-side-effects-drug-center.htm#consumer
(5) Dysport vs. Botox: What’s the Difference? https://www.drugs.com/medical-answers/dysport-botox-difference-3124590/
(6) Ji, S. (2018). Botox’s Ugly ‘Side Effects’ Run Deeper Than Skin, Alter Mind & Numb Emotion. GreenMedInfo, 6/7/18. Retrieved 2/27/20. https://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/botox-s-ugly-side-effects-run-deeper-skin-alter-mind-numb-emotion