If you've worried about developing wrinkles, then you've probably considered Botox, which is the No. 1 cosmetic procedure in the United States today.
But along with interest in Botox, comes the questions. You're likely wondering if it works (it did on me, more on that below), how much it costs (about $400 a treatment), how it works (a doctor makes several small injections), does it hurt (the pain is minimal), how long it lasts (4 to 6 months) and is it really safe to inject botulism into the body (yes, according to my doctor, who assured me aspirin is much more dangerous than Botox because aspirin in high doses can actually kill a person).
In all of my research I've found there are 5 amazing uses for Botox, many of which I've tried myself and which I outline in detail here. You can treat smile lines, frown lines, neck lines and even stop yourself from sweating under your arms and on your palms with Botox treatments. There are even medical uses for Botox including treating migraines.
So do they work? Read on to find out if they did for me.
Keep Crow's Feet at Bay While Also Lifting the EyesSince my mid-30s, I've noticed a spiderweb of lines appear around my eyes when I smile. I remember the first time I noticed them. I was smiling at myself in the mirror for whatever vain reason and I saw the spiderweb form and I thought, "Omigoodness, where did you come from and how long have you been here?"
While many people consider smile lines to be a sign of a happy life, I am not interested in mine developing into "crow's feet," those permanent lines that remain long after one stops smiling. So I tried Botox. Twice.
I've been to 2 NYC dermatologists to treat my smile lines and both doctors did a great job injecting the purified form of the botulinum toxin into the lines along the sides of my eyes. The pain was very minimal, especially compared to spider vein removal and laser hair removal. Botox relaxes the muscles that cause the smile lines to form. Now when I smile, the lines are hardly there. If I continue the treatments every 5 months or so, the chances are good that I will in effect "freeze" my face in time, so that the lines don't become permanent.
That is, if I decide to continue with the costly treatments (about $500 a visit). At this point, I love the results and I know many of my friends who secretly get Botox do, too.
Also in my mid-30s, I noticed my eyelids had become more "hooded" than usual making me look more tired than I actually felt. I had no idea that a few Botox injections above my brow would work to "lift" my brows and in effect, my lids. It worked brilliantly. But you have to be careful. Botox in the hands of the wrong person can mean one brow lifts higher than the other and you end up lopsided. If this happens, you can go back and ask the doctor to even you out (Botox takes a few hours to set in, so you won't see it's effects until long after you've left the doc's office).
For more information on crow's feet and Botox see "How to Prevent and Get Rid of Crow's Feet," one of the best articles I've read on the matter, by About.com's Skincare Guide Jen Atkins.
One year later: I'm editing this article one year after writing it and I can say I love Botox for crow's feet and for lifting my brows. Both times I tried Botox, it lifted 5 years right off of my face. I'm sold.
Stop Frown Lines From Becoming a Permanent Fixture on Your ForeheadI've noticed many people when they hear I've gotten Botox point to the lines between their brows and exclaim, "Can it fix this?"
Yes, Botox can. In fact, when I went in for a consultation with renowned NYC dermatologist Dr. Patricia Wexler she told me to "stop making that face." What face? I asked. She told me I knit my brows when listening to her. If I kept that up, I'd develop 2 deep and permanent frown lines between my eyes. Oops. We injected those and sure enough, she did such a good job that when I tried, I could no longer knit my brows.
Botox also works to prevent horizontal lines from appearing on the forehead. It's important to pick a good doctor because too much Botox in the forehead region can cause a mask-like effect that can look unnatural. (Remember all the flak Nicole Kidman got for her shiny, immobile forehead?). One year later: I haven't noticed my "frown lines" getting any worse. But I plan to inject them with Botox because I don't want them etching themselves into my forehead. One big benefit to Botox is it can be preventative. You get Botox in your problem spots before they etch into permanent lines.
Stop Excessive Sweating with Botox Injections Under the ArmsPeople who excessively sweat can benefit by Botox treatments under their arms. Botox works by blocking the release of acetycholine, the chemical responsible for stimulating the sweat glands. The doctor or certified nurse practitioner injects Botox under the skin where your sweat glands rest. The procedure takes less than 5 minutes and you really do stop sweating. How do I know? I tried it. It works.
I learned about Botox for under the arms when visiting another renowned NYC dermatologist, Dr. David Colbert of the New York Dermatology Group. His young medical assistant told me he'd had it done on his underarms and it worked brilliantly. Turns out he used to sweat excessively under his arms, so much so that his blue cotton medical shirt would be soaked through by the end of the day, which is not a good thing when your job is to adjust lights over the heads of your patients. Botox fixed that. He lifted his arm to show me and sure enough there was no sign of sweat.
As you may have realized by now, I am the sort of person who, for the sake of beauty editorship, will try anything cosmetic once (like laser hair removal and getting rid of the spider veins in my legs) and so I paid more than $1,500 to have Botox injections under my arms. It's not that I'm an excessive sweater, but I do sweat and truthfully I wish I were like my friends who ruefully admit to me that they don't sweat. Who doesn't sweat? How is that possible? I decided long ago that I would like to be that person and now I am.
The injections weren't too painful, lasted less than 10 minutes and about 24 hours later, I got to go out and about without antiperspirant. In fact, I am writing this article a couple weeks after my initial treatment while on a trip to warm and sunny Texas and I did not pack my Secret. It works that well.
"But don't you need to sweat?" my friend Deirdre asked me when I told her by phone what I'd done. It's a good question, but the fact is, we have so many sweat glands to cool off our body temperature, that we don't really need the ones under our arms. And the body will readjust by sweating more in other areas to make up for the difference.
My dermatologist is one of those guys who's frequently published in magazines and referred to as a "dermatologist to the celebrities" and his office is on Fifth Avenue, so I paid the premium price for my injections, but other medi-spas offer Botox injections for $1,000 or less. (I called around). Studies show patients remain dry under the underarms for periods ranging from 4 months to 7 months, according to the Botox official Website. Once you get it done more than once, the results can last even longer. You can also have your palms and the bottoms of your feet injected to stop excessive sweating, but I read these are painful areas to inject. Ask your doctor for a numbing cream or gel beforehand, which significantly cuts down on the pain from the injections.
Will I do this again? Probably as long as I can afford it or until my vanity runs out. This not sweating under the arms thing? I'm loving it.
One year later: I was disappointed the Botox only lasted 3 to 4 months on me, so I don't feel the money was worth it. If I were a sweaty celebrity headed to the Oscars in a silk gown, then yes, I'd do it again. But I don't see more pit injections in my future.
Treat MigrainesIn October 2010, the FDA approved the use of Botox in the treatment of chronic migraines (a condition that causes headaches that last more than 14 days a month). Doctors treat migraines by injecting Botox into areas where patients feel tension -- usually the temples, forehead, neck and shoulders. It works by reducing muscle tension and strain on the nervous system and doctors also believe Botox blocks the pain receptors found in nerve cells.
The cost can be pricey (up to $2,000 a visit) and migraine sufferers usually need to get treated every 3 months or so, but now that the FDA has approved Botox, more insurance carriers are expected to cover it.
I have not tried this because I don't suffer from migraines.
Diminish the Deep Bands on the NeckYou can actually treat the bands on the neck with Botox, which is a much less expensive option than surgery. Injections are made along the bands, paralyzing the muscles there. The only side effect that I've read about in my research is that some patients report having trouble swallowing after, so be very careful with choosing your doctor if you want this cosmetic treatment.
I have not tried this.
More Medical Uses for BotoxAccording to the Mayo Clinic, there's a difference between Botox Cosmetic and Botox, which is used to treat certain medical problems including crossed eyes, migraines, uncontrollable blinking and cervical dystonia (a neurological disorder that causes severe neck and shoulder contractions). Botox can be used for a host of other medical problems, as well.
But What About the Dangers of Botox?Botox is the king of non-invasive cosmetic procedures. It’s super popular these days, and so many people are providing it, even on beaches! Tens of thousands of procedures are done a year and no deaths have been reported from cosmetic use. It’s also approved by the FDA for a variety of cosmetic and medical procedures.
I’ve done a vast amount of research and talked to the best doctors in the industry, who assure me that Botox is safe when done by a competent, licensed doctor or medical practitioner. Safer even than aspirin. The most danger you are in when getting the typical injections are uneven eyebrows and a bit of bruising at the injection site. There is the potential that Botox can paralyze the muscles that allow one to swallow if done on parts of the neck and face that no one gets done. You really don’t want to go to someone who doesn’t know what they are doing and I go to the best doctors in NYC.
I understand for many people, Botox seems ridiculous. It may seem scary. It may seem an outrageous risk. And for those people, I say, don’t do it! Always go with what’s best for you. If you are bothered by the cosmetic industry and the efforts people go to to retain their youth, then Botox is not for you. Aging is a very personal matter. We all choose to age in different ways and should be allowed to do so without judgment. For me, Botox has been worth it.
What You Should Know Before You GoIt's best not to treat near the mouth because it can paralyze the muscles needed for eating and talking. Yikes, I know. Fillers work better at filling in lines near the mouth.
Minor, temporary bruising may occur after Botox is injected. You should avoid aspirin and ibuprofen prior to Botox treatments. I did not know this and took Advil an hour before my appointment thinking it would cut down on the pain and I had very minor bruising. The time before I didn't take anything and I had no bruising at all, so there's some validity to this. Tried and tested!
More on anti-aging: